Celebrate your tiny victories: introducing the concept of savouring.
Updated: Jul 5, 2021
A simple exercise to appreciate and create long-lasting memories of your life's best achievements.
What are some of your life's best achievements? Bringing them to memory, do you feel a little boost of happiness?
You might have conjured up the memory of the time you got promoted, won a sports medal, found your other half, did particularly well at school, or that time you gave a great speech. The wonderful thing about achievements are that they are a gift that keeps on giving.
Achievements are something we have accomplished with our own strengths. They feel hard-won in our efforts of pursuing something personally meaningful. They are a gift that keeps on giving as our memory of these achievements are something that we can always look back on. It puts a little smile on our faces and gives us a boost in confidence, especially during the times we need it the most.
It's important to not let our achievements go by without taking a moment to fully appreciate what we've done. This is especially so that when we look back on our life's wall of fame, we can see it dotted with all the great things we've done in our lives, be they big or little.
Speaking of life's wall of fame, here's a funny story but yet relevant from my own personal life.
I used to be absolutely terrified of public speaking.
I mean leg-shaking, voice-trembling kind of scared. This was so much so that once during my early university days, I took a sick day just to escape a giving a class presentation I hadn't prepared well for.
I failed that module.
A few years later when I was finishing my Honours in Psychology, I had to give a much bigger presentation. Every honours student at my university had to present our thesis at an annual conference where the entire cohort of honours students, the teaching faculty and more junior students would attend.
It was a pretty big thing back then, as we had more than a hundred people in the audience. I remember visiting the washroom before my turn came, and saw other nervous students washing their faces vigourously or practicing their speech in the mirror. My close friend was in the cubicle vomiting his lunch out.
This time around for this presentation, I came well prepared. I had memorised the main points of my presentation the night before. However, as I was seated awaiting my turn, I felt my hands start to tremble as I held my wad of notes trying to revise.
My mentor then, Professor Colin MacLeod, was seated right next to me. He noticed my nervousness, made rather obvious by the papers in my hand flapping about with my uncontrollable tremors.
Being an expert on attentional-linked anxiety research that he was, he said to me in his Scottish accent:
"It's okay, it's okay. It's better to be nervous now then during your presentation. You already know what you want to say, try instead to pay attention to the positive cues around you".
Little did I know back then, but he had unwittingly made me practice the art of Savouring.
When it finally came to my turn, the anxiety went away and I spoke confidently during my presentation. Soon it was all over and later on, I was even surprised as they announced my name as one of the best presenters during the conference.
This wasn't some achievement of grandeur, but by focusing on the positive aspects, I still remember all the tiny little details of the experience vividly. The gentle smile on my Professor's face as he nodded to my speaking points, the conference room we were in, the chill of the air-conditioners.
I remember taking my prize afterward and walking out of the building and feeling the summer wind in my face. I can even recollect the first thirst-quenching taste of cold beer when we were at the school tavern afterwards to have celebratory drinks.
Well, what happened a few beers later, I probably can't say the same (haha).
Savouring is all about being mindfully engaged and aware of your feelings and senses during an event that you enjoy.
Fred Bryant, a social psychologist, is the father of research on 'Savouring'. According to Bryant, Savouring is about paying conscious experience to the positive experiences in your life.
It can help you form much more lasting experiences of the memory, allowing you to relive the experience over and over again. What better way to use Savouring then to relish the experience of an achievement?
Using Savouring, you can more intensely enjoy the experience while making a detailed record of you achievement. Your memory of that happy moment can be replayed and enjoyed for the rest of your life.
Even on days when you've done absolutely nothing of importance, you can still recall that fond memory and start to feel happy about what you've achieved in the past.
Yet how many times have we let achievements pass us by, whether big or small?
Very often, we find ourselves at the end of a week and know that time has passed, but we have little sense of where most of the time went. This is sad indeed, as it means records of our precious life have gone missing from our memory forever.
So, the next time you've made an achievement, big or small, be it:
Getting some good feedback on a project at work
Completing a run or swim even when you're tired that day
Avoiding an argument in a difficult relationship
Having cooked a delightful meal for your loved ones
Finally finishing a book
Playing a good game of basketball or tennis
Completed an article or small project that you've been working on
Start savouring every little achievement in your life.
Try to notice and pay attention to the sensation of accomplishing something worthwhile.
Label your feelings. Identify the positive emotions you are feeling during that time, and explicitly label them in your mind. Is it happiness you are feeling, or is it a sense of equanimity?
Close your eyes if you have to, and let the feeling linger and swish around in your mind like a gentle rolling wave. Actively build a memory of this experience, and all the stimuli and sensations associated with it.
Tune in to your senses. Take a moment after your accomplishment to give each of your five senses a turn at enjoying this achievement.
Take your time with each sense; what do you notice about your surroundings; how do your feet feel on the ground, how do your hands feel; what do you hear around you, is it laughter and cheering?; smell the air of the environment you're in; even explore what your tongue is tasting.
Connect to the present. Try to be more aware of where you are in this present moment. Turn your attention to your surroundings. Recognise that this is where you are in this point of time.
The more we do this, the more the state of celebrating achievements become a habit.
We start actively building more memories of our life's best experiences, and all the stimuli and sensations associated with it. That way, when we look back on our life, we are filled with a myriad of wonderful experiences of achievements.
We can then easily say, "Yup, that was life well lived."
Thanks for reading Kaya Toast for the Soul. Wishing you many tiny victories in your week ahead!