This weekend we had one of those too rare family meals where everyone stayed at the table for hours after the food was gone. I recently learned that my son’s girlfriend hadn’t seen any pictures of him when he was little, so out came the photo albums… along with many stories to tell.
I hope we didn’t bore her. For the rest of us, it was clear that we were relishing our precious memories. Having the chance to share those with her anew made us cherish them even more.
Savoring, as we did over our extended meal, is an activity that brings us happiness in the present. According to Marin E. P. Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness, happiness in the present is part of the three-legged stool of happiness. (The other two are “satisfaction about the past” and “optimism about the future.”) We can actively pursue savoring through these five techniques:
- Sharing With Others: This is what my family did as we shared photographs and memories.
- Memory Building: Whatever is happening, take a moment to preserve it in your memory. This could be done by taking a mental snapshot or by obtaining something physical, like a souvenir.
- Self-congratulation: To quote Dr. Seligman, “Don’t be afraid of pride. Tell yourself how impressed others are, and remember how long you’ve waited for this to happen.”
- Sharpening Perceptions: This is all about paying attention to the details. What spices can you taste in your meal? How does the house smell when you arrive as a guest? How does one side of your body feel versus the other while you sit by a fire? Can you pick out the harmony in a song?
- Absorption: Just as it sounds, allow yourself to be absorbed in the moment. Don’t think. Simply feel it.
Any of these activities is something each of us can do on the spot, right now. More importantly, we can choose to savor moments when we’re not feeling happy in the present. Try it out and you’ll likely find that this list will turn a sullen mood around.