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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!

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by Allison Aboud Holzer

Some people are natural nesters. When we first moved to New Haven, I couldn’t even sleep at night knowing that boxes were left unpacked. My home space is a haven to me and I need to be surrounded by images of people I love and souvenirs from memories I cherish in order to relax. I have a friend from college who, not to make a gender stereotypical comment but, seriously needs a woman’s touch to make his home cozy. Imagine white walls everywhere and just the bare essentials – clean and tidy, but completely impersonal.

A researcher named Barbara Kerr has studied the characteristics of what she defines as “happy homes.” One of her findings is that happy homes have pets, plants, and pictures! Before you jump out of your seat to make a run to your local florist – let me clarify that this finding is a correlation; there is no causal evidence to suggest which comes first, the chicken or the egg. In other words, it’s unclear whether happier people tend to be drawn to pets, plans and pictures; or, whether or not pets, plants, and pictures actually help make people feel happier.

Evidence to the latter is mostly speculative at this point. We know that pets have a positive impact on our moods (see Bliss Tip #1) for multiple reasons. It may be that the act of nurturing and deeply caring for another being, whether a pet or a plant, brings us a sense of fulfillment in our lives.

What about pictures? Well, we can argue that seeing pictures of people we love or other items that spark memories of joyful events encourages us to engage in something called “positive reminiscence.” Simply savoring past positive memories gives us a mood lift.

However, the truth is that pets and plants require a certain level of time commitment and may not be for everyone. So, I will focus on the third point about pictures and personalizing the home. For those of you feeling inspired by this post, here are a few ideas to get you started…

  1. Find and display pictures around of yourself and/or your spouse (or siblings) throughout your childhood, next to one another at around the same age.
  2. Create a Snapfish or Kodak album collage for each year that includes the top 1-3 photos from each major even of the year. Stack them around your house where you (and guests) can easily find them and browse through them.
  3. Collect one item – ticket stub, rock, napkin, be creative! –  from each family vacation that represents the spirit of the trips and display them around the house to savor those memories.
  4. Create and display a family tree! There are many software programs to help do this, or you can make one of your own.
  5. Ask your grandmother or parents for items from their childhood and place them around your home.
  6. Mark your calendar to rotate your pictures at least once a year to keep them fresh.
  7. Place photos of friends and family in unexpected, but visible, places – like inside drawers you open often.

As you get busy personalizing your home, send me your creative new ideas to add to this list!

  • B Kerr and C Chopp – Encyclopedia of Creativity, 1999
  • Robert Biswas-Diener and Ben Dean, Positive Psychology Coaching, 2008

Welcome to the Pursuit-of-Happiness.org 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!

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