“The way to develop the habit of savoring is to pause when something is beautiful and good and catches our attention – the sound of rain, the look of the night sky – the glow in a child’s eyes, or when we witness some kindness. Pause… then totally immerse in the experience of savoring it.” (Tara Brach)
Of late, aging, societal discords, and life’s continual and unavoidable complications have rendered me incredibly nostalgic for a time when struggles seemed a bit easier and moments more joyful.
This world I now find myself reminiscing over has long been extinct. However, settings that provided comfort and security and individuals whose worth and kindness were immeasurable are still very much alive in my heart and mind.
These memories are so easily recollected with such clarity and accuracy that I sometimes forget about the passage of time and the realities of the present day.
This reminiscing, while causing melancholy at times, has become a lifeline for me, especially when I feel lost and lonely and need a reminder that my life once mattered to so many others.
Our mental health is always in a state of flux, heavily influenced by our age and situational conditions that rarely seem to normalize.
As young children, we worry about monsters hiding in our closets or the rumblings of thunder during a heavy summer rainstorm. But a warm embrace and a few comforting words from a parent or loved one often limit their duration as we fall back to sleep safe and sound.
As teenagers, worrying becomes more acute as we struggle with our identities, to find meaningful friendships, or to be accepted for who we are in a highly contentious environment. Suddenly, worries aren’t quickly suppressed with a warm embrace and a few comforting words, and for the first time in our lives, we begin to understand what it means to have a “sleepless night.”
But adulthood brings about the greatest or the most comprehensive list of worries, from financial burdens and job instability to familial and social pressures and insecurities to health issues and the reality of one’s mortality. These worries are not easily erased from one’s mind or compartmentalized to avoid revisiting them repeatedly, especially when your mind is at rest.
Over the last few months, falling asleep each night has been challenging for me as my mind relaxes and inevitably begins to focus on life’s stressors, thus preventing my slumber. Trying to make the most of my recent nostalgia, I’ve been engaging in what I thought was a silly idea for reframing my thoughts.
Turns out, my silly idea has a clinical name: the habit of savoring. Studies have revealed that this strategy can improve our mental well-being by boosting our mood while helping to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
On Psychology Today, Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., says, “Savoring just means that we attempt to fully feel, enjoy, and extend our positive experiences. Savoring is a great way to develop a long-lasting stream of positive thoughts and emotions, because positive events cannot always be relied on to make you happier.”
According to a report from the National Sleep Foundation, 43% of respondents ages 13-64 said stress and worry caused them to lie awake many times in the past month, with insufficient sleep often causing additional stress due to exhaustion.
As I read more about the habit of savoring, I learned that psychologists now believe that savoring can help provide a better quality of sleep and even help you fall asleep faster, precisely what I’ve been using it for as part of my new bedtime ritual.
How it works for me as I’m trying to fall asleep is I close my eyes and breathe slowly before envisioning myself with people and in places from my past. This inevitably ignites feelings of delight as I replay them in my mind as though I were watching a series of old home movies.
Some nights, I decorate the Christmas tree at my paternal grandmother’s house, stringing garlands, arranging a ceramic manger, and positioning candles in an adjacent window. At the same time, the smell of a fresh ham roasting in the oven perfumes the air, and Christmas tunes sung by Perry Como echo from the record player.
Other nights, I’m at my maternal grandmother’s, where we’d go shopping, drive through the car wash, and visit Roy Rogers® or Blimpies® for lunch before standing in the driveway of the house next door waiting for my great-aunt to toss a bagful of homemade cookies from her kitchen window. Thankfully, I was always a good catch.
While it’s not always perfect, when practiced consistently, I’m amazed at how the habit of savoring does provide mental comfort, allowing your brain to relax, refocus, and recall a cherished memory whose positivity has been immortalized in your heart and mind.
How fortunate I am to have so many beautiful moments to choose from.