6 Ways to Savor Time With Your VIPs
Whether it's a holiday gathering, a birthday party, a concert—it's often tough to feel present and grounded when we're in a crowd. We can get lost in the rush of everything happening around us and forget to savor the experience. What can help: getting intentional about what we want out of our time with other people, especially time with people we care about.
Try these simple, research-based practices to stay in a healthy state of mind when you're getting that QT with others.
1. Set an Intention
By making the conscious decision to open yourself to true well-being and happiness, you’ll be more likely not to miss those uplifting moments and even begin to have your radar out for them.
Psychiatrist Dan Siegel argues that by setting your intention, you “prime” your brain to be ready for positive experiences. And this can spur a positive cycle of happiness: Research by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson shows that when we allow ourselves to feel positive emotions, we become more open and sensitive to future positive experiences, bringing us even more of those good feelings down the line.
2. Show Gratitude
Don’t take your good fortune for granted. Consciously reflect on all the blessings in your life each day. Express your appreciation directly to loved ones and friends when you’re with them. You and they will both feel the joy of loving connection.
In a study by Martin Seligman, a leader in the field of positive psychology, people who considered themselves severely depressed were asked to write down three good things that happened each day for 15 days. At the end of the experiment, 94 percent of these subjects had a decrease in depression and 92 percent said their happiness increased.
People who expressed gratitude to others felt significantly closer to those people afterward.
A study published earlier this year in the journal Psychological Science found that people who expressed gratitude to others felt significantly closer to those people afterward.
3. Savor the Good Moments
Don’t just know that you’re feeling good. Let your awareness savor how the experience registers in your body and mind for 15 or 30 seconds. (Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson calls this “taking in the good.”)
Research by Fred Bryant, a professor of psychology at Loyola University, has found that savoring positive experiences strengthens our positive response to them. And neuroscience studies have shown that the longer we hold an emotionally stimulating experience in our awareness, the more neural connections form in our brains to strengthen the trace of that experience in our memory.
4. Get Space When You Need It
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by other people, remember to take a few breaths. It can be challenging to disengage from the clutch of activity and connect with the moment in a restful way. But research suggests that it’s worth the effort to slow down and regain your focus: A recent study out of Harvard found that a wandering mind—typical in our multitasking culture—is a strong cause of unhappiness.
5. Show Some Love
Neuroscience research shows that performing an altruistic act lights up the same pleasure centers in the brain as food and sex. Whenever you feel the impulse to be generous, act on it. As you do, notice the expansive feelings in your body and mind. Without expecting anything in return, notice how good it feels inside when you see someone happy because of your sincere generosity.
Anytime you do something that contributes to the well-being of another, let yourself feel the joy of generosity.
It can be as simple and profound as being fully present for a friend, sharing the gift of your caring and attention. Or when you open the door for someone, consider the positive impulse behind that act. Anytime you do something that contributes to the well-being of another, let yourself feel the joy of generosity. And be sure to include yourself in your generosity practice.
6. Share the Joy
Finally, remember that happiness is contagious: Research shows that happiness can spread like a virus across three degrees of separation; if you’re happy, you increase the odds that your close friends and family will be happy, too. So the more you can stay connected to your own happiness, the more you help others get in touch with their own well-being. We all benefit when you can awaken the joy within you.
A version of this article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.