When I turned 16 years old, my friends completely and absolutely delighted and surprised me with a birthday party. As I walked into my childhood home and turned on the lights, they jumped out and yelled “Surprise!” as I fell to the floor in shock and a pile of teenage drama. At the same time, I felt deep gratitude and love to be honored in such a special way.
Can you think of a particular moment in time when you experienced a strong positive emotion? Perhaps you recall awe as you gazed at a majestic tree, or connection when you spent a night laughing with friends over dinner. Maybe your positive moment involves joy and wonder as you remember bringing your baby home for the first time, or pride as you recall your teenaged daughter receiving a special and well-deserved award. Perhaps you recall delight as you received an unexpected gift, inspiration when you were propelled to create something novel and beautiful, or curiosity that led you down the path of a new interest or hobby.
Take a moment and relive that experience in your mind in as much detail as you possibly can, recalling the sights, sounds, smells, touch, or even tastes that were present. Pause on the positive emotions experienced, and notice the effects felt by your brain.
As you recall your experience, just thinking about it invited you to experience that happy and positive emotion again, didn’t it?
Savoring a positive past experience and reliving it in your mind is a proven positive psychology tip that can make you happier in the present. When we relive and review a positive experience, our brains release the same feel-good chemicals and hormones that we experienced when we were originally present for the event.
Researchers have found multiple benefits to those who regularly savor the good. Those proficient at reminiscing about the past—looking back on happy times, rekindling joy from happy memories—are best able to buffer stress and to experience frequent happiness. Those who are adept at savoring are less likely to experience depression, stress, guilt, and shame, writes Sonya Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness.
How else can you put savoring past experiences into practice?
- Savor at the dinner table: When your family gathers, ask about the highlight of their day. Or bring up a positive topic, such as vacations, and ask your children what their favorite trip was and why they loved it.
- Savor through texting: My childhood friend and I often find ourselves reminding the other of a funny moment we experienced in the past. (“Katie, remember that time in 7th grade when the track coach forced you to run the hurdles, and you face-planted and tripped your way through each one?! It certainly didn’t help that we were all laughing so hard we could barely breathe!”)
You can also practice savoring in the present:
- Create a Savoring Album: As you go through your days, use your phone to capture objects or moments of beauty, including your favorite people, places, and things. Then create a special digital album to help you savor those positive experiences, especially at times when you find yourself in major need of a boost.
- Celebrate and savor good news: Research by Shelly Gable on Active Constructive Listening shows that sharing good news with close friends and family is associated with pleasant emotions and elevated well-being. So when your spouse, cousin, or best friend wins an honor, fully congratulate them and celebrate! Moreover, in intimate relationships, how partners receive and celebrate the other’s good news is even more predictive of the relationship’s success than how they handle conflict.
When it comes to the best experiences in life, repetitive replaying and savoring of these experiences can be a wonderful way to boost happiness levels.
Join Sandy Campbell and Megan McDonough for Introduction to Wholebeing Happiness for Coaches, starting October 3.
This post was originally published on Sandy’s blog at sandycampbell.net.
Sandy Campbell, a 2018 CiWPP graduate, is a Health and Wellness Coach, and holds an MS in Counseling from Villanova University, a degree from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and a 200-hour yoga teacher training certification. After working for 10-plus years for a major pharmaceutical company, Sandy decided to step out of the corporate world and focus on improving her health, quality of life, and happiness. Her passion evolved into helping others meet their full potential through small but highly impactful dietary and lifestyle shifts. Focusing on nutrition, stress management, and positive psychology, Sandy works with clients in person and remotely; leads corporate wellness workshops for businesses and organizations, including the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, and the Community College of Allegheny County; and leads on-site and online programs, including her 11-Day Pure Energy Program, a clean eating boot camp. Learn more at sandycampbell.net or on Facebook at Sandy Campbell Wellness.