Savoring pleasure and relaxation

There are so many wonderful things about this life… and everyone inevitably experiences pain, sadness and grief.

If we can savor the sweet moments in life, research shows that people experience less depression, and have more feelings of well-being. But savoring is not a skill that we are born with. The depth to which we savor the sweet moments in life varies between person to person, and moment to moment. Have you ever noticed after receiving bodywork, how quickly those peaceful feelings can dissipate when you have to rush off somewhere? Or how quickly you can forget how beautiful sound of the music you just heard was when you hear something horrible in the news? This holiday season, I have been reflecting on how many wonderful things I am grateful to receive in this amazing life. Delicious food, soothing touch, melodic music, hot showers and baths, hugs, beautiful sunsets, visits with friends, laughter with kids, and so much more. And I have been practicing savoring so that I can really receive these sweet moments.

How can we really take in the goodness so that we have more reserves available for the challenging times of life? Savoring is a skill that can be learned, so why not learn how to savor?

We need to be really present in order to fully receive. And this is not easy! Our minds are wired to be constantly thinking about the next thing on our to-do list, or worrying about something or ruminating about something that happened in the past. Thinking about these things has helped us to survive! In the past, if we didn’t worry, or reflect on the last hunt, we didn’t survive the saber tooth tiger that was stalking us. “Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” says Rick Hanson, author of the book Hardwiring Happiness. And, it seems like our modern world programs us to continually feel unsatisfied so that we consume more goods.

It takes practice and intention to really receive and savor pleasing experiences. That’s why I often start my bodywork sessions an intention and a guided meditation to help you really notice what feels good. You can try it right now:

  • Look around you and notice what your eyes enjoy seeing.
  • Notice the parts of your body that feel good or relaxed.
  • Bring awareness to any pleasing textures of your clothing on your skin.
  • Listen to the pleasing sounds around you.
  • Are there any scents in the room that smell good to you?
  • Imagine these good feelings are being sprinkled all throughout your body and brain like fairy dust! Or imagine you are taking a bath and marinating in these good feelings and the good feelings are being infused into all of your cells.

Your mind will wonder off… just lovingly bring your awareness back to what is pleasurable.

Savoring can also be done after a pleasant experience. I like to remember how I felt at the end of a yoga class when I am laying in bed getting ready to sleep. I like to listen to the music that I just heard at a concert and remember how wonderful it sounded. And after I receive bodywork, I like to imagine that I’m back on the massage table, receiving that comfort and feeling relaxed.

It’s helpful to have others help you remember the goodness. My family loves to talk about gatherings right after the gathering happens, laughing about the funny parts, and sharing the memories and the pictures. And if you use a little of your imagination, your mind might think that you’re actually back there in that place, and you will feeling those feelings again as if you are experiencing them in the present moment. And if someone is listening and asking you for more details, you will remember more and your imagination will get into the details.

Using savoring right before you go to sleep is a great way to create a peaceful state of mind as you drift off to sleep. So, right before you go to sleep, remember a pleasant part of your day, or something that you are grateful for from the day, and receive the good feelings in your body, feel the emotions that come with that memory. Then, let those feelings guide you into a good night of sleep.

You can also use the concept of savoring about something that is in your future (also known as anticipation). Try it right now – imagine how good big your smile will be when you see your friend that you have plans with next week.

The practice of savoring has been shown to decrease depression and increase people’s sense of well-being. Learning to savor past experiences can improve emotional regulation and enhance people’s response to stressful events, enhancing resilience.  

I like to think that when I am receiving bodywork, feeling deeply relaxed and peaceful and feeling pleasure, I am expanding my capacity for how much relaxation and pleasure I can feel in my nervous system. It is similar to when an athlete trains for something, they expand their physical potential. May you continue to expand your capacity to receive joy and pleasure and relaxation so that you can ride the rough waters of life with a more resilience.

Do you want to learn more about the practice of savoring? I highly recommend the book Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson, PhD also, Margot Anand’s book Everyday Ecstasy has some great exercises for increasing pleasure in your everyday life. Also, I find that savoring is much better when someone helps you to stay with the experience or the memory. I would be happy to do this for you during your next session!

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