I’m probably not alone in claiming that the subject of death makes me uncomfortable and kind of fearful.
Life simply does not last; however, we of course can still find enjoyment while we are here. And on a smaller scale, life’s changes, those shifts in relationships or experiences on your journey, imply impermanence too. Yet, even though there is impermanence in life, does it mean we can’t revel or stand still in our joys? I’d like to advocate that we can still savor in spite of change, or even the looming possibility of change.
Positive psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky discusses the concept of savoring in her text, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want.
“Researchers define savoring as any thoughts or behaviors capable of ‘generating, intensifying, and prolonging enjoyment,’” Lyubomirsky notes. She even proposes that nostalgic trips down memory lane or fantasizing about anticipated events have their value. “Whether it involves a focus on the long ago, the present moment, or future times, the habit of savoring has been shown in empirical research to be related to intense and frequent happiness.”
Lyubomirksy recommends “celebrating good news” — allowing others to bask in your accomplishments and successes has been noted to heighten well-being and positive emotions. “Try to enjoy the occasion to the fullest. Passing on and rejoicing in good news leads you to relish and soak up the present moment, as well as to foster connections with others.”
Being open to “beauty and excellence” is another mechanism that induces savoring. Positive psychologists suggest that those who are mindful of surrounding beauty and wonder are more able to discover “joy, meaning, and profound connections in their lives.”
I’d even propose that if you absorb these ‘living in the moment’ instances with someone else (let’s say someone who’s close to you), perhaps a deeper bond in your relationship would be forged as that special memory is created. Strolling through a park with purple tulips in bloom, the sun in the sky radiating warmth, and a light breeze — the kind that is found on a perfect spring day – could be a snapshot (albeit a romantic one) definitely worth capturing.
Lyubomirsky also discusses savoring the past via reminiscing with family and friends:
“You might make a pilgrimage together to a meaningful place from your past or flip through a scrapbook or yearbook together. You might listen (or sing along) to a piece of music associated with a particular memory.”
Researchers reason that by triggering remembrance of the past, you’re producing engaging reminiscence to revisit pleasurable times. Research further concluded that reminiscing with others ignites “abundant positive emotions such as joy, accomplishment, amusement, contentment, and pride.”
Interestingly enough, and as the fates would have it, I stumbled across Haiku Kwon’s recent remarkable post while fleshing out ideas for this article. In her piece, Kwon conveys her fear of loss (after a series of unexpected deaths and broken relationships), and how that has served as a roadblock in preventing her from cherishing the current relationships she does have; I’m sure many can relate to that notion.
“Let’s fill this time we have now with all that we are instead of fighting for more and never actually doing anything with it. It’s like collecting a bunch of empty jars, but never putting anything in them.”
She rationalizes that by sifting through the mere potential of loss, we miss out on the lessons each experience offers, along with elements of happiness that are embedded within. Impermanence can be a difficult concept to grasp, and changes (big or small) could be unsettling or bittersweet. Savoring allows us to fixate on positivity while we still can.
“No matter what’s going on in your life, your life is a miracle. Right. This. Second,” Kwon writes. “Your living is an amazing orchestration of a billion and one complex systems that enables you to breathe, to think, to have a heartbeat, to learn, to grow, and to love.”