It’s hard to be present all the time — especially when life gets busy. It’s totally okay to zone out on the couch in front of Netflix after a hard workday, or indulge in an endless feed of TikTok videos after your toddler throws a temper tantrum.
Mindfulness is a big trend these days, but you don’t have to feel guilty about wanting to escape reality every now and then. Our brains are wired to help us avoid what makes us feel uncomfortable, so instead of trying to practice mindfulness when you’re stressed or anxious, you can make it easier on yourself by practicing it when you’re actually enjoying yourself.
Using your mindfulness muscle when you’re experiencing something pleasant or enjoyable is known as “savouring the moment.” By doing this, research shows that you can down-regulate some of your negative thoughts and amplify your positive emotions.
Not sure how to start? Give these a try…
Go for a Savouring Walk
This takes a “stop and smell the roses” approach to walking. Instead of rushing around from point A to point B, the goal is to take notice of all the pleasant things in your surroundings, which can boost your happiness if you do it every day for one week straight.
- Schedule 20 minutes in your day to go for a walk outdoors on your own, ideally with no distractions (like your phone or earbuds).
- Use your five senses to take in your surroundings. You might see an interesting building, catch the scent of a field of flowers, hear the sound of a dog barking, or feel the wind brush past your skin.
- When you notice something, make sure you really take it all in. Pause if you need to. Close your eyes to enhance your sense of smell, sound, or physical sensation.
Try to identify what it is about that thing that you find so pleasant.
Practice Mental Subtraction
Mental subtraction involves using the “what if” question. What if a certain positive event or experience you had actually never happened? This simple yet powerful activity can help you avoid taking things for granted while also enhancing your sense of gratitude.
- Think about a positive event or experience that happened to you.
- Now go back in time before it happened, thinking about what made it possible (including specific people, circumstances, personal decisions, or maybe even luck).
- Consider what could have caused the event or experience to never have taken place. For example, maybe you felt it was a “right place, right time” kind of thing. Make a list of all the things that could have gone differently.
- Now bring yourself back to the present and imagine what your life would be like right now if that positive event or experience never happened.
- Finally, remind yourself that it did happen, and acknowledge all the ways that it’s positively impacted your life.
Give Something Up (Temporarily)
We tend to get used to our current circumstances — a phenomenon known as “hedonic adaptation.” By giving up something for a short while, you’ll appreciate it more when you decide to go back to it. You essentially get to build up your anticipation for it and make it feel new again when you allow yourself to re-experience it.
- Pick something small that you indulge in often. It could be a favourite food, an activity, or a habit. (Make sure it’s something you’re not extremely dependent on and know you could give up relatively easily.)
2. Allow yourself to indulge one more time, then plan to go without it for one whole week. Consider replacing it with something else that’s healthy to help yourself maintain your progress.
3. At the end of the week, allow yourself to indulge again, this time paying attention to your sensations and how they influence your emotions.
4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 with a different indulgence.
Pick one of the above savouring strategies to try out on your own consistently for one week straight. You might be pleasantly surprised at how good you feel by the end of it!
So, Lotis, tell us — what kinds of positive experiences do you love to savour in the moment? Let us know by leaving a comment below!