Well Ahead Blog

Back to Well Ahead Blog

Being present allows for long-lasting memories

Main Line Health June 5, 2017 Behavioral Health

Too often, our busy schedules can rob us of the gift of living in the present moment. We’re racing from one task to the next, multitasking, or anticipating what’s ahead, and many of us spend our time thinking about something other than what we’re actually doing at any given moment.

These factors can make our present moments and overall life feel like one big to-do list and can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, inhibit us from feeling joy, and negatively impact our relationships. Clichéd phrases like ‘stop and smell the roses’ or ‘enjoy the little things’ may sound trite but, in reality, they have real validity to our happiness. After all, our lives are made up of individual moments.

Research suggests that people are happier when they are focused on one task at a time and less happy when they are multitasking, distracted and not engaged in what they are doing. Fred Bryant, a social psychologist and professor at Loyola University in Chicago has extensively researched the emotional benefits that come from refining the ability to enjoy moments and practicing mindfulness, a concept called ‘savoring.’

Savoring is defined as the ability to deliberately take in the joys, pleasures and all the positive feelings we experience in our lives, moment by moment. Once mastered, savoring gives us the ability to deeply feel, integrate, appreciate and even prolong the good moments of our lives—both big and small.

Learning how to savor life’s moments is important, especially since savoring directly impacts our overall degree of happiness, our enjoyment of life and our relationships. Below are the main strategies suggested for cultivating the skills necessary for mastering savoring:

  • Make pleasurable experiences last as long as possible – This can be achieved by reflecting on one or two positive experiences every day for two to three minutes per day. Be conscious of deliberately remembering as many details of the positive experience possible. The longer you’re able to reflect upon a positive experience, the longer that you can enjoy any joyfulness derived from that experience.
  • Share positive moments with others – Even after the moment has passed, share the experience with family and friends via phone, text, social media or email.
  • Develop memory-building skills – Take mental photographs, take a physical souvenir or write about it in a journal.
  • Gain an appreciation of time – Remind yourself how quickly moments can pass, and work on deliberately relishing each one.
  • Focus on one task at a time – If you find yourself hurrying through tasks and feel like you're rushing through moments, take pause and slow down. Doing tasks and moving through special moments more slowly helps deepen your ability to appreciate these moments. Make note of the time, place and feeling of the moment you're in so you can recall and appreciate it later.

Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a psychologist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, whose practice focuses on psychological issues affecting individuals, couples and families. She is affiliated with Bryn Mawr Hospital and Lankenau Medical Center, part of Main Line Health.