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popup_album“She is totally obsessed with hairballs!” my classmate wrote about me in a middle school graduation yearbook. In reading this, I recalled that I used the term “hairballs” at that time to describe cute boys with long hair. My nicknames included “babbling brook” and “rambler,” despite the fact that I see myself as somewhat reserved as an adult. Perhaps I should call myself a babbler rather than a blogger! I smiled profusely while reading through old journals dating as far back as twenty years ago, recalling the details that bring vivid color to my memories.

While people have kept journals for centuries, science now reveals how and why they benefit humans beyond recording historical facts. Journals provide opportunities to savor past memories. When reading through journals, we reminisce about experiences that brought us joy and even smile sometimes in retrospect about difficult times. Positive Psychologists who study savoring have found that “positive reminiscence,” essentially savoring the past, increases well-being.

In addition to savoring the past, we can also savor the present using mindfulness and gratitude interventions. Being present and grateful in the moment contributes to more positive feelings of enjoyment, contentment, and serenity. Finally, we can even savor future events by daydreaming about them or actively planning for them. Sometimes the anticipation for an upcoming experience is almost just as exciting as the experience itself.

Since savoring the past, present, and future brings bliss into our lives, one way to enhance well-being is by creating a Savor Album. Different than a regular photo album or scrapbook (which generally capture a chronology of events), a Savor Album includes pictures, words, phrases, ticket stubs, or any other items that trigger us to savor past, present, and future experiences. A Savor Album can be created in a traditional hard-copy format or online as a website or blog. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Past: Spend a few hours rummaging through old albums and journals to recall your favorite memories or peak experiences from your past.
  1. Present: Reflect on the types of experiences and things that currently bring you joy, serenity, or contentment. What do you currently feel most grateful for having in your life? When you are feeling stressed, what instantly brings you feelings of peace?
  1. Future: Spend some time writing about your vision for the future. What types of experiences, trips, and people do you envision in your future that excites you?

While reflecting on each of these three savor areas, select an item, picture, word, phrase, et cetera, that reminds you of each experience. Organize your album in the way that makes most sense to you – chronologically, thematically, or otherwise. Then, most importantly, don’t forget to savor your Savor Album regularly!


by Jane Pollak

I mentor creative professionals and help them achieve greater success. I am devoted to entrepreneurs who value a rich, diverse and passionate business life that is balanced and truly meaningful. With that in mind, I decided to host a celebration for all of my past, present and a few prospective clients.event-image1

At my celebration I wanted to set a tone for the New Year that would motivate and inspire everyone who attended. I challenged my clients to do three things this year. I wanted to call forth their ability BIG TIME in 2009. Here’s what I shared with them – I think you will find these challenges helpful too!

1. Use your gifts. Even if your calendar isn’t 100% booked with clients, figure out a way to continue your practice.

  • Keep putting out what you do via direct mail, email, phone calls, flyers and networking.
  • Barter – Offer your services/products in exchange for something you want or need.
  • Give it away in demonstrations.
  • Teach what you know.
  • Change your offerings to match your clients’ needs.

2. Get out there in a big way. When I look around at you all and think about how you’ve come into my life, it was through following this advice. Here are some of the ways we’ve met:

  • Go to networking meetings (EWN, WBDC, FNEW, etc.)
  • Join BNI.
  • Join Toastmasters.
  • Start a blog or newsletter.
  • Call 20 people in your Rolodex and ask them what their goals are for 2009.
  • Make a commitment to one person here tonight for an action this week and follow-up.

3. Stay positive!

  • Make a date with someone you meet tonight and arrange coffee, tea or lunch.
  • Throw a party! Collaborate with women you’ve met and send out the invitations. Make it pot luck. It doesn’t have to be expensive. We need to see and hear each other. Invite me!

Extra Credit assignment:  Do all of the above.

Jane Pollak is a Certified Professional Co-active Coach and the author of Soul Proprietor: jane-2009-head-shot2101 Lessons from a Lifestyle Entrepreneur. She is frequently featured in the media including The Today Show, HGTV and CBS News. After a highly successful career as an artist, Jane has focused on coaching entrepreneurs and shares tips and insights on her blog at

by Allison Aboud Holzer

bliss-tip-graphic-copyOn this lovely Super Bowl evening, I am reminded of the magnetic power of annual rituals. No amount of coaxing, pleading, or enticing with a delicious home-cooked meal could convince my husband to relegate Super Bowl watching for the evening. And while he graciously invited me to join him for the festivities, no amount of tackling, punting or grumbling men in spandex could convince me to watch. The Super Bowl is one annual ritual that many Americans partake in and fully enjoy – and one that I happily sit out!

As it turns out, between national holidays, religious holidays, birthdays, March madness, and more, we have a multitude of prescribed annual rituals that serve a purpose in our lives. In Tal Ben-Shahar’s book Happier, he talks about the importance of rituals in providing us with an opportunity for connection and reflection. We have a choice about whether or not to partake; if we do, they force us to set aside our busy lives for some leisure time, entertainment, and socializing with friends or family. Other more mundane annual rituals like trips to the dentist’s office or H&R Block promote our health or financial well-being. But what if, rather than simply deciding which rituals to enjoy (or happily sit out!), we actively and intentionally created our own?

I challenge you to create a new annual ritual that you think will bring you greater fulfillment in your life. Consider an area of your life where you would like to devote more attention. What type of ritual might you create? Here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing:

·Write a love letter to your spouse on the day you first met

·Create a bucket list and pick a special day every year to renew it

·Invite your best friends to an annual weekend getaway

·Pick a cause you care about and actively participate in an annual event or march

·Eat green eggs and ham on your birthday

Hmm. I might need to explain that last one. You see, every year I can remember as a child my mom made green eggs and ham on my birthday. She would wake me up in the morning with breakfast in bed and we would read the Dr. Seuss book together. It was such a simple thing, really – requiring just a little creativity and some green food coloring. But the impact was powerful. I looked forward to my green eggs and ham every year and remember that brief shared time together with great fondness.

As green eggs and ham illuminate, your new annual ritual doesn’t need to be complicated to have magnetic power and a positive purpose! It just needs to be fun and needs to be you.

by Allison Aboud Holzer

Perhaps my in-laws think I practice yoga because I love wearing yoga pants. It’s an honest mistake. I admit, I tried


yoga for about one year in 2001; then I stopped – quite frankly because as much as I loved the pants, I didn’t like the practice. I also took a one-hour meditation class once and found it to be both mentally and physically excruciating. I’ve tried progressive muscle relaxation CDs, and I fall asleep within minutes. I’m close to closing the door on mindfulness, but…

Mindfulness is the one area of happiness and well-being research that shows consistent benefits in psychological functioning, stress coping, and well-being (Ott, 2006). Different types of mindfulness improve your mood, decrease obsessive thinking (Speca, 2000; Grossman, 2004; Shapiro, 2007), enhance your immune system (Davidson, 2003), and improve your general sense of well-being (Harinath, 2004). For those readers who regularly sweat to Bikram yoga or attend weekly transcendental meditation meetings, this Bliss Tip is a “no, Duh!” But what do you do if you are someone who just can’t get into those things?

You can begin flexing your mindfulness muscle in simple ways that don’t involve a trip to a gym. To name a Two:

1. Try the One-to-Ten at least twice a day. Think of an activity you do at least twice a day (like brushing your teeth or drinking a glass of water) to be your mindfulness reminder. At those times, focus your gaze on something still and count to ten, inhaling and exhaling each number.

2. Start and End Your Day with a Classical music song. A classical music song can take you into a state of relaxation in a matter of minutes. Commit to starting and ending your day with just one song and practice focusing on your breathing while listening.

You don’t have to be a Yogi to benefit from the sanctuary of mindfulness in the midst of a hectic day. Create a doable habit that carves out a small amount of time to be present every day. Once you begin flexing your mindfulness muscle, you may find the people around you noticing a change. Congratulations! It’s not the pants.

· Davidson, R.J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M. et all (2003). Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564-570.

· Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., Walach, S. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57 (1), 35-43.

· Harinath, K., Malhotra, A.S., Pal, K., Prasad, R., Kumar, R. et al (2004). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 10(2), 261-268.

· Ott, M.J. (2006). Mindfulness Meditation for Oncology Patients: A Discussion and Critical Review. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 5 (2), 98-108.

· Shapiro, J.S., Swanick, S.L., Roesch, S.C., et al (2007). A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation versus relaxation training: effects on distress, positive states of mind, rumination, and distraction. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 33(1), 11-21.

· Speca, M., Carlson, L.E. Goodey, E., Angen, M (2000). A Randomized, Wait-List Controlled Clinical Trial: The Effect of a Mindfulness Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Program on Mood and Symptoms of Stress in Cancer Outpatients. Psychosomatic Medicine, 6, 613-622.

by Allison Aboud Holzer


Do you remember the scene in Cast Away when Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) cried “Wilson! WILSON! I’m sorry Wilson, I’m so sorry…”? I sobbed while watching him let his best friend drift away in the ocean in order to survive. And then I left the theatre baffled at myself for crying over a pet volleyball!

But, as any pet boutique owner will tell you, owners take their pets quite seriously – often considering them members of the family! It’s not so much a question of whether pets make us happy, rather how:

1.Pets make us more social – they are a form of social support themselves, but they also provide us with opportunities to socialize with other pet owners.

2. Pets improve our health – people who have pets exercise more often, have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and see the doctor less often.

3. Pets soothe us – an interesting experimental study showed that women given a stressful mental exercise were soothed more by a pet than the presence of a friend. Pets provide stress relief through physical contact and unconditional positive regard.

4. Pets promote empathy – children with strong bonds to pets have higher scores on empathy than children without pets. And pets foster nurturing from the adults who take care of them.

If you already have pets, savor the ways that they bring happiness into your life. And for thowilsonse of you who don’t have pets – perhaps this is the year for a new companion!

Allergic? Scared of dogs? As Chuck Noland helped us understand, we can make strong emotional bonds with pets of many kinds besides the standard cats and dogs, including plants, lizards, birds, snakes, rodents, virtual pets (WebKinz ring a bell?) and even the occasional inanimate object, like Wilson.

·Allen, k.M., Blascovich, J., Tomaka, J., & Kelsey, R.M. (1991). Presence of human friends and pet dogs as moderators of autonomic responses to stress in women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 582 –580.

·Anderson, W.P., Reid, C.M., & Jennings, G.L. (1992). Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Medical Journal of Australia, 157, 298 – 301.

·Ascione, F.R. (1992). Enhancing Children’s Attitudes About The Humane Treatment of Animals: Generalization to Human-Directed Empathy. Anthrozoos, 5 (3).

·Sable, Pat (1995). Pets, Attachment, and Well-being across the Life Cycle. Social Work, 40 (3), 334-41.

·Siegel, J.M. (1990). Stressful life events and use of physician services among the elderly: the moderating role of pet ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 1081 – 1086.

·Stallones, L., Marx, M.B., Garrity, T.F., & Johnson, T.P. (1990). Pet ownership and attachment in relation to the health of U.S. adults, 21 to 64 years of age. Anthrozoos, 4, 100 – 112.

by Allison Aboud Holzer

The U.S. News and World Report special year-end issue included an article called “50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2009.”This article highlighted 50 simple small changes we can make in our lives to improve them, many inspired by recent advances in technology, business or society. Some examples from the article include:

This article has inspired me to write a new column for the Bliss Blog that includes a series of Bliss Tips. I will try to connect each Bliss Tip to current research in the psychology, sociology or other behavioral science fields. And, in the spirit of the Bliss Blog, I will always include a practical way that the tip can be used to better your life. In addition to this column, I will continue to invite guest authors – experts across various fields – to continue our discussion about this curious thing called happiness.

From the Bliss Blog to all readers, Happy New Year!

Allison Holzer

Welcome to the Bliss Blog!

POH is an organization committed to the pursuit of happiness through education. This blog offers a forum to discuss happiness, positive psychology, fulfillment, and other related topics. While POH has created this forum for community learning and discussion, please note that blog entries reflect the opinions of the individual bloggers and not the POH organization. I invite you to peruse the site and respond with your feedback and insights!