My 16th birthday was celebrated by my friends. As I walked into my childhood home and turned on the lights, they jumped out and yelled “Surprise!” as I fell to the floor in shock and a pile of teenage drama. I felt deep gratitude and love that they had honored me in this special way.
Can you think of a particular moment in time when you experienced a strong positive emotion? Perhaps you recall awe as you gazed at a majestic tree, or connection when you spent a night laughing with friends over dinner. Perhaps you recall feeling joy when you brought your baby home, or pride when you saw your teenage daughter receive a well-deserved award. Perhaps you recall delight as you received an unexpected gift, inspiration when you were propelled to create something novel and beautiful, or curiosity that led you down the path of a new interest or hobby.
Take a moment to relive the experience in your head. Recall the sights, sounds and smells. Pay attention to the positive emotions you experienced and the effects on your brain.
As you recall your experience, just thinking about it invited you to experience that happy and positive emotion again, didn’t it?
Savoring a positive past experience and reliving it in your mind is a proven positive psychology tip that can make you happier in the present. Our brains release the same feel good chemicals and hormones when we revisit a positive experience.
Researchers have found many benefits to people who savor the good. Those proficient at reminiscing about the past—looking back on happy times, rekindling joy from happy memories—are best able to buffer stress and to experience frequent happiness. Those who are adept at savoring are less likely to experience depression, stress, guilt, and shame, writes Sonya Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness.
How can you put past experiences into practice?
- Enjoy the dinner table. Ask your children about their favorite vacation and why they love it.
- Texting to Savor: My childhood friend and me often recall a funny moment from the past. (“Katie, remember that time in 7th grade when the track coach forced you to run the hurdles, and you face-planted and tripped your way through each one?! It certainly didn’t help that we were all laughing so hard we could barely breathe!”)
You can also practice savoring the present.
- Create a Savoring Book: Use your phone to capture moments or objects of beauty as you go along your day. Create a digital album to help you remember those positive moments, especially when you are in need of a boost.
- Celebrate and savor good news: Research by Shelly Gable on Active Constructive Listening shows that sharing good news with close friends and family is associated with pleasant emotions and elevated well-being. Celebrate your spouse, cousin, or bestie’s achievement. Moreover, in intimate relationships, how partners receive and celebrate the other’s good news is even more predictive of the relationship’s success than how they handle conflict.
Repeated replaying and savoring these experiences can be a wonderful way of increasing happiness.
Join Sandy Campbell and Megan McDonough for Introduction to Wholebeing Happiness for Coaches, starting October 3.
This post was originally published on Sandy’s blog at sandycampbell.net.