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Learning To Savor

enjoyRecently, my 11-year-old daughter came home from Health class with a pocketful of Hershey’s Kisses and a new strategy for eating them.  If you just put one in your mouth and let it melt, it will last longer, you’ll enjoy it more and you won’t need to eat as many, she told me.

Of course, she’s right. But not, as it turns out, just about chocolate.  The Mind column by Benedict Carey in yesterday’s Science Times takes the position that stretching out almost any enjoyable experience seems to make it, well, more enjoyable.  He didn’t go for what would seem to be the easy example (sex, see Tantra), he went with one that wouldn’t seem to be enjoyable at all: television commercials. 

In two new studies, researchers who study consumer behavior argue that interrupting an experience, whether dreary or pleasant, can make it significantly more intense.  “The punch line is that commercials make TV programs even more enjoyable to watch.  Even bad commercials,” said Lief Nelson, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of California, San Diego, and a co-author of the new research.

Why is this so?  The column explains that as we get used to something, our enjoyment of it tapers off because we get used to it.  It starts to seem routine.  This is, of course, the time tested response to any sort of financial gain.  You get a raise one week.  Celebrate with dinner out.  By week three you are wondering how you ever lived on less.  So what’s the solution to getting more out of your life — and more out of your money?  In part, it’s noticing the good things while they are going on around you.  Being present rather than letting your mind wander to the next.  But I also think that slowing down the spending can help here, something many people are being forced to do by today’s economy anyway.  By delaying that trip to the movies, the theater, the beach, it all of a sudden feels more special than it did in an era when you were treating yourself on a weekly, if not daily basis.  And special things are meant to be savored, aren’t they?

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