Some recent research from the Greater Good Science Centre at Berkeley found that savouring the enjoyment or satisfaction of your experiences can really help to reduce worry, anxiety and stress.
What this means is that, at times when you’re suffering from anxiety or great worry, savouring is a really helpful technique to help you feel better. When you need it, you can try the following:
- Schedule some time for yourself and choose an activity that is beneficial to you – i.e. it’s relaxing, nourishing. This could be bushwalking, reading for pleasure, gardening, having a massage, cooking etc.
- While you’re in the midst of the activity, focus on being present – but more than this, try to focus on the pleasant sensations and experiences – this is savouring. Eg feel the sensation of the massage, smell the perfumes of the garden etc.
- If you’re doing an activity that helps others too, such as charitable work or cooking for others, focus on the positive feelings about helping others as well.
This is a great practice specifically for people who struggle with negative emotions a lot or who chronically worry about things. It also helps build your focus and concentration skills because it involves practicing being present to your experience right now.
I want to point out that savouring is different to pure mindfulness practice. Mindfulness involves simply observing your experience as it arises, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant, and not judging it or trying to fix it. It teaches us to have more space from our thoughts and emotions so we aren’t tossed around by them or overwhelmed. As you continue to build up the skill of mindfulness, though, focusing on the pleasant (savouring) can also be a good practice when you need it.
But a word of warning – don’t get attached to the pleasant feelings! If you expect to only feel good all the time and try to reject any unpleasant feelings, it can lead to more of the avoidance of the unpleasant that causes us stress in the first place! So just try the savouring practice when you really need it – during times of great worry, stress or overwhelm.