Get started by revisiting the previous example of savouring food. Explain that eating is something that students have to do many times a day and it uses all five of their senses. However, busy schedules, technology, and even emotions have resulted in a dramatic increase in mindless eating and eating on-the-go.
Let students know that mindful eating is a great way to practice savouring the present and involves sharpening their sensory experiences. Have everyone wash their hands before starting the activity.
Then, ask each student to grab two small pieces of food from their lunch, mentioning that it’s best if the item is something they enjoy (ex. an apple slice, a piece of fruit, a corner of a cookie or muffin). Alternatively, if school regulations allow it, and if you feel comfortable, you can provide each student with a small piece of food. This mindful eating activity is traditionally done with raisins, but you can choose anything, including pieces of candy (ex. sour keys, smarties).
First, have students eat one piece of food like they normally would, giving no guidance or explanation. After they eat the first piece, tell students that they will be practicing a mindful eating exercise with the second piece of food.
Once everyone is quietly seated at their desk with a piece of food, lead the mindfulness practice using the script provided.
Mindful Eating Script available in download section of this page.
Before starting a discussion, acknowledge that this practice was especially slow to emphasize and deliberately practice each step. Let students know that mindful eating does not need to take this long, and simply involves bringing awareness to their senses, thoughts, and overall experiences while eating. If eating an entire meal or snack mindfully seems unrealistic, then encourage students to take a single mindful bite.
Now, lead a brief discussion based on the following questions:
- Did slowing down and noticing the sensations of eating change your experience with the food? If so, how?
- Did you notice any details about the food that you have not before? If so, what were they?
- How does your mindful eating experience compare to the first piece of food you ate?
- What are the benefits of mindful eating? Why is mindful eating important?
- Are there any drawbacks to mindful eating? What might get in the way?
- Will you try to bring awareness to your eating in the future? Why or why not?
Reiterate that mindful eating does not have to be such a slow and obvious practice. Students can savour their food and eat mindfully, simply by noticing and appreciating the sensations associated with food.
When you are ready, transition into the second activity. Ask students to recall the three different savouring orientations, referencing the lists you made during the SET activity. Explain that mindful eating is a great way to savor the present. The next skill that students will be learning, storytelling, is used to savour the past (i.e. reminisce).
Before diving into the action step, give students a little bit of background information about storytelling. Explain that stories are a powerful tool for teaching morals and history, shaping culture, inspiring action, and igniting emotion. Students are surrounded by stories every day: Stories are central to the lessons they learn, songs they hear, pictures they see, and movies they watch. Stories can make students laugh, smile, cry, or worry. They build empathy and create connections. Let students know that the stories they tell not only influence who they are, but also shape who they become.
Tell students that storytelling can be used as a tool for savouring past positive experiences (a.k.a. reminiscing). Through storytelling, both the student and their audience relive the past positive experience and rediscover the positive emotions. Note that, in general, more detailed and descriptive stories enhance sensory experiences and therefore also increase the story’s capacity to elicit positive emotions.
Students will practice the savouring the past by writing a descriptive story about a positive experience or a happy memory. Let students know that their story should be at least one page long and as detailed as possible. Challenge students to immerse the reader in their world by touching on each of the five senses: sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. Finally, hand each student the “Stories to Savour” handout, and give them the rest of the class to brainstorm what they want to write about and start their first draft. After finishing the first draft (either in class or at home), get students to switch stories with a partner and allow class-time for peer-editing as well as reflection. Then, assign a date for the final story to be due.
“Stories to Savour” Instructions sheet available in download section.
What’s the difference between savouring and mindfulness?
Savouring is similar to mindfulness in that it involves maintaining moment-to-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. However, a key tenant of mindfulness is that you are present in the moment without judgment. Being non-judgmental means that you let go of the automatic labels that arise in your mind for every experience that you have. This includes positive and negative labels. You can think of savouring as mindfulness plus positivity. Savouring inherently involves (positive) judgment because you focus on positive experiences.
What if there is nothing to savour?
We have a natural tendency to focus on what is wrong with a situation rather than what’s right. This might have been beneficial thousands of years ago when humans had to focus on survival, but today, our unbalanced attention towards negative events prevents us from fully experiencing or even noticing the good things. Even in a seemingly terrible event, there is likely something good that you can turn your attention towards, like a friend who helped you or the sun shining. The good things you savour don’t have to be life-changing experiences, like winning the lottery. Instead, try savouring the little things in life that you often take for granted. For example, savor the food you eat, the relationships you have, a book you’re reading, or the outdoors.