What is often top of mind during the holiday season is visiting with family. Given we are still living through a pandemic, many caregivers and their families may choose to not get together physically or may decide to have smaller gatherings. How can we experience the good, the love and the joy, that can come with holidays and with the holiday spirit this time of year? One powerful way is through the practice of savouring, which is a way to ignite and hold on to the positive. This blog sets out some ideas on how you can reminisce, which is a form of savouring, with family this holiday season.
What exactly is savouring?
Savoring simply means that we attempt to fully feel, enjoy, and extend our positive experiences.
Savouring an experience is a way to make the most out of it, a way to milk happy experiences for all they are worth. Many are familiar with the idea of savouring in relation to food. We savour by slowing down and deliberately or intentionally focusing our attention on the taste, the texture, the look of something we are eating.
The benefits of savouring
Just like other gratitude practices, savouring helps us move away from taking pleasures for granted AND is also an effective way to counterbalance our human tendency to focus more on the negative experiences in our life, rather than the positive ones. During this pandemic, we will take all the help we can get to keep us from slipping into constant negativity.
Reminiscing is a form of savouring
What most of us already do is savour the past by reminiscing. In fact, savouring the past is probably the easiest way to practice savouring. To this day I easily go back in my mind to Saturday mornings with my dad. We would always spend it together, doing various errands and he would buy me a comic book and a pop before heading home. It was always our time together and it was precious.
Being deliberate or intentional
The habit of savouring is about being deliberate or intentional about this reminiscing. This can be a powerful experience! Bryant and Veroff, leading researchers on savouring, say that it is the glue that bonds people together. This makes sense—we feel great when we share a positive experience with someone else. In this way, it is a great practice for a family to do together.
If you can’t physically be together this holiday season, how about reminiscing together about favourite past memories of when you were together? You can schedule a family gathering which revolves around reminiscing or has a segment on reminiscing.
This can be done in-person, over the phone or with a video conference. You can prepare ahead of time by asking all family members to share one or two of their favourite positive (ya, you have to specify that you are looking for positive ones) memories with family, or a family member.
How do you savour? The fancy terminology is sensory-perceptual sharpening, which is when we engage our senses with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or touch.
Each family member can take a turn and share their favourite memory/ies in as much detail as possible.
Why do it this way? Science has shown that savouring together builds relationships and boosts happiness and sense of well-being.
Savouring the moment isn’t rocket science
I love the simplicity of savouring practices and the fact that it is something we can easily do when prompted. You can get creative with your ‘reminiscing/savouring family gathering’. Perhaps you want members to share their favourite meal together. Or maybe it’s a favourite event done together as a family. One year, when my parents were well enough, we all walked through the woods to a cabin my brother-in-law had built. We enjoyed a fire and some hot drinks and headed back, all in a great positive state, and a positive memory to which we call all return.
Open you mind and let the creative ideas flow! The savouring doesn’t even have to be about events that actually happened. We can use our imagination to create an event, and experience the same positive result.
Imagine your future family gatherings
Savouring can be a soothing balm for those unable to physically be with family this holiday season. Our brains have a hard time distinguishing between real events and imagination. That is, all events, whether real or in our minds, stir up thoughts and emotions similar to those that would rise up if the event was actually happening.
A powerful practice then, is to use your imagination and savour what the experience of being with family will be like when you are able to be together again. Try it out. It’s a really cool and easy way to generate some good, positive feelings.
Of course, if you do have a physical gathering with family during the holidays, you can still practice reminiscing with family while you are together. Reminiscing is a powerful way to connect and it can just as easily be done virtually or during a physical gathering. The point is to meaningfully connect with family.
How are you going to connect with family this holiday season?