Life Is Meant to Be Savored
Slowing down and paying attention brings richness to life, lowers stress and creates great memories
Whether it’s a feeling of joy or a piece of pecan pie — when you savor something, you enjoy it to the fullest.
When was the last time you slowed down to savor something? Maybe it was a piece of chocolate that melted on your tongue setting off pleasure sensors in your brain. The word savor elicits thoughts of enjoyment, even ecstasy, that makes your eyes close and your mouth say “Mmmm.”
We often see the word ‘savor’ applied to food and eating, but many of life’s experiences lend themselves to being savored. Walking outside on a bright fall day, finding a $20 bill in a coat pocket, the light streaming across the room and lighting up your loved one’s face. These and hundreds of other moments daily present themselves to us to be savored, but we often rush right past them. Savoring requires that we slow down, enter our experiences fully, and use all our senses to be present.
According to vocabulary.com “When you savor something, you enjoy it so much that you want to make it last forever. With that in mind, savor carries a connotation of doing something slowly.” But our culture does not look kindly on ‘slowly.’ Nor does it honor slowing down, even for a moment. I have always heard that if you slow down you will get run over. I think that is a fallacy we have to toss out in order to learn to savor our lives.
The Benefits of Savoring our Moments
So what are the benefits of savoring the moment? When we get caught up in doing we can find ourselves in a state of hypervigilance. We fear what will happen if we are not constantly ‘on’. One of the benefits of taking time to savor is that savoring is a form of mindfulness, and mindfulness has been proven to lower stress. It’s a way to step out of the fast lane and enjoy the ride.
So how is savoring like mindfulness? Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment without ruminating about the past or planning for the future, but just engaging with what is right in front of you. Savoring fits that description, so without even sitting on a cushion you can find yourself reaping the benefits of mindfulness just by savoring the moment.
According to Shamash Alidina, the author of The Mindful Way Through Stress, “Mindfulness switches on your “being” mode of mind, which is associated with relaxation. Your “doing” mode of mind is associated with action and the stress response. Mindfulness practice reduces activity in the part of your brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is central to switching on your stress response, so effectively, your background level of stress is reduced.”
I am very much a ‘doer’ and switching to the mindset of savoring my moments is not easy for me. I get caught up in all the ‘shoulds’ on my list and forget that I am the one that made the list in the first place. The older I get, the more I want to relax into being and let go of the doing. I am getting there, but I am still learning.
Learning to Savor from Someone who is Less Than a Month Old
I have recently spent a week with my newborn grandson. Knowing that I would be there for a week I packed all the things I thought I had to find time to do — reading material that is part of the research for my book, my laptop for writing, my portable DVD player for exercise videos. I never touched any of it. Instead, I put it all aside and practiced savoring. My brain objected at first. It never wants to allow me to just ‘be’ because my brain thinks if I stop doing I will cease to exist.
Fortunately, I was so overwhelmed by this new little person in my life that I quickly shut down the part of my brain that was frantic that I was not doing anything productive. Then, I held my sweet grandson. I kissed him. I comforted him. I changed him. I bathed him. And I held him some more.
One afternoon, he and I were sitting on the screen porch listening to the birds and I had a niggling feeling that I should lay him down and spend some time writing. I dismissed that thought. This was a moment to be savored. He will not be a tiny baby for long. He and I deserved this uninterrupted time together. I deserved to put aside ‘doing’ for a while and just “be” with my grandson.
As I felt the breeze on my skin, I pulled the blanket closer to my tiny charge, dropping my nose into his hair and inhaling his scent. I felt myself become very still, aware of his weight against my chest, the warmth of his skin, his steady breathing. I could have laid him in his crib and done something else, but at that moment, there was nothing else. There was only me and this baby. I allowed myself to savor the moment which created a memory that I will hold forever.
Obstacles to Savoring Our Moments
Savoring is not something we are taught to do, or even encouraged to do. We live in a world that applauds accomplishments and disdains rest. We get the message that slowing down is not part of being a responsible adult. This is a recipe for missing our lives. We have to teach ourselves how to savor, but it’s not easy to learn to slow down, pay attention, and truly enjoy our experiences. Some of the obstacles we have to overcome are our love for multi-tasking, our busy minds, and the reluctance to give ourselves permission to stop for a while.
One evening I was in the guest room of our daughter’s home resting after a busy day with our grandson and his 20 month old sister. Our granddaughter pushed open the door and said, “GiGi, bed.” She wanted to be on the bed with me. I had just settled in to read. But I put my phone down and pulled her up on the bed. What followed was a half hour of giggles, snuggles, ‘nose’ kisses, and wonder at a small green rock and a broken shell. I savored this time with her by slowing down. I told my mind to be still and be present. “This time will go by all too quickly — you don’t want to miss it.” Whatever I had cued to read on my phone was not that important.
To savor our moments means to arrive fully in them. It means to appreciate what is happening as it happens. It means fighting the urge to jump up and do something that seems more important, or diverting our attention to our devices. This is harder than it seems. We are wired for constant motion and constant productivity. Anything less and we feel guilty. Savoring and rest are seen as laziness. But the moments we savor are the moments we remember with the greatest pleasure.
Elizabeth Scott, MS, a life coach specializing in stress management says, “Learning to ‘savor the moment’ in life is a convenient, free, and effective way to increase your happiness and quality of life, and reduce stress.” She goes on to say, “Sometimes as we go through life, we forget to stop and enjoy the little things; indeed, it’s possible to go through an entire day either stuck in your ruminations about the past or anxiety over the future, never really seizing the moment and noticing the pleasant things that are happening right now (and passing up positive opportunities right and left).”
I have passed up enough opportunities in my life. I am ready to slow down and savor every one that comes my way. There is so much of life to be savored — pleasant things that are happening all around us. Good food, great conversations, laughter, play, comfort, babies and toddlers, friends, and faithful pets. Good music, a cup of tea, a smile from a stranger, a flower growing out of the sidewalk, sinking into our bed after a busy day. All of these things are worth savoring, because it is all these little things that make a life.
The key is allowing ourselves to be a part of our own life. We are often skirting the edges of our life while we are busy “doing things” or thinking about all the things we should be doing. The to-do list will never get done. Waiting until it does to savor our lives is risky. Alan Cohen said “Don’t postpone joy until you have learned all of your lessons. Joy is your lesson.” Allowing ourselves to actually savor our moments is what creates a life of joy and happiness.
John Lennon said that life is what is happening while you are busy making other plans. Don’t miss your life. Savoring our lives takes time, focus and attention. But in the end, the moments we savor are our lives. Nothing on your to-do list will ever be more important than being present for your life.