14 Dec 2020 16:17 IST

How to retain joy despite a pandemic

Research shows that savouring good experiences of the past can help bring back positivity to the present

Ever since the Black Swan event — Covid-19 — happened, mankind is gripped by a sense of inexplicable fear and worry. The challenge is to maintain positivity and hope against the backdrop of this pandemic. This is when I came across a significant, research-based study on how one can leverage distinct positive experiences of the past to remain calm, composed, and perhaps even cheerful in the present. This approach is very aptly called “savouring.”

In short, “this is about cultivating the capacity to attend to, appreciate, and enhance the positive experience in one’s life,” according to Fred B Bryant from Loyola University in Chicago and Joseph Veroff from the University of Michigan whose book — Savoring — outlines this approach in detail. Savouring is, of course, a psychological construct.





The important point to note is that being able to handle adversity like Covid-19 is vital in life, but it is not the same as building the capacity to enjoy life. The father of positive psychology, Dr Martin Seligman also speaks on this in his books, “authentic happiness” and “learned optimism.” Savouring takes it further into the realm of how we can cultivate experiences of happiness even as we struggle with overwhelming negative thoughts.

Explained briefly in this column are ten different strategies to use the effects of positive experiences and bring it back into our present and future. The most important thing in savouring is what is known as “intentionality.”

Share positive feelings

Research has indicated that those who share positive news and good feelings with others are much happier than those who do not.

Mental photograph

In an interesting study, participants who took a 20-minute walk everyday for one week and consciously looked for good things reported happier feelings than those who did not.

Congratulate yourself

In most cultures, self-congratulations are a no-no. However, research has confirmed that people who revel in their successes, without taking it to their head, of course, are more likely to be happy.

Sharpen your sensory perceptions

Getting in touch with our senses or taking the time to use them more consciously also flexes the savouring muscles. Interestingly, this can even include “slowing down during meals” and taking the time to sniff the food, smell the food and then eat them.”

Open declarations

People who outwardly express their good feelings and shout out from the rooftops tend to feel extra good according to the research because it provides the mind with extra evidence that something positive has happened.


Comparing the outcome to less satisfying ones in the past gives us a reference point and makes the current situation seem better

Get absorbed in the moment

Again, studies reveal that people most enjoy themselves when they are totally absorbed in a task or moment, losing their sense of time and place. As we all know, children are particularly good at this. We can regain this capacity no matter how old we are.

Count your blessings

Give thanks, this perhaps is an obvious one and also an easy one to do. Expressing gratitude to people we spend time with is a very powerful way to savouring.

Avoid being a killjoy

After a rough day, try not to focus on negative things. Millions of thoughts flash and flood our memories every day. However, those who focus selectively on the positive memories are very happy and this happiness lingers on.

This too shall pass

Remind yourself about how quickly time flies. This has to do with reassuring that good times will be back again and soon.

There is so much connection between savouring positive emotions that create new experiences and eventually the resilience this creates. Well, would not you like to “savour” a nice video clip on savouring? Here you go: