Feb 082010

The concept of savoring is not so much “stopping to smell the roses” or making time once a day to appreciate something and log the exceptional event. Savoring should be the usual experience of pleasure that comes from a meaningful life lived in mindfulness and gratitude – an ongoing positive subjective experience.

Seligman’s research into character strengths includes “Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence,” which is important to obtaining the most satisfaction from opportunities for savoring. Although “living in the moment” (being mindful of now and savoring current experience) it seems likely that past savoring can set the stage for, and enhance, present appreciations in a self-reinforcing spiral of positivity and sense of well-being and rightfulness. I doubt that holding positive memories or positive expectations prevents our living in the moment; it would be only dwelling negatively on past regrets or future fears that is damaging.

Fred Bryant in “Savoring” points out that savoring can be enjoyed in three temporal forms. We can anticipate the future, enjoy the present moment, and reminisce over past satisfactions. I first noticed this principal while growing up in my parents’ home. My father married late and struggled with an 8th grade education and a learning disability. Nonetheless, he was a skilled craftsman at his work and sacrificed himself at hard labor into his late 60’s to support his family. Dad’s indulgence was to take a long driving vacation into the Rocky Mountains every two years. He would regularly put aside small amounts into a vacation fund for those two years. He would spend a full year planning and anticipating the next trip, indulge himself (and us with him) in whitewater rafting, remote camping, and excursion rides and, after returning home, spend the next year pulling out pictures and telling friends about the trip.