Savoring 102

On the road and savoring the minutes and miles with family and friends. Savoring is a simple way to ratchet-up your happiness levels.

In Friday’s post, I began sharing the thoughts of Dr. Fred B. Bryant from his May 2006 online article “The Art of Savoring” in Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living/Alternative Medicine/InnoVision Health Media. Bryant is a social scientist and an expert in the study of savoring.  In the article he lists 10 tips for savoring.  I shared the first 5 on Friday, here are the last 5.

Remember, you get to pick and choose which of the 10 you try and then you get to decide which ones work for you. Mix them-up, try them out, alter and adapt.  I believe even one moment of savoring is better than none – so have fun with it.

You can find lots more information about savoring in Dr. Bryant’s book: “Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience”.

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.

6. Compare the outcome to something worse.
If the outdoor dinner party you’ve been planning for weeks is blessed with perfect weather, remind yourself of how terrible the weather could have been and how it would have ruined your party. By comparing the good experience with a less pleasant one, you’ll have a frame of reference by which to judge the actual experience’s merits—and it will make that experience seem even better. Case in point, in several studies participants receiving grades or achievement scores were instructed to think about either how their scores could have been worse or how they could have been better. Imagining a worse outcome increased appreciation of success, while imagining a better one lowered appreciation.

7. Get absorbed in the moment.
While hiking through the woods, you come across a spectacular rainbow—try not to think, but rather just get totally immersed or engrossed in the view. Savoring through absorption involves deliberately avoiding mental reflection in favor of simply experiencing the ongoing positive event as it is unfolding. In line with a Buddhist viewpoint, being in the moment does not involve judging what you’re experiencing, but rather being mindfully aware of the feelings you’re experiencing at the moment. As Buddhist teacher Nyanaponika Thera described it, mindfulness is “the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us at the successive moments of perception.”

Research on the psychology of optimal experience has found that people often report enjoying themselves most after “flow” experiences—those moments when they became totally absorbed in what they were doing and lost all sense of time and place. People most often experience flow when their skills perfectly match the demands of a particular activity.

8. Count your blessings and give thanks.
Whether you are waving a “thank you” to the car that let you pass into its lane, telling a buddy how lucky you are to have him as a friend, or saying grace over a meal, you can find more joy by reminding yourself of your good fortune and expressing gratitude for it. Don’t forget that this strategy has two parts. Counting blessings, the first part, involves pinpointing what you’re grateful for and why you appreciate it. In a weeklong experiment, students who counted blessings at the end of each day reported higher posttest levels of happiness than students who counted hassles or neutral events. However, just because you acknowledge a blessing to yourself doesn’t mean you necessarily express gratitude for it outwardly to someone else. That’s where the second step comes in. Some people express gratitude in prayers; others in speech, poetry, song, or artwork; still others never express the gratitude they feel. But research indicates that saying “thank you” can actually increase our joy by making us more consciously aware of our positive feelings. With effort over time, you can cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” that becomes a habit, giving you a grateful disposition. One trick: Each night in bed, try thinking of a new blessing for which you’ve never given thanks before.

9. Remind yourself of how quickly time flies.
It’s your last day of vacation—the last day before you return to everyday life—and you really want to enjoy it. Think about how fleeting the time is, how much you wish it could last forever, and tell yourself to savor it now. Realizing how short-lived time is and wishing it could last forever can motivate you to seize the moment while it’s unfolding. If you think this strategy contradicts tip No. 7 (get absorbed in the moment), you’re right. You can’t think about the “fleeting nature of time” while simultaneously trying simply to absorb the experience without thinking about it at all. In other words, some ways of savoring are incompatible with each other. But each strategy offers a different tool—meant for different situations and different personality types—for finding more joy.

Time makes savoring a rich and complex process. Although savoring requires that you mindfully appreciate a positive experience in the immediate present, savoring can also connect you to the past or future. You can savor past good times by reminiscing and rekindling the joy from these memories in the present. And you can savor future good times before they occur by anticipating and imagining the joy you’ll feel when these positive outcomes actually happen. Don’t underestimate the power of those imaginings. In one recent experiment, people who used mental imagery to recall happy memories 20 minutes twice a day for a week reported greater posttest happiness than people who used memorabilia or souvenirs to reminisce or who thought about future concerns.

Another twist to the temporal aspect of savoring: You can enhance your enjoyment of the moment while it’s unfolding by looking forward or backward in time. With looking forward, you can savor the moment by imagining a time in the future when you will look back on the experience with fond memories (a process known as “anticipated recall”). For example, while in the middle of your first triathlon, you can look ahead to the end of the race and how proud you’ll feel thinking back on your accomplishment. The thought of that future pleasure will enhance the present moment. On the flipside, you can savor the moment by looking back on an earlier time when you had eagerly awaited its happening (a process known as “recalled anticipation”). For instance, while lying on a beach in Bermuda, you can reminiscence about the excitement and anticipation in the weeks preceding the trip. As Alexander Pope put it in 1730: “For he lives twice who can at once employ, the present well, and ev’n the past enjoy.”

10. Avoid killjoy thinking.
You’ve had a stressful day at work, and you decide to treat yourself to a relaxing beverage at a local coffee shop. Avoid the temptation to think about other places you should be and other continued from page 67
things you should be doing. When it comes to feeling joy in life, it’s just as important to avoid thinking negatively as it is to think positively. Research shows that the more killjoy thoughts people have in response to a personal achievement, the less they tend to enjoy it and the sooner their enjoyment fades. Across many studies, depression and low self-esteem make people more likely to engage in killjoy thinking. If you suspect an underlying condition like depression, seek treatment or counseling.

Finding joy means making time for it. But all too often savoring gets lost in the stress of everyday living. And thus beautiful views pass unnoticed, scrumptious desserts are swallowed untasted, and relationships with friends and family go underappreciated. Although we may have no shortage of positive experiences, attending to them and appreciating and enhancing them requires savoring. With this skill, we can enjoy life more fully, find greater happiness, and experience greater physical health to boot. Perhaps novelist Robert Louis Stevenson said it best in 1905, when he asserted, “There is no duty we so underrate as the duty of being happy.”

My personal weekend savoring: Time with Peace Corps pals in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, where we met before heading overseas; row houses of many colors; bricks walls you want to touch; Turkish foods that remind us of Macedonia; wide-open windows in a city that doesn’t seem to sleep and the nighttime conversations waking-up can lead to; lots of laughter, shared memories and new directions in life.

Grab a cup of tea or coffee, relax and read on

alarm-clock-2132264__340I was writing a post for my Meditation Facebook group this morning when I came across this photograph, which led me to slow down a bit and allow myself to spend some time wallowing in the wonderful memories tea and Fall have brought to my life.

I think my reverie was made easier, because there is a chill in the air this Autumn Monday morning in Florida.  Temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s are as cold as we get even in the middle of winter, so today’s weather was a welcome surprise for me.

With a cup of tea by my side I let my mind wander through some of the scenes and memories that a relaxing cup of tea and Fall weather have given me over the years. I spent time in my mind at kitchen tables around the world sipping tea and savoring the feelings those moments evoked.

My mental journey began with my sister in Avon, Ohio’; I love her kitchen and the view through her sliding glass doors – I never tire of visiting her. Her tea is loose leaf and deliciously flavored. I then traveled back in time to my Mom’s kitchen in the parkway house they lived in after moving from the home in which we grew-up. I remember feeling so happy that they were happy, while sipping her honey and milk laced tea.  After revisitng Mom, I stopped by my former mother-in-law’s – she kept Constant Comment in her cupboard for me  – she was a coffee lover her entire life. Next, I fast-forwared to time spent with my amazing host family in a small village in Macedonia 11 years ago, where I enjoyed fresh-dried and fragrant mountain tea and personal cross-cultural exchanges.

During another time living abroad, I sipped tea and cooked-up a storm with my Georgian host family in their tiny kitchen that was always cozy and warm and overflowing with family and friends. I completed my morning’s sojourn enjoying another special memory with my dearest friend in Florida, who I was able to share daily tea and conversation about our lives and the world around us for months at a time before she passed away last year. We odten laughed about the fact that she barely dipped her tea bag into the steaming water in her cup, while I often let mine steep as I sipped.

I hope you find time today, this week, or in the month ahead to sit and savor some of your favorite Fall memories and any present or future moments you create this year with the special people in your life.

Take time to take in the good, and both your body and your brain will be relaxed and refreshed.  I guarantee it will be time well spent.

 

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Woo hoo! It’s Monday

It’s the beginning of a whole new week!  All sorts of possibilities lie ahead for you. Wonderful moments you never expected are waiting  – sweet moments with your children, your friends, your family. Productive moments with colleagues or clients. Proud moments as you tackle and accomplish projects new and old.

Take a new turn this week and start paying more attention to the positive, amazing moments in your past and present, rather than anything else that happens.  Learn how to wallow in the wonderful as you create new inroads for yourself.

away-494355_960_720If you find your yourself merging onto the highway of negativity, instead of mindlessly yielding, why not tap your brakes and

  • ask yourself, “Is this truly how I want to spend my time?”
  • Then take a deep breath, exhale and smile through the crazy.
  • Next,  savor some of the special and/or awe-inspiring moments you have experienced in the past or that are waiting to be enjoyed in the present or in the future.

Psychologist and best-selling author, Richard Hanson, Ph.D.’s notes that rerouting your thoughts and “taking in the good” immediately relaxes you and opens new pathways in your brain.  Daily travel on these positive paths will map out stronger, more direct access to Sunday-drive type routes which, over time, will leave a lasting impression on your brain and in your heart and can help you navigate life from a lighter, gentler perspective.

Please note: I am not asking you to deny the stress, frustration or sadness in your life – I encourage you to identify and admit that you are feeling those feelings, and then to simply take a much-needed detour around the mental pile-ups you create when you place too much emphasis on the bumps and potholes in life. We all do it, but I promise you, taking in the good is a better way to go!

Try it, reset your mental GPS this Monday morning, and see where the new ride takes you.

Neurons that fire together, wire together!

glasses-983947_960_720I am spending the next 6 days learning more about Positive Neuroplasticity at the Positive Brain Change: Tools for Lasting Happiness, Love, and Peace workshop by Rick Hanson, Ph.D., which makes me positively happy!

Never stop learning about things you love.

I have been experiencing, teaching and sharing the benefits of savoring the good moments of our life for years, but I enjoy the topic so much and I talk with so many folks about it that I am always seeking new ways to learn more about our wonderful brains!

Did you know that you can change your brain? It’s true – neurons that fire together, wire together. The more time you spend reinforcing the positive moments in your life and savoring them, the more likely you will be to focus on, enjoy and benefit from them, because your brain is geared to do just that! New neural pathways form, making it easier for the good times to flow, in and out of you. And, over time, these new pathways can help you deal with negative moments and events more quickly and with less harmful effects on you and your sweet soul. Life will be happier, gentler and more fulfilling.

You see, if you take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves. (Tibetan saying.)

I hope the next 6 days are wonderful for you. And, that you treat the positive moments that arise with the tender loving care they deserve, because if you do, they will repay you tenfold, by helping you create the happiness and the life you deserve.

 

 

Weekend insights

Dawns Daffodils (2)

When the snow began to fall this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio, my niece Dawn ran outside to gather the daffodils that only a few days earlier had brought the promise of spring. Instead of wallowing in the negative turn the weather had taken, Dawn found a way to save a bit of spring and the good feelings it carried with it, and to capture and share those feelings on Facebook, which made others happy, as well.

Her photograph brought two things to mind for me. First, how wonderful it is when we capture happy and second, Van Gogh’s quote that “A good picture is equivalent to a good deed.” Why not do a good deed for yourself this week and picture yourself happy as a way to raise your positivity levels?

Picture Yourself Happy

Here in sunny Florida this weekend, during a Wishful Thinking Women gathering, we talked about the power we each have to interrupt difficult or frustrating moments by pausing for a second to notice how we are feeling – stressed, nervous, angry, sad, scared, ashamed and/or frustrated. When you identify stressful feelings,  two things happen:

  1. You pull yourself into the moment, which immediately reduces the intensity of the feeling, because it no longer has a complete hold on you, and
  2. You add a bit of objectivity to the situation, because awareness always causes us to step back – if even for a moment – and can help us refocus our attention, if we choose to.

If you do decide to switch gears, you can then picture yourself happy by bringing to mind a moment or memory that you enjoy. The second you do, your brain will change its mind, so to speak, and release an entirely different set of chemicals and hormones designed specifically to produce and prolong positivity.

When I want to redirect my feelings or simply increase my level of happiness, I picture myself running out of the house at the age of 8 or 9 – chores done, screen door slamming behind me as I enjoy that rich and wonderful sense of pure summer freedom.                              

The more often you picture and/or capture happy the easier it will be to be feel positive, and over time you will increase the likelihood of creating new, positive neurological and life pathways.

I love that in the middle of disappointing weather, Dawn took the time to capture happy by gathering daffodils and to “picture” happy by noticing and sharing the beauty even a spring snow storm can create.  I am sure Van Gogh would see her work as a very good deed.Dawn winter

 

 

Feeling awareness

“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.”  Eckhart Tolle

flowers-1184705_960_720Happy, sad, glad, mad.

Knowing how and what you are feeling allows you to both be in the moment and to step back and see a bigger picture.

In that moment you stop being your feelings and become something greater – aware of your feelings, and then and only then can you celebrate and savor the positive ones or explore and deal with the negative ones.

 

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Word flow


April is National Poetry Month. Each year around this time, I picture all the world’s words flowing and swirling together forming new relationships and floating back to us through interesting new pathways  –  poetry.

Please enjoy this post while sipping a soothing cup of tea, savoring the richness of a delicious, dark cup of coffee, or relaxing with a nice round glass of red wine. If now is not a good time, browse through later this weekend and then make a date with yourself to return and listen to a least one poem a week for the rest of the month – or even the year!

Here’s one of my favorites, which I’ve mentioned before; When the burning begins is by Patricia Smith and is about a girl and her Daddy making cornbread. I see the room, smell the burning, and feel her emotions. I think I like it so much because I heard it before I read it; I truly believe poems are best out loud, just like gratitude letters and Dr. Seuss.

The Favorite Poem Project, is amazing. Americans recite their favorite poems and you learn a bit of  back story along with hearing them share. These slices of humanity never fail to fill my heart, today I listened to “We Are Cool” read by John Ulrich a 20-year-old student at the time of the reading. His description of the love his family shares with him is worth the listen; the poem seems to be such a small part of his life, and yet it is the thing that gave him hope.

To hear other poems, check out:

  • Poets.org
  • BBC Arts and Poetry also offers poems for your listening pleasure
  • The Cortland Review is an online literary review in streaming audio where poets read their works. Their “Poets in Person” videos are wonderful, I admit that I am often more intrigued by poets than their poems, the videos feed my literary voyeuristic tendencies.

If you prefer to read rather than to listen to poetry, visit “The Poetry Foundation” to find a poem of your liking. Or, stop by PoemHunter.org to use words and stanzas to recover poetic memories.

For poetry with a twist go to the Poetry Foundation’s “Chicago Poetry Tour”, where the history of Chicago is shared out-loud in verse. (You can download this little wonder, print their map and walk through the streets or you can do as I did, and armchair travel your way around the town.)

And, no virtual poetry tour would be complete without mentioning NPR’s poetry section, where poetry based stories abound.

Please take a moment to share your favorite poem or poetry site with Wishful Thinking Works readers; we’re listening.

Word waterways, redux




April 1st is the beginning of National Poetry Month
, no fooling! Each year at this time, I picture all the world’s words flowing and swirling together forming new relationships and floating back to us through interesting word waterways  –  poetry.

Please enjoy this post while sipping a soothing cup of tea, savoring the richness of a delicious, dark cup of coffee, or relaxing with a nice round glass of red wine. If now is not a good time, browse through today and then make a date with yourself to return and listen to a least one poem each week in April.

Here’s one of my favorites, which I’ve mentioned before; When the burning begins is about a girl and her Daddy making cornbread. I see the room, smell the burning, and feel her emotions. I think I like it so much because I heard it before I read it; I truly believe poems are best out loud, just like gratitude letters and Dr. Seuss.

To hear a poem or two, check out:

The Cortland Review is an online literary review in streaming audio where poets read their works. Their “Poets in Person” videos are wonderful, I admit that I am often more intrigued by poets than their poems, the videos feed my literary voyeuristic tendencies.

If you prefer to read rather than listen to poetry,  visit “The Poetry Foundation” to find a poem to your liking. Or, stop by PoemHunter.org to use words and stanzas to recover poetic memories.

For poetry with a twist go to the Poetry Foundation’s “Chicago Poetry Tour”, where the history of Chicago is shared out-loud in verse. (You can download this little wonder, print their map and walk through the streets or you can do as I did, and armchair travel your way around the town.)

And, no virtual poetry tour would be complete with out exploring NPR’s poetry section where people are even Tweeting poetry!

Please take a moment to share your favorite poem or poetry site with Wishful Thinking Works readers this April; we’re listening.

Wishful Thinking Ways #4

Four weeks ago we started Wishful Thinking Ways to make 2012 exciting and rewarding in new and different ways.  In January we are setting the stage; in February we will be discovering your dreams and in March, we will focus on how to make them happen. Join in the fun! To catch-up click:  Wishful Thinking Ways week oneweek two, and week three. Don’t miss a single step in the process!

Last week we discovered our physiological tells: what happens to our bodies when we are stressed, angry, frustrated etc.  Our goal was to focus on our internal reactions in the moment: “When I’m angry, I feel a tightness in my chest.”

The Name Game

Now I would like you to add a step to your discovery process. Next time you are angry, tense or rushing around and you feel your body reacting, identify what you are feeling. Are you angry? Tense? Frustrated? Jealous? Scared?, etc. Figure it out, and then say to yourself: ” I’m angry.” “I’m mad.” “I’m tense.” “I’m afraid.” Make it short and simple. The goal is to identify not analyze.

Why?

Well, when you identify what’s going on, it gives your body and mind a break, and may even move you from one state to another. Saying to yourself, “Oh, I’m angry,” is like giving your brain a mental time-out, which will – at least momentarily – interrupt the negative commentary that may be going on in your head: “OMG, I can’t believe she is late again. She always does this.”  “#%$#@ He cut in front of me, what a jerk, he almost hit me! I should . . .”

Identifying your state of mind takes a bit of practice, but is well-worth the effort. Most of us sleep walk our way through our emotions or stuff them in the corners of our minds, both of which can lead to health problems and reduce our overall quality of life. But not you, at least not anymore! Now, that you know what your physiological tells are, you can use them to help you identify what you are feeling: “My chest is tightening, maybe I’m angry.”

All this internal talking to yourself might seem odd at first, but you are actually doing it all day long anyway, so why not use it to your best advantage? Most of what we say to ourselves is negative – whether we are “talking” about ourselves or others – and, it can add to our stress, and seldom if ever leads to solutions. By identifying what you are feeling,  you can reduce the chatter in your head and give your mind and your body a well-needed rest.

And, please remember, that is all we are doing – labeling – not judging! You are angry, so what? Jealous, okay, so you are jealous, for now that is all you need to know.  (I’m not saying these are good states of mind or something we should strive for, but since you are already feeling them, more good will come from labeling them than denying their existence.)

And, the rich and wonderful flip side of all is this is you can reap additional rewards by identifying and labeling your state of mind when you are happy, having fun, or feeling fulfilled. Noting these positive states is the first step of savoring, and can remind us how good feeling good feels!

Before you go today, write and read out loud the following sentence:  “This week I will use my physiological tells to help me identify and label what I am feeling.”  (No matter how silly it seems, please write and read it out loud. Feel free to reword it to make it sound more like something you would say – just keep the same intent.)    

Have an interesting and insightful weekend!

Just before this door closes

When a door closes, a window opens . . .

In September of last year I headed from Florida to Macedonia for a project and to visit friends. I haven’t been back to the States since! After six weeks in Macedonia I flew to Tbilisi, Georgia for a three-month assignment as a United States Peace Corps Response Volunteer. It was my second Peace Corps assignment; I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bitola, Macedonia from 2006-2009.

I’m now faced with the sad process of saying goodbye to more folks I have grown to know and love. In two weeks, I will be leaving my warm and wonderful host family; it will not be easy. They opened their home to a total stranger and quickly shared their hearts, as well. I also was lucky enough to meet and make new American friends through Peace Corps and other organizations here, and to work with many talented and amazing Georgians at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Peace Corps.

Before heading from one place to another, finishing a project and starting another, or heading into a new phase of life, I like to take time to savor where I have been and what I have done. I think it is important to honor the doors and windows of our past as we prepare to discover and open those in our future.

Next week I will share some of the magical moments that have unfolded for me in Georgia, but for now, I hope you enjoy revisiting with me those I experienced when I began my journey last fall in Macedonia and the thoughts that are with me wherever I go. (These photos were originally posted in October, 2010.)

Hmm, closed and locked seems impenetrable! Ohrid, Macedonia
Don’t let appearances or the number of closed doors deter you. Bitola, Macedonia
What about a gate half open? Go with your guts; it’s always up to you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Mixed messages; “Should I knock or should I go?” Choice is yours. Bitola, Macedonia
A lost cause, time to let it go? Or, something that has stood the test of time? Ohrid, Macedonia
Not all your options will be neatly laid out in front of you. Leptokaria, Greece
Sometimes, you may need to pause and reflect before the answers come. Bitola, Macedonia
Some choices may be hidden or seem confusing. Bitola, Macedonia
Some options will sit squarely in front of you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Others may seem whimsical or unusual. Bitola, Macedonia
Sometimes your options will be appear at the same time. Bitola, Macedonia
Then previously closed doors, may open. Bitola, Macedonia
Or, new even fancier opportunities may materialize. Ohrid, Macedonia
Simple and yet stunning openings exist all around you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Moments you might miss without quiet reflection. Bitola, Macedonia
Recessed and waiting. Bitola, Macedonia
You truly never know what may open before you. Bitola, Macedonia
Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. Bitola, Macedonia
With an open mind, you will surely see . . .  Bitola, Macedonia
. . . the possibilities, are endless. Ohrid, Macedonia

Hope your week is off to a great start, and windows are opening for you! 

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