How good are you at savouring the moment? A life of high-octane busyness can diminish our ability to stop and notice, to feel rather than do. Consider these four tips from Tony Crabbe’s best-selling book Busy for bringing you back into the present.
1. Start noticing and calling out your happy attacks
My father‑in‑law has developed a fantastic little habit that I, and many around him, have copied. At seemingly random moments—during dinner, a conversation, or an activity—he will call out, “I’m having a happy attack!” He does this when he notices he is really enjoying that moment. This works on three levels:
- It helps him to amplify and savour great moments as they happen (how often do we realize times were great only after the moment has passed?)
- It is generous, inviting others to relish the moment
- It is sticky—such a simple behaviour easily becomes a habit.
The single biggest predictor of pleasure is the ability to tell others about your joy in the moment.
2. Focus your perceptions
Some time ago, I joined a photography club, and what I hadn’t expected was that this simple act transformed my travel. I now had a mission when I was out and about in strange and exotic cities. I wasn’t simply seeing the sights; I was looking for great photographs. As my camera lens focused and zoomed, so did my attention. I drank in the sights, hungry for more. I initiated conversations with locals (whose photo I wanted to take) whom I would otherwise have passed by, oblivious. I learned to truly savour the moment in travel and the cities; I was excited and energized by what I experienced.
You can do this deliberately by focusing on certain elements of your present experience and the blocking out of others. This may involve paying particular attention to the drumming in a favourite rock track, noticing all the different colours and hues of green in a forest view or trying to discern the song of a specific bird. Consider a potentially pleasurable activity that you have lined up today, at work or outside. How could you direct your attention onto a specific aspect of that experience to help you savour it more deeply?
3. Quiet your over-active brain
The natural state of the brain is to bounce and jump between thoughts, images and memories. Collectively, these inner distractions take you elsewhere intellectually. Conversely, absorption is the attempt to stop thinking and immerse ourselves totally in the senses. An example might be the experience of sinking into a deep bath, taking the time to notice the touch of the hot water on your skin, feeling the bubbles and the ripples and sinking into the gentle embrace as the warmth seeps through to your core. Or it might be intensely focusing on the taste of a fine meal, straining every aspect of your attention to wallow in the unfolding flavours.
What sensory experience could you wallow in and, by sinking all your attention into your feelings?
4. Do less
I went on a couple of stag weekends a few years ago. On one of them we flew to a foreign city for a fun- packed, activity-filled two days. We saw the sights, did the clubs and even went on a trip to another famous resort an hour away. A few months later I went on another stag weekend in which the same number of people went into the mountains to stay in a hut, with an ample supply of food and beer. We simply hung out together and did a little walking. The question is, which one was better? Unreservedly, the second weekend was better: we had more time to simply be together. All the activity of the first weekend got in the way of our enjoying time together.
Nearly every (positive) thing we do is better if we give it a bit more time, a bit more attention. Sometimes deeper enjoyment starts with something as simple as deliberately doing less. Think about how you could do less to enjoy the experience more? How could having fewer interests or hobbies improve your life by allowing you to focus on fewer, better?
Adapted from Busy: How to thrive in a world of too much by Tony Crabbe.