The Art of Savoring

Imagine your favorite food is in front of you. Tender and juicy. Or cold and creamy. Picture it in front of you, noticing the colors and textures. Now smell the aromas. Imagine tasting it and all the yumminess of it. Really enjoy the experience and drag out the bite like it were going to be your last.

Or picture yourself in a hammock on the beach, feeling the warm breeze across your face, the sun warming the fabric as you sway gently back and forth. Hear the lapping of the ocean waves, the laughter of children in the distance and the birds above. Take in the peacefulness of this moment and make it linger a little longer.

This is the art of savoring. Taking time to notice an experience, involving all your senses in it and really allowing the feelings of it to land in your body.

I also call this firing positive neural pathways.

I'm all about neuroplasticity. If "what we fire, we wire" is a thing, which I believe it is, then we need to fire positive neurons instead of always firing the same old negative ones. Trauma, anxiety, depression and stress get hard-wired and fire more often. So, what if we created positive neural pathways to counter balance them and got them firing too? Seems to me that people might start feeling better.

Scientists say, "Neuroplasticity, also called brain plasticity, refers to the capacity of the brain to change and adapt in structure and function in response to learning and experience."

What is Brain Plasticity? Also known as Neuroplasticity By Eagle Gamma, published March 23, 2021

There is extensive research on ways the brain has adapted after trauma from injury or disease like a stroke. So if we believe that the brain can adapt and rewire itself toward better functioning then the opportunities for feeling better seem endless. Afterall, the brain is always striving for survival.

There are many ways to fire positive neurons. Meditation, exercise, dancing, gratitude journals, and so much more.

I often suggest to my clients that they keep a gratitude journal. But I've found, disappointingly, that some clients can't think of things to write down or write the same few things over and over and give up rather quickly as a result. Same goes for meditation, but I'll save that for another article.

What I'm thinking is that many of us have lived so long in a state of stress that we don't know how to notice what is positive or good. So the first step needs to be learning the art of savoring.

One could argue that savoring is the same as mindfulness (another way to fire positive neurons) but it's a little different and maybe easier.

“Mindfulness asks you to observe the present moment without judging it and then let go of it,” explains Fred Bryant, a psychology professor at Loyola University who pioneered the field of research. “Whereas with savoring, you observe a specific type of moment, a positive one, and then you try to cling onto it and not let it go.”

We can also savor moments not only from our present but our past and our future like when we visualize the things we hope and dream about. (Visualizing also fires those neurons!)

Maggie Pitts, an associate professor of communication who studies savoring at the University of Arizona says, "[savoring] is a luxury, because in order to do it, you can’t feel cognitively taxed, overwhelmed, or distracted.” Savoring can only happen when our basic needs are met and we’re already feeling pretty positive so research is still developing on whether it will help depression or promote overall health. But, if we make the choice to start savoring whenever we can, how can it not promote positive neural pathway development??

So when I'm driving home and I see a sunset over the hill, I take in the moment with all my senses. A stranger who smiles at me, a friendly exchange with a cashier or someone in line-I let it feel good for a little longer than the moment. I let it land.

I know for me, the world can feel really heavy at times--a lot of the time these days. So savoring is my life saver. Laughter with loved ones, a good workout, a delicious meal, a task accomplished, a goal achieved. Look for the moments. They are there. They do exist. What we fire, we wire. Make it count!

xray image of brain scans
MRI brain scan from Wix media

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