Savoring 101

Savoring has changed my life, but here is what an expert has to say on the subject . . .

Fred B. Bryant, Ph.D., a highly regarded social scientist, has been studying the art of savoring for more than 20 years.  Savoring is the ability to be aware of and/or to recall with detailed pleasure positive experiences.

The research of Bryant and other scientists indicates that being able to savor the positives in life may be even more important than being able to overcome the negatives. And, that “the level of joy we get from positive experiences depends on how we think and act in response to them. We don’t automatically feel joy and happiness when good things happen to us.”

In his 2006 online article “The Art of Savoring” in Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living/Alternative Medicine/InnoVision Health Media, Dr. Bryant noted “the greater their skill at savoring, the greater the joy people feel in response to positive events. What’s more, the ability to savor highly predicts how happy people say they are.”

Savoring helps us enjoy joy!  I like that.

And, as we all know, but can sometimes forget,  joy can be found in a beautiful sunset, a quiet moment, a cool breeze, a kid’s smile, a great cup of coffee or a double-scoop ice cream cone on a summer’s day. (Or, any day for that matter!)

In his article, Dr. Bryant shared 10 insights for “intensifying and prolonging” the wonderful things that happen to and around us – no matter how big or how small they might be. I have included 5 here – and will share 5 more on Monday.

THE FIRST FIVE OF DR. BRYANT’S “10 ways to enhance savoring”

  1.  Share your good feelings with others.
    Whether you’re celebrating a birthday with close friends or hiking through a meadow with a loved one, tell the other person what you appreciate about the moment. Sharing is the strongest predictor of the level of enjoyment someone feels. In fact, studies of people’s reactions to positive life events have found that people who share their positive feelings with friends have higher levels of overall happiness than people who do not share their feelings. If you’re by yourself, no problem: The people with whom we share a positive experience need not be physically present while the event is happening. Research shows that merely thinking about sharing the memory of an ongoing positive experience later with other people works just as well, perhaps because, in part, the desire to share the memory later with friends can motivate us to notice pleasurable details we might otherwise miss. The 17th-century French playwright Jean Baptiste Molière crystallized the powerful role of friendship in savoring when he observed, “It is a wonderful seasoning of all enjoyments to think of those we love.”
  2. Take a mental photograph.
    You’re playing a rowdy game of Monopoly with your family. Pause for a moment and consciously take note of specific features you want to remember later: Aunt Mimi spewing milk at a joke, Grandma sneaking bits of food to the dog, and Cousin Leo getting sent to jail—without collecting $200. When building memories, people search for, notice, and highlight the things they find most enjoyable. In the process, people not only pinpoint pleasurable aspects of the situation and enhance the intensity of joy in the present, they also form clearer and more vivid memories they can more easily recall and share with others in the future. In one experiment, for example, students went for a 20-minute walk each day for a week. Those instructed to look for good things to remember during their walk reported higher levels of happiness at the end of the week than those instructed either to simply take a walk or to consciously look for bad things.
  3. Congratulate yourself.
    Your boss raves about your work in an important meeting—tell yourself how impressive this is, and remind yourself how long you waited for this to happen. This style of savoring involves “patting yourself on the back” mentally and exalting in the warm glow of pride associated with a positive outcome. Research shows that the more people mentally affirm themselves when they do well, the more they report enjoying the particular outcome. Self-congratulation promotes savoring by attributing responsibility for success to oneself. Indeed, the Latin root word for “congratulate” is congratulari, which literally means “to wish joy.” Wishing yourself joy for personal achievements and successes can make those experiences that much more rewarding.
  4. Sharpen your sensory perceptions.
    You take a bite of delicious cheesecake. Close your eyes to block out visual distractions and concentrate on the rich taste to intensify the flavor. Sometimes competing sights, sounds, or smells can interrupt the flow of positive feelings and dampen savoring. In these cases, blocking out distractions can enhance savoring by sharpening your focus of attention on the pleasure itself. In one study, college students instructed to attend to the physical sensations they experienced while eating chocolate reported greater pleasure, compared to students who performed a distracting task at the same time.
  5. Shout it from the rooftops.
    Maybe you’re sorting through your mail, and you unexpectedly receive a large refund check from the IRS. Don’t just smile inwardly and tuck it in your wallet—laugh out loud, jump up and down, and shout for joy. Outwardly expressing positive feelings can intensify them by providing our minds with physical evidence that we are, in fact, joyful. In several experiments, people instructed to express their feelings in observable ways while watching a humorous video reported more enjoyment than people instructed not to express their feelings. In other words, “putting on a happy face” may actually help you feel more positive.

Bryant also reminded us that we don’t have to do all the steps perfectly, even getting started on one of them can bring more joy into our lives.  He encourages us to pick what works for us.

So that is what I did . . . I just took a mental photograph (Insight # 2) of the beautiful view from the upstairs bedroom window of my sister’s house where I spent two glorious nights and am now writing this post.  When I began, it was dark outside and I am now reveling in the fact that I was so absorbed in writing (Insight #7 – but I am getting ahead of myself) that I did not even notice the change.  And, I am telling you about it (#1) and also taking a moment to congratulate myself (#3) for getting-up early enough to write this post  before heading back on the road again.

Wow, it is only 6:25 a.m. and I am already feeling great.  Savoring really does work!

Here’s to enjoying and savoring the weekend.

Enjoy.

Wednesday’s short and salty, and then sweet question

Okay, totally off topic, except that it is slightly sweet and salty – if you like dark chocolate, you have to try the one with sea salt.  It is seriously wonderful.  It tastes like a dark chocolate covered pretzel – only better and without the pretzel.  I quickly learned to make my own, and am now sprinkling sea salt on dark chocolate everywhere I go!

On to more serious issues, today’s short and salty, then sweet question is . . .

What would you be doing, if money were not an issue?

People tend to think this is a pie-in-the-sky question, but it led me to finish two mid-life degrees; make interesting life-expanding moves; travel – lots; join the Peace Corps and has guided me everyday of the past year since my return – with amazing results.

What would you be doing, if money were not an issue?

Honestly, what would it be for you – not just for today, but say for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years?  How would your life look and feel? (I know that is another question, just answer it anyway.)

Money never really is the issue, at least not the final one, our choices are what make the difference.

 

“Ideas Worth Spreading”

I am on the road, enjoying the first leg of a three-week trip “up-north”.  My friend and I are calling it the “Reunion Tour”, since we are having so much fun connecting with family and friends. 

Along the way, discussions with family and friends have led me to mention TED.com, and I realized that even though I have included the link on the right, I might not have mentioned TED to you.

“TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader.”  (Their words.)

TED has a wonderful web site with lots of great videos and info.  (My words.)

At TED.com you can listen to:

  • world-famous neurologists explain how our brains work – in simple language;
  • scientists describe just about anything, and often with artistic and/or humorous insight; 
  • economists discuss alleviating poverty in an engaging manner; 
  • artists share their motivation with scientific precision,  
  • and best selling-authors and filmmakers talk about their work with joy and gratitude.

And, all of them really do have ideas worth spreading.

I love the variety, and the way so much information is shared in so little time – no talk is longer than 20 minutes! 

Please, leave my blog, and go to TED.com.  Click on a picture then listen.  Fun, interesting stuff awaits you.  It’s like a road trip for your mind.

If the first talk you listen to doesn’t do it for you, pick another, or another.  TED, like life, is your choice.  And, it’s free – no registration required.

I stumbled on TED about 4 years ago, by becoming involved in Pangea Day. I listen to it weekly, daily even, and then I forget about it for a while, and when I return, I fall in love all over again.

I hope you find something you enjoy, and you find a way to use it to create the life you want.  I have.

My favorite worldview

Since I was a kid, I have loved daydreaming under a tree. 

Today, during a contemplative moment at the Abbey of Gethsemani,  a monastery for Trappists monks in Kentucky, I realized doing that meant I was looking up. I like everything that implies.

Have a great weekend, and if you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, take a cue from the monks and spend it in silent contemplation, you’ll be amazed how quickly your worldview can change.

PS The photo was taken this spring at my friend Marci’s house in Ohio. 

Wednesday’s short and salty, and then sweet question

What does wonderful feel like?

If you don’t know, it is hard to feel and find it.

What does wonderful feel like?

Sounds simple, and is for many, but some folks haven’t quite figured it out, or do not spend much time thinking about it. Daydream your way to wonderful.

What does wonderful feel like?

Find out and then do more of that. 

 PS Opps, got ahead of myself and posted early.  Enjoy.

Asking, listening

Monday morning reflection . . .

“… the more confident of their abilities that persons are the less they feel compelled to tell others of their achievement” a quote from Dr. Ben Carson, in his book, “Think Big: Unleashing Your POTENTIAL for EXCELLENCE.”

I know that, but sometimes I forget it.

You see, sometimes I find myself in situations where I feel I have to justify my existence or something I have done or am doing by explaining, who I am and what I am doing with my life, and then I end-up talking too much, or rambling, (yes, just like now) or maybe saying something silly, or well, stupid, and that’s silly, because I’m not stupid.   :-)

How does that happen? 

My perfect life scenario is one in which I go through an entire party or gathering without ever talking about myself. I simply ask and listen, ask and listen.

My perfect life is me doing that forever.  Asking, listening, asking, listening.

So far it hasn’t happened, but I am confident it will, and when it does, I won’t even have to mention it.

Stop and smell the sheets!

Silly but true, one of my favorite Peace Corps adjustments was living without a clothes dryer.  This teeny, tiny challenge helped me focus my attention on the little things, and it led me to some great memories.   

I had been hanging my delicates and dresses to dry in the States for years, but jackets, jeans, and blankets were new for me.  First time I dried my jeans on my metal-tray-covered heat register, I was left with an “I Love Lucy” pair of ironing-board stiff denim.  I melted a pair of underwear to that very same register my first week in my house, and try as I might to remove the imprint of burned nylon (or whatever they make silky underwear out of), it was still there when I headed back to the States three years later.      

Eventually my drying rack became a close friend, and I used it almost daily.  I loved rearranging my clothes on its slender metal rods.  This practice provided me with a concrete task that had a definable beginning and an end, at a time when adapting to a new culture wasn’t always that cut and dry. (All puns intended.) I learned quickly what dried best on which rungs and where to put the rack in my small home to take full advantage of the sun and the seasons.  

Unlike most Macedonians and other Europeans, I resisted moving the rack outdoors, hanging my clothes from my balcony railings or from an outdoor line, believing that if my balcony was covered with dust, it could only mean any clothes left to dry there would be, too. But, I have always delighted in seeing other folks’ clothes flapping in the breeze, and seeing them always brings back warm memories.  

  

Clothesline in Venice, I began capturing these images on my travels.

The scenes remind me of my Mom and how she would hang as many as possible of our 2-parent, 9-child household items on the clothesline.  My Dad devised a pulley system for the clothesline from our back porch to one of the tallest nearby trees, because our suburban landing was at least 12 concrete steps up. 

I thought that was very cool, and believed that somehow his system alleviated all of the effort associated with the task, until my Mother required me to be a part of the hanging process, and I experienced first-hand that lifting and hanging a never-ending supply of wet double bed sheets and terry cloth towels was hard work.  And, for many years to come that is the only way I perceived the task – as hard work.  

My  Mom had a different perspective on the process.  While I cannot say she loved hanging our sheets outdoors, I can tell you she adored and never tired of instructing and asking us to “Smell them, doesn’t that just smell wonderful?”  I would roll my pre-teen eyes, without realizing that there was a very valuable life lesson for me in her actions – my overworked, often-on-the-verge, not-a-moment-to-spare, Mom was taking time to stop and smell the sheets!    

There she was amidst all the chaos and clutter of her completely overloaded and overwhelming life, taking time to savor the moment, and then taking extra time to share her experience with us.   

In retrospect, my Mom did that in other ways, as well – lifting a tablespoon from a simmering pot of her homemade soup or spaghetti sauce to say “Taste this, isn’t it delicious?”  We would drag our whiny, sorry little selves from our chairs or stop for a quick taste as we whizzed through the kitchen on some important kid business. Our responses were often half-hearted, some of us – okay me – begrudging the fact that the sauce or the soup being offered was homemade when the majority of my friends were being treated to cans and jars of much more modern fare.    

I sigh each time I replay those scenes in my mind, she was offering me her gold and I was turning-up my nose at her treasures.  

Thankfully, her lessons did seep into my life.  I learned to enjoy the feel and the scent of air-dried clothes, to create, enjoy and savor my own culinary creations and the life I wanted.  

Thank you, Mom.  I like that.  

Hope you take time this weekend to stop and smell the sheets, or the roses, or to really listen and acknowledge when someone is trying to share their life or their gifts with you.

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