Inner Space
Hi, I’m Diana Demco and this is the Inner Space newsletter about my reflections on living an examined life. If you're new, you can find old editions here. You're getting this email because you signed up on my website. If you'd like to unsubscribe, click here.
If someone asked you what is necessary for a fulfilled life, what would you answer?

You'd probably come up with responses that center around the big predictors of well-being, such as a sense of meaning, flourishing relationships or a healthy mind. All of these are true, but few people pay attention to the key ingredient that can enhance all of them and which affords their unfolding. I'm talking about the experience of savoring.

Savoring is a deliberate act of luxuriating in the richness of life, tasting all the flavors of experience, either physical or mental - the touch of rain on your skin, the beauty of a mathematical proof, the joy of seeing your kids grow, the pleasure of a relaxing massage.

Most of life advice is usually focused on learning to deal with hardships and stress. However, our ability to do that successfully doesn't always translate to a good life. That's why psychologists Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff set out to create a model for the opposite side of stress management, an activity that involves fully appreciating and enjoying life. They called that process savoring, and share their findings in Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience.

I found the book both rigorous and captivating, with a great potential to be a positive influence in people's lives, so I decided to share the main ideas in toady's issue.

You can savor your experience by mindfully attending to your senses: touch, smell, sight, taste or hearing. However, as the authors note:

Even eating can be pleasurable without savoring, if there is no conscious attention focused on the sensations of pleasure as they are being experienced. Savoring involves not just the awareness of pleasure, but also a conscious attention to the experience of pleasure.

Therefore, it's important to stress that savoring demands us to be present and grounded in our experience, otherwise we'll mindlessly rush through our days, without appreciation. Mindfulness and meta-awareness need to be present in order for savoring to occur.

That being said, it's important to note that savoring isn't limited to sensory events, and can be expanded to include psychological states, such as awe or gratitude, or even anticipation of future events, like dreaming about sharing with your family something good that happened to you. The authors give an example of an instance of savoring that goes beyond the senses:

Looking at Cezanne's oil painting, The Card Players, for example, a viewer can attend to and appreciate the soft subtlety of the multicolored textures of the three players' clothes and the elegant integration of all five figures in the design of the canvas. These and other visual absorptions can induce savoring. But that is not all. The viewer also can attend to the meaning of the two observers of the game, and get caught up in an imagined story about the event. Both the visual artistry and the viewer's own imputed meanings and reactions to those meanings can, together, contribute to the savoring.
Briefly, here are the requirements for savoring:
  • a sense of immediacy in the here and now
  • release of expectations from the outside world
  • mindful focus on positive experience
We've identified multiple types of savoring:
  • basking: as the name suggests, it implies resting in the glowing warmth of other's appreciation for you and your accomplishments, or simply appreciating a compliment you received
  • luxuriating: occurs when you are absorbed in the pleasure of a sensory experience, like tasting a dessert or enjoying a relaxing bath
  • thanking: as you may have guessed already, thanking is about expressing our gratitude to others
  • prolonging: this is when you extend the life of positive experiences, usually by sharing them with others or recording them in a way that would allow you to taste again their essence
  • marveling: involves turning one's attention to the incredible world around us, and letting awe wash over us, while we appreciate beauty, complexity or grandeur.
Savoring can occur in many ways and contexts, so here are a few ideas on how to cultivate it in your daily life:
  • pay attention to your senses
  • be mindful of your breathing
  • slow down the movements of your body and mind to take in your surroundings and mental states
  • relish in rituals that give you comfort and joy, such as a walk in nature or practicing a hobby
  • practice mindfulness
  • capture the moment: by either taking photos, writing about it or recounting the experience to a friend
One last idea on savoring that I want to share has to do with intention. In the book, the authors ask whether focusing too much on savoring can actually hinder the whole experience. This made me think of another concept I've shared in a past issue of this newsletter: wu-wei or non-action. That subtle balancing act between doing and receiving, thinking and feeling is also at play in the process of savoring. The authors conclude that thinking too much about savoring will interfere with the moment.

In conclusion, savoring is a cornerstone of positive experience that can illuminate even the most apparently uninspiring moments into something meaningful. I hope I've inspired you to attend to this practice from now on, because it will usher in a new sense of appreciation for life.

Timeless Content

25 Things About Life I Wish I Had Known 10 Years Ago
Darius Foroux | 3 minute read
Keeping it short this week: here are 25 snappy ideas about life shared by Darius Foroux.
I may not agree with all of them, but it's still important to consider the different perspectives of others. Give it a read. You may find something that benefits you.

Picture of the Week

What you see here are the sonic fingerprints of 8 different songs. They are calculated with 5 variables: loudness, valence, acousticness, energy and danceability. It also shows the tendency of newer songs (post 2000) to sound more like each other, almost like they follow a "formula for popularity."
Source: New York Times

Quote I'm Reflecting On

Poet Mary Oliver (1935-2019) shares her instructions for life:

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Source: Sometimes

Question For You To Ponder

How can you savor the next thing you're about to do?
Thank you for reading.

Until next time,
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