By Scott Glassman, PsyD, author of A Happier You
And in the rapid stream of each day’s demands, it’s easy to miss a lot.
Although I regularly practice mindfulness, the skill of being present, I often find myself flying through life as fast as anyone.
I get caught up in the rush of my responsibilities, each one fighting the others for my complete attention. I end up trying to satisfy them all, zipping from one meeting to the next, returning emails while wolfing down lunch, cutting short conversations, starting one task in the middle of another, and navigating my way through constant (and sometimes competing) calendar notifications.
Amid all this, I may not remember to stretch, rest my eyes, or even have a drink of water.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Sure, by the end of the day, you feel you’ve accomplished quite a bit. You have a long, checked-off “to-do” list to prove it.
But at the same time, you’re left with the nagging feeling that you’re not fully living. You’ve been skittering across the surface of life at supersonic speeds. And it’s hard at that speed to deeply appreciate the meaning, mystery, and pleasure in the moments passing by.
So, I’d like to offer four ways you can slow down and savor the good moments that get lost in the shuffle.
But before I describe the savoring approach, I would ask that you not criticize yourself for going into hyperdrive. We all can slip into that state, no matter how many hours we’ve devoted to meditation and self-improvement.
What matters is your desire to catch yourself and to step into the next moment with a different intention.
To do this, I like to use a prompt or self-statement like, “I’m going to pause here,” and follow that by allowing my attention to come to rest on my breath. Just watching my breathing for a moment sets the stage for the four-step savoring process.
I then ask myself the question, “What’s something good about this moment, or about a moment I experienced recently?” It could be anything—something kind that was said to you, something delicious you ate, or something you see in your environment, maybe a photograph of someone you love.
Now you are ready to dive deeply into the experience.
Open the Sensory Pathways
First, you want to use your senses. What qualities do you see, touch, hear, smell, or taste that bring you enjoyment? Even if you just settle on one sensory pathway, see if you can magnify that sensation and bask in it for as long as possible. For example, if you ate a strawberry, can you linger on the texture and sweetness of it?
Find the Wonder
When we marvel at something, we appreciate it on an elevated level. Is there something that inspires awe in the good moment you’ve spotlighted? In our strawberry example, it could be thinking about the miraculous process of a strawberry growing from a seed.
Appreciate the Gift
Feeling thankful for the moment deepens its meaning and staying power. What about this moment is a gift to you? Why is this something special or positive in your life? In what ways does it fill your being? With the strawberry, you might thank nature or a higher power for providing this sweet, healthy nourishment.
Broaden the Meaning
The last step in savoring involves extending the meaning of the moment. You can broaden the meaning to include a positive understanding of yourself, the world, or the future. What does it mean about you that you are able to experience this moment? What might be possible because of it? Through this process, eating a single strawberry may come to represent your new commitment to a healthy lifestyle. You may find that it signals hope for more energy, vitality, and happiness in the days to come.
My final thought is, I hope, a comforting one. If you miss savoring a moment, there is usually another one right around the corner. Although it can help to use all four pathways described here, it’s quite possible that a single pathway is enough to step out of the stream of your day and live deeply in the fullness of the present.
Scott Glassman, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist, and clinical associate professor at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Glassman’s program, A Happier You®, was featured on National Public Radio (NPR) and CBS News through national syndication. He has appeared on SiriusXM’s Doctor Radio to discuss his work on happiness. Additionally, Glassman is a contributing psychology and health writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and www.philly.com.