Early in the history of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman proposed that there are five elements that contribute to well-being. He termed this the PERMA theory of well-being, to highlight these five elements. This model also provides a way to think about increasing well-being – different behaviors or activities can enhance well-being by increasing any of these five elements. They include:
Pleasure or Positive Emotion: Increase well-being by increasing the positive emotions you experience, especially by increasing the amount of pleasure you experience. This is often accomplished by providing experiences that are pleasurable to your basic senses – looking at things you consider beautiful, listening to sounds or music you find enjoyable, tasting things you find flavorful, smelling scents you find pleasurable, or experiencing positive kinds of physical touch. You can enhance pleasure by seeking out additional opportunities for these experiences, or by increasing the intensity or duration of the pleasurable experiences you already have in your life.
Engagement: Increase well-being by providing opportunities to experience “flow” – a state which many people describe as a loss of self-consciousness and awareness of time during a particular activity. You can think of engagement as being “in the zone.”
Relationships: Increase well-being by cultivating and nourishing your relationships with other people.
Meaning: Increase well-being by developing your sense of belonging, connection, and service to things greater than yourself.
Accomplishment: Increasing well-being through achieving goals for their own sake. (I typically do not need to define this element further for my students – they tend to be familiar with this!)
Today’s activity, savoring, is designed to increase the first element of PERMA – pleasure. Savoring is a way of enhancing the pleasure you derive from an activity by mindfully attending to the experience, especially the positive sensory elements. One of my former students claimed that this exercise led her to experience “the best chocolate of my life.” Don’t take my word for it – try it out for yourself!
Today’s Positive Psychology Exercise: Savoring
For this brief savoring exercise, you’ll need to choose a small thing you enjoy eating. (I like to use individually-wrapped Dove chocolates, because the wrappers have positive messages inside!) To really savor whatever you choose, you’ll eat it a little bit differently than you usually do. I’ve used chocolate as an example below, but you can use anything you enjoy.
- Start by holding the chocolate in your hand. Hold it in the palm of your hand – notice its weight and its shape. Hold it between your pointer finger and thumb. Explore it – imagine that you have never seen a chocolate before in your life. What do you notice?
- Take the time to really observe the chocolate. Notice everything about it – its shape, the color, the texture of the surface of the wrapper. Does the light glint off the wrapper? Does it feel smooth beneath your fingertips, or rough? Warm, or cool? Heavy, or light?
- Explore the chocolate further. You might close your eyes to enhance your sense of touch or smell.
- Slowly unwrap the chocolate (try doing this with your eyes closed!). Notice the sounds you hear as you unwrap the chocolate, and the smells. Do you begin to notice a taste as you can smell the chocolate? Notice how the unwrapped chocolate feels different than the wrapped chocolate. How has the texture changed? How has the temperature changed? Do you notice the chocolate becoming warmer or softer as you hold it?
- Bring the chocolate up to your nose. Notice how it smells, and the sensation of the air as you breathe in and out. You might find yourself thinking about this chocolate, or having memories of chocolate, or even feeling impatient to eat this chocolate. Notice the thoughts you are having, and the emotions you’re experiencing.
- Slowly bring the chocolate to your mouth and take a small bite. Notice the texture and pressure of the chocolate against your teeth. Notice the flavor of the chocolate, and how it spreads through your mouth. Notice how the temperature and texture of the chocolate change over time. Hold this bite in your mouth for at least 10 seconds, exploring the sensations you are experiencing.
- Continue to use this approach to slowly eat the remaining chocolate. Take your time, and use all of your senses to explore the chocolate.
Hurley, D. B. & Kwon, P. (2012). Results of a study to increase savoring the moment: Differential impact on positive and negative outcomes. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 579-588.
Link to Full-Text Article: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-011-9280-8
Abstract: Positive psychology has been increasingly moving towards testing interventions to increase positive outcomes and decrease negative outcomes. One of these possible interventions involves increasing savoring the moment. During savoring the moment, one focuses on positive events while they occur to increase, intensify, or prolong positive emotions in the present. This study tested a group savoring the moment intervention to increase positive outcomes and decrease negative outcomes over 2 weeks. The sample consisted of 193 undergraduate students who completed both sessions (94 intervention and 99 control condition). The intervention group experienced significant decreases in self-reported depressive symptoms and negative affect when compared to the control group. However, positive affect did not differ between the groups. Clinical and research implications are explored.