Communication worth savoring

Me on trainI have been writing about savoring for years and have made it part of my daily life, because it is an amazing feeling and brings such insight and joy. But I never thought about savoring communication until I read this article, and checked out the research of University of Arizona researcher Maggie Pitts.

Pitts analyzed online responses after asking respondents whether or not they savored communication and if so, for a detailed example of an experience they had savored.

“Savoring is the process of (1) identifying a pleasant experience, (2) noticing that you are feeling pleasure about that experience, and then (3) feeling good about feeling pleasure” Maggie Pitts

From their responses Pitts identified seven different types of communication that people tend to savor:

1) Aesthetic communication. Survey respondents savored this type of communication because of some aspect of how it was presented—timing, delivery, choice of words or perhaps a surprise twist. An inspiring speech, good play on words or suspenseful announcement might fall in this category.

2) Communication presence. This category includes conversations in which participants reported being so deeply engaged and completely in the moment with another person that it felt as if no one else mattered. These types of exchanges often were described as “real” or “entirely honest.”

3) Nonverbal communication. From to physical contact to facial expressions, these exchanges emphasize nonverbal cues. A meaningful hug or smile might fall in this category.

4) Recognition and acknowledgement. This category encompasses communication in which participants were publicly acknowledged or offered appreciation, like an awards ceremony or a speech honoring an individual.

5) Relational communication. This category includes communication that establishes, confirms or gives insight into a relationship, such as a couple’s discussion about the future together or an intimate disclosure that brings two people closer.

6) Extraordinary communication. Many participants savored communication around special moments, such as a wedding, illness, birth of a child or other “landmark memories.”

7) Implicitly shared communication. This category includes unspoken communication experiences that may be more difficult to articulate, such as feeling the excitement of a crowd around you, or looking at someone and instinctively knowing that you are sharing the same feeling.

I love that learning something new about savoring has brought even more joy to my life, and I quickly realized that I do savor many of the conversations I have had with people throughout my life and each of those still brings me joy. Here are some of the most memorable as this moment:
  • a conversation we had in my 10th grade social science class about how people approach living and their choices;
  • a talk with a friend who was dying of leukemia;
  • listening to my sons when they were little and discovering the world around them and much later when they were in college and just after, as they explored a much larger world;
  • a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer on the train to Skopje – the capital of Macedonia;
  • talks with friends of shared books and movies;
  • a presentation on music, art and math by Richard G. Brown, the father of Da Vinci Code author, Dan Brown and a much honored math professor
  • the hundreds and hundreds of rich and wonderful conversations with my dearest friends at the happiest, most exciting, or the most trying times of my life,
  • and the deep, touching and heartfelt conversations I have with my husband almost daily.
I am now looking forward to reading the books Pitts edited on positive communication, which hopefully will create more conversations for me to savor. I already like the way she thinks, “Maggie takes a “bright side” approach to the study of human communication — asking questions like, “what is going right” here, and “how can we make good things even better?”
I hope you find lots of wonderful moments and communications to savor, today and all the days ahead for you.
As I was writing this post in the early morning hours, I took a moment to savor the water color view through the screen on my balcony on a softly unfolding morning in tropical Florida.

Summer High

sunflower-1421011__340Ahh, the first day of summer, also known as the summer solstice is upon us. It’s the longest day of the year (and the shortest night), giving each of us an extra long day to celebrate and savor each and every wonderful thing in our lives. (Dig deep if you have to, but don’t miss the chance – folks have been celebrating this day for thousands of years. It’s probably good karma!)

I was trying to talk myself out of my walk this morning, but then decided it wasn’t everyday that I get to celebrate the simple act of the sun rising with folks all over the world. I hope you find a way today to try something new, do something you have been putting-off, or do something special for yourself or someone you care about – you’ll have a little extra time!

And, then, remember to pause along the way to notice the sun, watch it shine, feel its warmth and be glad it is there. Even if it is sweltering, think cold, dull winter day and it just might feel joyful! 🙂

Sunny regards,


You can do it!

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Monday Morning Ritual

It’s Monday morning. (But you probably already knew that.)

Could you use a quick boost of energy without another short-lived, crazy kick of caffeine? coffee-791045_960_720

If so, write down three things that made you happy this weekend.  They don’t have to be big things, but if they are – congratulations!

Maybe it was a great cup of cappuccino or tea, or a nice glass of wine or meal .  .  . Or, perhaps fun with family or friends .  .  . Getting the weeds pulled, the grass cut, flowers planted, the closets cleaned, or the wash done.

Did you have a great night out, or a quiet, relaxing day in? Special time with the kids or grand kids?

Whatever made you happy this weekend is worth noting and savoring – and you can do both in less than 3 minutes, maybe even 2!

1. Write down what made you happy. (Feel free to post them in comments.) Just a quick sentence, phrase or word or two can make a positive difference. Drawing or doodling them also works. (If you are really pressed for time, think about them on your way to work.)

2. Close your eyes, and take a deep breath. (If driving, skip the closing the eyes part!)

3. Now, savor each memory: picture the people, the setting, your feelings.  Hold them for a few seconds, take another deep breath, hold them- add a few more details and then let the your thoughts fade as you open your eyes and relax your shoulders and stretch your neck a bit to the left and right.

That’s it. Doesn’t it feel nice? (If you didn’t try it, you cannot say “No”!)

This quick ritual (repeatedly regularly), can make all the difference in your day or week. To enrich and expand the feeling – follow-up by listening to your favorite tunes on the way to work, or after everyone heads out the door. (Dancing is entirely optional, but personally recommended.)

Or, if Monday mornings are particularly tough for you, simply sway to some laid-back,  soothing music. It’s comforting and may even release a bouquet of relaxing hormones and natural chemicals into your blood stream that will help you glide through your day – or at least the morning.

If you are thinking, “What is she nuts? . . . I don’t have time to breath, yet alone sway?”, please note that while you were thinking that, you had enough time to take a deep breath and at least picture what it would feel like if you did have the time to savor and sway, and even that would help – so maybe you should simply let go and try it!  🙂

monday-1236072__340Okay, so most of us will never love or look forward to Mondays, but truly the best way to face the week ahead, is to at least make friends with them.

Sleep a little later or get up earlier to stretch or exercise  .  .  .  Plan a special breakfast, lunch or low-cal snacks to enjoy throughout the day .  .  . Wear something you love or save something new on Mondays only .  .  . Embrace your break – color, call a friend or start that book you’ve been dying to read.

When you get home . . . Plan an early dinner, eat leftovers or make Mondays someone else’s night to cook.  Make Mondays a no TV or electronics night for you and the kids, read to them or simply turn off the lights, lay on your backs on a  blanket in the family room and talk about your day. Kids love both novelty and rituals – creating interesting moments together is a great stress buster for everyone.

The key is to be kind to yourself, to get creative and to customize your rituals for you – and the kids if you’ve got ’em – and then make sure you savor them each and every Monday, and, only on Mondays to make your “its” extra special.

It might take a few Mondays to get in the habit, but you and the peace you will feel, are worth it.

And, breathe . . .

You can do it!

 Click here to make the Summer of 2017 your season of change with

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Create a new you or unearth the you, you used to be.

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National Coffee Day



Today is national coffee day, and a great time to get in touch with the things you love.

A warm cup of cappuccino with any kind of delicate design gracing its surface is one of my most delectable delights, especially when enjoyed in a quiet cafe with Autumn colored walls and a painted cement floor.

Call me crazy, but cappuccino in a round, thick, ceramic cup lights up my day, relaxes my mind and fills my heart.  I love that it stimulates so many of my senses: sight, taste, touch – the warmth of the cup, and smell – that strong dusky scent. (Studies show that even sniffing coffee can awaken our senses and reduce stress!)

What treat, item, or setting, washes away the worries of the world, and makes even the greyest day shine for you?

Research shows that enjoying and savoring our personal pleasures is a great way to re-set and redirect our gloomy feelings and thoughts. The more descriptive and detailed your description of your pleasure the more likely you will be able to recreate its effect in your mind, long after you’ve enjoyed it.

I hope today you treat yourself to your favorite special moment or food, and then take time in the days ahead to replay the joy it brought you. I’m heading to a old-fashioned New York Italian bakery a perfect half-mile walk away for a steamy cup and and a crunchy, walnut, shortbread cookie, and I plan to savor the memory when I am back in Florida, 1200 miles my favorite cup of that delicious brew!





Gratitudes from abroad


“He stumbled upon the thing he had forgotten he was searching for and in that moment lost not his mind but his heart.”            From Mark Slouka’s collection of short stories, “Lost Lake”

My thoughts when I visit Macedonia. My heart is constantly being refreshed, and expands with each passing moment. The reasons vary minute to minute, scene to scene, encounter to encounter, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Here are a few of my favorite things thus far . . .

Being on hand to share a friend’s wedding; we met on Skype when working on a project after I returned to the States. (Have I mentioned how much I appreciate Skype?) Last fall when I visited, we  had dinner with one of my favorite people in the world, who introduced us. We spent an evening of laughter, grilled meats and salads with a current Peace Corps Volunteer. Time and distance has not affected the friendships. This year the wedding brought us together again for a fantastic evening of music, singing, dancing, and laughing. The evening and their friendships are very special to me.

The Happy Couple borrowed from their FB page!


Spending my days and nights with the dear friends, who have opened their home to me while I am here. We pass the time talking about life, family, work and clothes; eating the delicious foods she prepares between work and play;  and critiquing the movies we watch good and bad, and laughing our way through both.


And, yes, I ate them. They were grilled to perfection, with a side of tiny potato and red onion salad.


Walking here, there and everywhere. Feeling like a kid each time I step out a door and into the sun, not knowing what lies ahead, but knowing my heart will be affected by it all. (Many more photos to share, but here are a few.) 

One of Ohrid's beautiful streets


The view in Stenje, Macedonia, a village on Prepsa Lake, a few kilometers from Albania


Behind the glass at Villa Jovan in Ohrid

The colors and angles never cease to delight me.


Planning road trips with a group of friends; arguing over (discussing) destinations; and yet, knowing wherever we go, we will have fun. And, we do. Last year Struga, Vevchani, Makedonski Brod and beyond. This year, Luktraki and Edessa, Greece. Next time, who knows?



Gyros are pork or chicken, usually served with French fries with options for mustard and/or ketchup! A dab of tzatziki is there for the asking. I hate to admit it, but I prefer American.


The warm mountain waters of Loutraki, Greece our first destination that day


A natural pool at Loutraki, Greece, I call it "Watching the clock in paradise."


Looking down the falls in Edessa, Greece

Now, looking up in Edessa, Greece


Chestnuts, roadside in Greece


Coffee – lots of coffee – with friends at outdoor cafés watching the world go by, and in backyards and balconies enjoying the fresh air and sun. 


Cappuccino, enough said.


Music is everywhere. Concert violins on opening night of a classical music festival; American rock-and-roll blaring from cafés and being sung by a talented bride at her wedding; Pavarotti and Joe Cocker on a road trip; traditional Macedonian in the villages, mountains, cities and towns –  when and wherever Macedonians gather.



Music in the mountains from my Peace Corps days.


Food – salty, sweet; mild and hot;  fresh, slow-cooked; tangy, tasty and all of it made with love and attention to presentation. Here are a few of the Fall’s freshest.  


Kiwi, almost ready.


Pomegranates - red, ripe and delicious in just a few weeks


Hope wherever you are, you take a moment to savor what you love and time to explore the rest.  And, to consider the possibility as Mark Slouka notes that:

“living appropriately sometimes requires a drawing back, a slow renunciation of  much that mattered once.”






The 30 second difference

Feeling this good is easier than you think, and can take only 30 seconds.

I truly belive there is no better way to improve your outlook and your life than to learn to capture the feelings of the varied moments of your life. I believe this applies to both the “good” and the “bad” moments.

We spend so much time doing, many of us forget or immediately push past our feelings, afraid that if we – even for a moment – stop and reflect, acknowledge or savor them we will miss something else, become complacent or conceited, delve into despair, embarrass ourselves, spiral out of control or break some unwritten societal behavioral rule. Most of us have devised all sorts of mental gymnastics to avoid being in the moment.

The truth is, it is healthy to acknowledge and label how we are feeling. It is okay to face and embrace the fact that we are happy, glad, sad or mad, and doing so is more beneficial than pushing the feelings aside or rushing to minimize them.

If you are sad, be sad. Note to yourself: “I’m sad.” If you are angry, it is more effective to say to yourself, “I’m angry,” and then to ask yourself a series of follow-up questions such as the ones listed below, than to hide or disguise your feelings under tons of angry or whiny words, reactive or retaliatory actions (including smoking, drinking, or eating everything in sight), or to shut down and slip into situational depression.

  • “Why am I sad/angry/nervous/tense?”
  • “Have I felt this way before?”
  • “If so, when?”
  • “Am I afraid of something?”
  • If so, “What?”
  • “Is it likely the thing I am afraid of will really happen?”
  • If so, “What could I do about it?”
  • Keep coming up with simple, yet, open-ended questions until you get to an “aha” moment or run out of steam, which usually happens sooner than we think it will.
  • And, remember to label each new feeling that arises along the way.

Asking yourself questions can help you get a grip on what is really happening, and then you can let yourself feel and face those feelings, which is much more productive and relaxing than ignoring them.

If you are happy, feel it in every bone of your body – SAVOR it. Allow the experience to seep into your physical being. Hold any pleasant thoughts and pleasurable images, allowing them time to imprint in your brain and release a little dopamine (more on the “powers” of this interesting little neurotransmitter in future posts) and to set the stage for easy recall in the future.

Saying to yourself, “Oooh, this moment feels so good or is so special to me, I want to remember it,” only takes a second or two. Taking the time to close your eyes, breathe deeply and relive the moment in detail, uses-up another 30 seconds that I am sure you can spare! (When you get really good at savoring, you won’t have to close your eyes, instead you can use them to quickly scan all the details of the situation, sort-of like those cool camera shots in movies when a super hero zeroes in on and records every single detail of what is happening around him or her.)

The key is to capture the moment in your mind, storing it for future reference. Think of yourself as the librarian or archivist of all the pleasant moments of your life. We tend to do this automatically when we are on vacation or enjoying other big moments of our lives, but we overlook saving the day-to-day or little stuff that makes us happy or our makes our hearts sing.

Gather all the good stuff. Get in the habit of noticing and recording the perfect cup of coffee – the way it looks, smells and tastes or the sunbeam slipping through the curtains, or the amazing scent of fresh-cut grass. It’s all there for the taking. Storing it can enhance your life. Pulling it back off the bookshelf of your mind to relive, will improve your mood and maybe even your outlook on life.

To learn more about the wonderful art of savoring, check out these past Wishful Thinking Works posts.

Take time to notice when you are happy, glad, sad or mad. Begin feeling, savoring and storing the moments of your life. It’s easy to fill-up the bookshelves of your brain with “best-selling” moments.

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.

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