“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one, which has been opened for us.”
– Helen Keller
In my last post, I had shared with you the benefits of practising gratitude on a daily basis. Whether it is in the form of lower levels of stress, increased levels of positivity and happiness, greater resiliency, there are indeed many good reasons for us to practice gratitude on a regular basis. This becomes even more important in times like these stressful times.
I know of many women in both my personal and professional capacity who are struggling to deal with the challenges that we are all facing today. For women though, in many ways, these challenges are much more difficult to overcome and face. Women are usually the ones who take care of the emotional health of the family including the children and it can be quite draining. I speak both as a Health Coach and from personal experience as a mother of a teenage daughter and a 10 yo boy. I know that if I do not slow down from time to time and take care of my own needs by practising self compassion, gratitude and enjoying the joyful moments in my life, I am not really there for my family the way that I would like to be.
However, our fast paced lives do not allow us to slow down and relish the pleasures of every day life. Also, it is really easy to think nowadays in terms of - Who am I to enjoy when others are suffering?
But you have to understand that this cannot be reduced to thinking in terms of "us vs them". We are all very much interconnected and how we live our life impacts that of others. By being present in our own lives, we become kinder, more accepting and feel more connected to ourselves and in turn to other beings.
Being present in our life does not mean ignoring our pain and suffering or that of others. It simply means that we accept what is and know that we can draw our strength from our inner reserve when we need to.
Ask yourself these questions-
let yourself enjoy the good moments in your life?
have friends who know how to enjoy themselves and do you spend time with them often?
let yourself laugh out loud when you are happy?
take the time to truly slow down and relish a good meal regularly?
let yourself enjoy a compliment?
Apart from gratitude, savouring is yet another way of increasing our resiliency to cope with challenges in our lives. Savouring refers to ”the capacity to attend to, appreciate and enhance the positive experiences in one’s life”. (you can read my last post on gratitude HERE)
Our brain is hardwired due to evolution to look for physical danger and as a result, typically we tend to focus much more on what’s wrong than on what’s right in our lives. The psychological term for this is negativity bias. In the words of the psychologist Rick Hanson, the brain is like “Velcro for bad experiences and Teflon for good ones”. That means we need to be aware of this evolutionary bias that kept us alive against physical threats but which may now be distorting our sense of reality.
We need to be intentional about recognising and relishing positive experiences without trying to cling to it. Being kind towards yourself while doing this is important whether you are savouring past, present or even future experiences. Know that it is certainly possible to visualise and savour experiences even before something good happens so that you can relish every moment while it is actually taking place and later on relive it in your memories long after it is over.
Savouring helps you in three main ways.
First, savouring can help you embrace the good in your life
Second, savouring can help thwart mind wandering and keep you grounded in the present moment
And finally, savouring can help you increase gratitude and help you feel thankful for the experiences you are having as you are having them
Being present and noticing the positive experiences in your life means that you take part in the simple pleasures of your life even in the midst of the worst of times. It means training yourself to notice and enjoy the flowers that are blooming, the beautiful sunset, the raindrops glistening on your windowpane, your child’s laughter, the warmth and comfort of your bed and much more.
Know that enjoying the pleasures in your life and increasing positivity has a ripple effect in terms of spreading calm, joy and happiness throughout your world and beyond. Your state of mind affects that of others around you including your immediate family, friends and ripples outwards. Being present for your own life allows you to create space for whatever comes your way.
Since learning to savour means slowing down and taking the time to appreciate all the good things in your life, keeping a Joy Journal can be a big help. Sensory pleasures that bring you joy is a good place to start- flowers in bloom, clouds in the sky and faces. Sounds of music, laughter, children having fun. Tastes of foods that you love. Touch of a child’s hand, hugs and your favourite pillow. Smells of orange, lemon and cinnamon or your favourite cake. Moving, stretching, walking or running.
What are the moments of joy in your life? Make a note in your journal and come back to it as often as you need to.
Any positive experience that brings you joy can be used to train yourself to savour those moments. As you go through your day, look for and note down in your journal the count of the pleasures that you received or the moments of joy. Before going to sleep you can take some time to go through your journal and give thanks for all the positive experiences you enjoyed during that day. The more you start to notice and appreciate the good things in your life, the more frequently the positive feelings are activated. With repeated practice and due to your brain's ability to change (neuroplasticity), you will find that you are more inclined to be joyful and positive no matter what your external circumstances are.
Savouring in everyday life
As you know by now, savouring of pleasurable experiences can greatly increase your level of happiness. However, there is no one way of doing this.
You can practice savouring on a daily basis by...
- taking pictures
- listening to music
- going for a savouring walk (listen to the guided meditation in this week's podcast episode shared below)
- creating something
- spending time outdoors
- enjoying good food and conversation
- engaging with your children
- reading a book
Indeed, there are many ways of enhancing the quality of life by increasing your levels of positivity, happiness and building resilience to cope with difficult times. Savouring is one practice that you can use regularly to train your mind to notice and appreciate what is good in your life. When you start to pay attention and find the courage to notice these happy moments, magic happens.
As the philosopher, Mark Nepo had said, "One key to knowing joy is to be easily pleased".