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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

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

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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.

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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