The Small Tweak to Your Routine That'll Bring You More Joy
We are a society of hurriers. Before COVID-19 forced many of us to slow down, we would rush to work, speed to complete tasks, then hustle off to happy hour, dinner, playdates, workout classes, or simply crashing on the couch.
This isn’t always so bad: Commutes, for example, are best when short.
But those hurry habit can take a toll.
We get so used to sprinting through life that pausing to savor a moment, meal, or memory can feel foreign, if not impossible.
“Often, we're so trapped in thoughts of the future or the past that we forget to experience, let alone enjoy, what's happening right now,” writes science journalist Jay Dixit. “We sip coffee and think, ‘This is not as good as what I had last week.’ We eat a cookie and think, ‘I hope I don't run out of cookies.’”
Feel familiar? I know it does for me—I can't tell you how often I finish a coffee while mindlessly answering an email or scrolling through Twitter. And those lost moments aren’t just a waste of time or money. They can actually hinder our happiness, preventing feelings of satisfaction and encouraging worry and rumination.
So instead of rushing through that latte tomorrow, Dixit suggests taking the opposite approach: pausing, sipping, and savoring.
He points to research by psychologist Stephen Schuller. “When subjects in a study took a few minutes each day to actively savor something they usually hurried through—eating a meal, drinking a cup of tea, walking to the bus—they began experiencing more joy, happiness, and other positive emotions, and fewer depressive symptoms, Schueller found,” Dixit explains.
Those in-the-moment pleasures aren’t the only reason for the emotional boost. “Most negative thoughts concern the past or the future,” he writes. “Savoring forces you into the present, so you can't worry about things that aren't there.”
Of course, just knowing that we should savor something doesn’t always help, and it can feel like it makes things worse. I need to savor this! you might think, as you watch a rainbow emerge or stumble across a patch of just-bloomed flowers. I need to pay attention! When we shame ourselves into being present, well, we're not truly present.
So the next time you find yourself in a moment you want to savor, take action before the overwhelm sets in. Below, how to make savoring your new habit.
ID Your Sensations
Don’t just think about how glad you are to be where you are—take note of what being there feels like.
What does it smell like?
What does that cookie taste like?
What do the sudden piano notes sound like?
Identifying what it is that’s resonating with you can help you better experience it.
Share the Moment With Others
Psychologist Fred Bryant suggests telling a loved one when something good happens, since studies have shown that those who share their positive emotions with others are happier than those who keep those good feels bottled up.
“Savoring is the glue that bonds people together, and it is essential to prolonging relationships,” Bryant says. “People who savor together stay together.”
Even if it's something as small as a cute dog you pass on a walk with a friend or a truly tasty meal—try to actively savor things with the people around you.
Spotlight a Sense
You want to focus on that chocolate cake in front of you. You do!
Except your phone keeps buzzing, puppies keep walking by, and that woman in line looks just like your boss.
The next time you find yourself distracted during a happy moment, try focusing on savoring with one single sense.
Focus on the smell of a flower by closing your eyes. Savor a conversation with your parents by shutting off your computer. Find joy in the sweet sounds of Lizzo's new album by putting down your phone and really listening in.
React to What You're Experiencing
Get good news? Jump for joy.
Love the music you’re hearing? Dance.
Feeling overwhelming love for a friend or partner? Give them a hug (with their permission, of course).
Expressing your feelings, rather than bottling them up, can help ground you in the moment and make it last, says Bryant, who notes that experiments have shown that those who express themselves while watching a funny video enjoyed the experience more than those who kept quiet.
Savoring can look like a lot of things, but it always feels like one thing: joy. See how you can cultivate happiness today by hurrying less, savoring more.
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