When we have our eyes set on the financial prize—that trip abroad, that 300-person wedding, even that robust retirement account—it can be easy to place all of our expectations on that goal.
Once we achieve it, we think we’ll probably be happy.
But what about being happy today? While your goals shine in the distance, the day-to-day path toward them is often a lot less glamorous. Feeling like you’re on a short spending leash, turning down trips with friends and passing up dinners out can be really, really hard. In fact, feeling too constricted can make us more likely to itch for freedom and veer off course.
The question, of course, is how you can be happy with the journey as well as the destination. The answer? Savoring.
Dr. Fred B. Bryant, co-author of “Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience,” and David Blaylock, CFP® with LearnVest Planning Services, explain how you can utilize this key psychological concept to help you achieve your biggest financial goals.
How Does Savoring Work?
According to the dictionary, savoring means to “appreciate fully; enjoy or relish.” It means to stop and smell the roses—and delight in their scent, color and beauty. And positive psychology experts have long theorized that the more you can prolong a positive emotional experience, the happier you’ll be.
“Happiness isn’t in the acquisition of things—no matter what consumer advertising would have us believe,” says Bryant. “If that were the case, the wealthiest people would be the happiest. Happiness is all about how we react to the positive things and events in our lives.”
Sounds easy, right? Well, a few factors complicate the issue. For starters, Americans live life at a relatively breakneck pace. “Most of us are constantly multitasking or thinking about several things at once,” says Bryant, “which means we have trouble slowing down and staying in the moment.” Furthermore, we’re spoiled. “We have so much wealth and luxury in this country that we tend to take the little things for granted,” he adds. How are we supposed to savor a cold glass of water when there’s an Xbox on the other side of the table?
And that wealth simply doesn’t make us happier. Psychologists at the University of British Columbia found that wealthier individuals were less likely to savor the little joys in life (like sunny days, cold beers and pieces of chocolate) compared to people with less money. Even more surprising? Just thinking about money can lessen your ability to savor. Participants in the study who were shown pictures of money before eating a piece of chocolate spent significantly less time eating the chocolate—and reported less enjoyment while eating it.
And in a recent study co-authored by Bryant, it was found that in a 30-day period, people who savored experiences reported more boosts in their daily mood and overall happiness.
That’s not to say the rose you smelled last spring will make you happy in the depths of winter—you have to make savoring a habit in order to reap its effects. “It’s counterintuitive, but researchers have found that happiness is more strongly predicted by the frequency of positive events, not by the intensity,” Bryant says. In other words, you’re just as likely—if not more—to find true satisfaction in that weekly $4 mojito with friends than the one $4,000 trip to Mexico.