Sometimes good things happen to us, but we don’t really register them — we hardly look up from our phones, we barely slow down to notice.
Fred Bryant is a social psychologist and author of Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience. He researches the benefits of being really aware of your feelings when something is going right. Bryant and his collaborators have found that savoring can strengthen your relationships, improve mental and physical health, and help you find more creative solutions to problems. In other words, savoring creates the physiology of ease, along with all the benefits.
You can amplify your positive emotions with this savoring technique:
Take a mental photograph of something that you are enjoying. Pause, and “swish the experience around in your mind,” as Bryant instructs, making yourself more aware of your positive feelings and what you want to remember, such as the sound of your children giggling or the sight of a beautiful vista.
Celebrating good news is also a form of savoring, as is repetitively replaying and reveling in happy moments—like a graduation, a fantastic soccer game, or a vacation. A more extreme form of savoring is Rick Hanson’s method of “taking in the good.” Hanson, a neuropsychologist who writes about how we humans are hardwired to mostly remember bad things while forgetting the good ones, puts it this way: Our mind acts “like Teflon for positive” memories and “Velcro for negative ones.” This is not good for our emotion ratios: If most of the memories we store are negative, we come to perceive the world as depressing, even threatening.
Fortunately, Hanson gives us a method for making our positive feelings and events more “sticky.” Here’s how to “Take in the Good:”