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Aug 01

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Happiness is a slice of apple

“I know it’s important to take time to walk around and smell the flowers”, says a client of mine. He’s not some hippy chick, but a successful entrepreneur, with a house in Tuscany and enough land to merit a tractor.

Graham* has discovered the joy of ‘savouring’. The same benefits come from rubbing a piece of apple on your face. Let me explain.

Last weekend I attended a positive psychology workshop led by Chris Johnstone. Positive psychology is the relatively young academic study of how humans can develop satisfaction, joy and happiness. It provides an evidence base for the ideas we read in personal development books.

After lunch, Chris passes around a plate of apple slices. He has us pick one up and play with it in the manner of a suspicious 3-year-old. We stare at it, smell it, rub it on our faces, lick it, take a tiny tiny bite, hold that morsel in our mouths, roll it around, suck at it, listen to it crunch and generally take our time.

This is known as savouring.

Chris explains when we look at ordinary things in a different way, really savouring and appreciating their beauty (crunch, juiciness, green-ness, tart flavour), our mood improves and we become happier (according to research).

This reminds of my yoga teacher asking me to lift all my toes off the ground and then (attempt) to put them back one by one, so I feel really connected to the floor. Viktoria has so deeply developed her appreciation of the feel of her feet on the ground, that simply paying attention to it feels wonderful. I want some of that feeling too.

So I’ve been savouring things. It turns out that for something that sounds incredibly simple, it’s not that easy. I walk to work watching the swallows swooping above me, listening to the twack of my flip flops against my feet, smelling the roses in other peoples’s gardens. And then suddenly I realise I’ve spent the last five minutes plotting what to have for dinner that evening, and (simultaneously) beating myself for forgetting to pick up my (overdue) library books. More practice is needed, but I’m already sensing the benefits.

Is it worth the effort? The science says yes, as do Viktoria, Chris, Graham and I. But don’t take our word for it. Give it a go.

  1. Set your phone timer to 2 minutes.
  2. Do something simple (sitting in your chair qualifies).
  3. Pay attention to your five senses. What are they picking up?
  4. Imagine you are a child experiencing this for the first time, what’s exciting about it? (I know the average 3-year-old would be fascinated by my office chair).
  5. If you make it to 2 minutes without thinking about the past or the future, then nice job. Tomorrow, try it for 3 minutes, and repeat with something else.

With practice, your mood will improve and you happiness will increase. Enjoy.

*details have been changed

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