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It is almost impossible to pick up a magazine or a self- help book without Mindfulness being touted as a vital part of enhancing our life experience. From parenting, to taking exams, to sitting in traffic, mindfulness have been recommended to control stress, anger and impulse control and promote general well-being.

Mindfulness simply refers to being aware or present for what is happening at that exact moment without our mind wandering. It encourages us to recognize how our own negative thoughts can distort an actual experience. If you are, for example, at a wedding and you are preoccupied with how your hair looks, then you aren’t really at the wedding. You are too distracted by your self-consciousness to enjoy the experience.

Mindfulness isn’t easy, but like most things that take work, it is worth the effort. There are many positive effects of mindfulness. We feel them physically, emotionally and spiritually. Mindfulness makes life more enjoyable.

A by-product of mindfulness is gratitude. It stands to reason, if we are mindful and present in the moment, we can appreciate the morning birdsong or the feel of the water on our skin when we shower. How many times have you been in a shower so distracted by your racing thoughts that you have forgotten as to whether you shampooed?

Practicing gratitude, even for a few minutes every day, we can change our thought patterns. Rather than going to negative thoughts that cause elevations in cortisol and adrenalin, gratitude raises our endorphins and dopamine levels, giving us a feeling of well-being and calm.

Recently, I was listening to a seminar by Dr. Jaime Kurtz on “The Habits of Happy People”. Beyond gratitude, Dr. Kurtz turns her attention to “savoring”. She gave the example of purchasing a new piece of art work to hang on your wall-how excited you are to acquire it, how you spend lots of time considering where to hang it and then appreciating it once it has found its place in your home. But how long does it take before that once prized acquisition blends into the background and you stop noticing it?

Dr. Kurtz suggests rather than continuing to purchase new things to feel that excitement, we can pick something every day that is already in our home and savor it. We do this by bringing it back into focus and allowing ourselves to remember the feeling of acquisition and how thrilled we were with the newness. We send a few minutes mindfully looking at it. This will allow us to really savor the piece. This practice helps us appreciate what we have, trains us to treasure moments as well as possessions- all of which adds to our feelings of well -being and yes, even happiness!

If the difference between gratitude and savoring feels unclear, think of it this way- we can be grateful for having food but we savor the meal. Consider how different they are- we can be appreciative of food and then barely notice what we are eating. Savoring is to fully enjoy the flavor, smell and texture of the food. How often do we really savor our life?

A few years ago, I noticed a sign on my drive to work designating that my office was located on a scenic route. I remembered, years ago, traveling out west, seeing those “scenic route” signs and opting to visit those out of the way roads, being present and savoring the beauty of the landscape. It occurred to me that tourists to Connecticut might detour off the highway to experience the scenic route that is my commute to work! Now I practice mindfulness and I savor that drive. Sure, there are times when I am preoccupied- a grocery list in my head, a call I need to make, a chore I need to do, listening to the news or an audio book, but a few times a week, I simply turn it all off so I can savor the landscape; and when I do, it always elevates my mood.

Savor something every day and notice what happens-small incremental changes in your focus can bring significant changes in your mood and attitude. This small investment of time can bring a large positive return and that just makes good sense!

 

© 2014 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986.She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.

5 Comments

  1. Sandy on the 20. Jul, 2014 remarked #

    Thank you, Donna, for introducing to our thought process the practice of ‘savoring’. How true! We do not need to bring new objects, things etc. into our lives for the (all-too-brief) enjoyment of purchasing it when we undoubtedly have an abundance of such things to give “new attention” to. Savoring will becoming part of my daily practice.

  2. CJ Golden on the 20. Jul, 2014 remarked #

    On a similar note: when I visit our local creamery and see people scarfing down their yummy looking ice-cream cones as they walk back to their cars, my thought is always,”what waste. they aren’t even tasting that. they are not savoring that as it is meant to be savored”
    And that is much the way we spend all of our lives. Right now I am out of town, in a little coffee shop as I get some writing done. I have a cup of cappuccino at my side. I shall stop typing now and start savoring my wonderful liquid treat.

  3. Dawn on the 21. Jul, 2014 remarked #

    I am working hard to savor the relationships that have been given to me — to really make those a core priority rather than savoring acquisitions — savor the people that are in our homes.
    They are of far more valuable than the acquisitions.
    I know if I had worked a bit harder in that direction I wouldn’t be heading to divorce court.

    • Donna Ferber on the 21. Jul, 2014 remarked #

      A good point. It is often a challenge for us to savor the relationships closest to us as these relationships test us in many ways. If we can learn to cherish those loved ones even in times of conflict, we will find this helps deepen our gratitude for all we have been given. Best of luck in your journey.

  4. Judy Casper on the 29. Oct, 2014 remarked #

    The more we remind ourselves to be grateful for what we have the more peace we find in our lives. Judy

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