Feb 24, 2020
Welcome to episode 26 - I can’t believe we’ve been enjoying this weekly rendez-vous for exactly half a year already! Thank you for going on this journey with me. Talking of journeys… I have just come back from Paris, where I spent two days teaching on the Positive Education module of the Anglia Ruskin University Masters’ in Applied Positive Psychology - the same Masters’ I graduated from last year and the same module I took as a student exactly two years ago. The experience was surreal, awesome and - honestly - initially absolutely terrifying.
I loved being back in Paris, and although I was there for work, I wanted to make sure I could make the most of the experience, and that’s what today’s episode is about. Although it was definitely hard work to teach at a level I hadn’t taught or trained at before, it was also an honour and a delight to teach a group of students that were very experienced and knowledgeable in Positive Education. I wanted to focus my attention on the experience itself and enjoy it as much as possible, which I did. And I wanted to enjoy the beauty of Paris, a city I love, of the French language, which I grew up with and love, and of the mouth-wateringly delicious food I know I can always find in Paris.
According to an article by Dr Davis in Psychology Today, “savoring just means that we attempt to fully feel, enjoy, and extend our positive experiences” and is “a great way to develop a long-lasting stream of positive thoughts and emotions”. According to research by Dr Barbara Fredrickson(1), maximising our experience of positive emotions is important as these trigger “upward spirals” in wellbeing. So how do you go about triggering those positive emotions and increasing your wellbeing through savouring?
One way to do it is by taking time to savour your food. So often, when we are busy with work and life in general, we eat our meals without really thinking about the food, without taking the time to truly notice its tastes and textures, perhaps watching TV at the same time, or answering messages on our phones, or talking to colleagues about work-related matters. We may even simply be mentally distracted by our busy minds. Taking the time to savour a meal from time to time is a form of mindfulness.
One day this week, set out to do something different: For one of your meals, choose a food you haven’t eaten before and want to explore, or choose to eat one of your favourite foods. Set some time aside for that meal and when you sit down with your food in front of you, before you start eating, look at the food. Observe its colours, its smell, perhaps the way the steam rises off it if the food is hot. Take in every visual and sensory detail before you start eating. Then, with each mouthful, focus on its taste, texture and temperature. Notice how these change as you chew, how each mouthful feels as you swallow it. Notice how your hunger gradually reduces and how it feels to gradually be satiated. After you have finished eating, reflect on the experience and how you feel in that moment - whether you feel comfortable, are still hungry or feel over-full, whether you feel energised or tired, and any other thoughts and feelings that may come up.
You can extend this activity by photographing your food, as this allows you to reminisce about the experience later. In fact, you can use this form of mindfulness through photography for all sorts of activities. You can capture beautiful moments by stopping to take notice, snapping a photo and later reminiscing over those moments you preserved.
"Moules et Frites" in a Parisian Brasserie
View from the rooftop of the Galeries Lafayette
According to research (2), being able to savour and enjoy positive emotions derived from positive experiences improves wellbeing. Additionally, savouring has been shown to protect against depression, even reducing the likelihood of negative events causing depression (3). Reminiscing and mindful photography have also been shown to improve mood (4,5).
I hope you’ll give savouring a go, and of course this is a simple activity you can encourage your students to do, too. If you try it, get in touch and let me know what impact this has on you or your students.
As always, I look forward to catching up with you next week and, until we speak again, For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!