Restlessness

“Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a moustache: You won’t be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, peace will come looking for you.” – Ajahn Chah

Restlessness seems to have peaked in our current times as we are faced with continued restrictions and loss due to the ongoing pandemic. Nevertheless, feeling restless in not uncommon and has contributed to distress even before this restrictive time began. For example, restlessness is commonly reported as a symptom of anxiety and can involve difficulty sitting still or relaxing. It is also evident in certain personality types and cognitive styles. Likewise, it can be understood as a defense mechanism as we unconsciously work to avoid pain or discomfort by staying active or distracting ourselves. Lastly, our society tends to encourage an approach to life that can lead to constant striving and an outward focus on success and achievement.

When I entered graduate school, I was determined to be the best student. I worked hard to stand out and demonstrate my knowledge and understanding of the material. Overall, I was fairy success in my goals. I readily obtained an offer to work as a teaching assistant for a professor I greatly admired as well as a part-time clinical position in the private practice of a senior faculty member. I also became actively involved with an internationally recognized Adlerian psychologist, which led to conference presentations and two publications. My ego grew larger as I began to view myself as more advanced or skilled in comparison to my peers. I was successfully striving and accomplishing all of my goals.  

It wasn’t long before I was faced with the challenges of a competitive doctoral internship, relocating to a new city on the east coast, and the birth of my daughter. However, the biggest challenge was the challenge to my striving ego and defenses, which arrived when I witnessed my graduate intern colleagues obtain prestigious post-doctoral fellowships at places like Harvard and Emory University. In contrast, my plan was to take a year off and care for my daughter, while my partner completed her doctoral internship in yet another new city. After I completed my training and defended my dissertation, my life changed fairly dramatically. I now had long days with an eight-month-old little girl. Although I loved my new role and will always cherish this time with my daughter, I also struggled immensely to settle my restless mind and striving ego. It was during this year that I began to wake up to the ways in which I was driven by my needs for validation as well as the difficulty I had with stillness and uncertainty. I had been swept up and intoxicated by my external success, while also avoiding my anxiety and discomfort. I felt very uneasy when the long journey of graduate school was complete. I found myself in a new world without my armor. 

I began to realize how long I had been carried along by the flow of habitual and unconscious states of mind, striving to avoid discomfort through distractions and experience happiness and satisfaction through my accomplishments. I slowly and somewhat reluctantly began to admit to myself that my next goal involved letting go, waking up, and teaching my heart to stay present; to abide at ease with how things unfolded around me and remain present with the full range of my internal experience.       

Perhaps you have experienced a similar period that challenged your habitual ways of navigating life or managing uncertainty? Perhaps you have found yourself facing an unexpected challenge without your armor? Most certainty you have experienced times of restlessness.  

Restlessness often leads to fatigue and can manifest as feeling tense or agitated. It can also impact sleep and make it difficult to function well at work or in school. Restlessness can lead to alcohol abuse, overeating, excessive exercise or any number of unhealthy attempts to cope. At high levels, restlessness indicates an overactive fight or flight response as your body reacts to stress, anxiety, or past trauma. Depending on your experience and acuity, it might be most helpful to get professional support. For more moderate levels of restlessness, the following strategies and perspectives can be helpful.

Acknowledge and accept your fears – Fear and uncertainty are a part of life. When we acknowledge and work to accept this reality it can become less overwhelming. Seeing it for what it is allows us to also see that it is temporary. Rather than focusing on how you want things to be different, attempt to make peace with reality.  

Practice compassion – Practice connecting with a sense of compassion for others. This can be done through conversations or acts of kindness. When we are practicing compassion and caring for others there is much less focus on ourselves and our worries. 

Connect with others – Western society often promotes individualism. Yet, our survival depends on one another and our natural state exists as a collective. Practice taking a step back and reflecting on the interconnection you have with those around you and beyond.   

Meditation – Practicing meditation can take a little as five minutes. Simply begin by sitting comfortably and focusing your attention on the natural rhythm and flow of your breath. The practice of meditation involves bringing your attention back to your breathing, again and again, as your mind naturally wonders off. It is also the practice of non-judgmental awareness as our mind will inevitably wonder and critical thoughts will likely arise as we work to maintain our attention in the present.    

Mindfulness – One practical way of practicing mindfulness is to incorporate mindful moments throughout your day, such as pausing for a minute each time you sit down at your computer. This practice is especially helpful if you benefit from a structured approach. You can also pause at any point and practice bringing your attention to the present by noticing the sights and sounds in your environment. Likewise, you can practice mindfulness simply by bringing your attention to your breathing.  Practice remaining present and with whatever arrises throughout your day.

Each of us has unique qualities and accumulated tendencies that impact our perception and experience of thoughts, feelings, and the external world. When we feel restless and uncomfortable, we are often tempted to move on to something else to feel better or focus on our next goal. If we don’t like what is happening, we reach for the remote control or leave the room. When we are restless, we eat, drink and attempt to be merry. Yet, when we are able remain present with our restlessness and pay attention to it, we might begin to see how our thoughts and feelings are temporary. When we remain present, we also open ourselves up to the messages brought to us by our emotions and our deeper sensibilities. In this way our restlessness can be viewed as an opportunity to practice acceptance and patience, so that we can be steady, rather than swept up in our shifting moods and states of mind.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Existentialism & Daily Living

Existentialism suggests that we have both the freedom and responsibility to make our own choices by looking within ourselves. Accordingly, we are tasked with finding meaning, determining our values, and making decisions that shape our lives. Existential psychotherapy builds on these views by approaching therapy with an emphasis on self-determination and our individual search for meaning. It also understands anxiety as part of the human condition as we struggle with common concerns around the nature of our existence and the purpose of our lives.  

It is possible to incorporate existentialism into your daily life by living with greater self-awareness and making choices that align with your values.  

Tips for existentialism in daily life:

Reaffirming your values – Take time to think about your values. You might write these down or start a list that you can update as you consider what is most important to you.  

Meaning and purpose – Pause and reflect on your purpose and meaning at work or at home. Remind yourself of the bigger picture.    

Practice radical acceptance – Accept things the way they are without resistance. Instead of fighting reality, practice accepting reality by letting go.

Practice shifting to gratitude – When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, practice focusing on what you are grateful for in your life. Connect with a sense of gratitude for basic things such as food, shelter, and health as well as a sense of gratitude for your friends and loved ones. 

Practice reframing challenges as opportunities to live into your values – Reframing challenges as opportunities to practice values such as kindness or integrity can build resilience, while also creating more space for meaning and authenticity as you navigate daily life.  

Talk openly about your deeper questions with friends and loved ones – It is probably not typical to ask questions about life and death or the purpose of life, but it might surprise you to learn how often others think about these “big questions.”  Sharing these concerns can lead to deeper understanding and connection within your relationships.   

Start a journal around themes of meaning, values, and gratitude – Journaling is almost always helpful for increasing self-awareness and providing space to reflect. Consider taking time to write down your thoughts or simply practice writing down things you are grateful to have in your life.  

Meditate on impermanence – It is easy to get lost in the challenges and tasks of daily life. Taking time to realize that everything around you is always changing and our lives are limited can allow for us to more fully connect with the present and more fully appreciate life. Each moment is fleeting and each moment you have with a loved one is irreplaceable.  

Connect with new people each day and recognize the common humanity you share – We often make observations, assumptions, and judgement about others. Try shifting your attention to the common humanity you share with all people. When you encounter a person in public, remind yourself that they may also struggle with similar questions or have similar concerns. They may even be in great pain and emotional turmoil. In either case, the “big questions” apply to us all and suffering is an unavoidable part of life.  

Practice mindfulness – Practice everyday mindfulness by connecting with the present moment throughout the day. Allow yourself to step outside of “human-doing” mode and into “human-being” mode. Review my past blog for more ways of practicing everyday mindfulness.  

Through existential therapy and existentialism in daily living, we can become more attuned to our inner lives and live with greater intention. As we become more conscious of our values, we can choose to do things that provide us with a greater sense of purpose and allow for us to live our lives more authentically.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Loving Relationships

Research supports a range of benefits associated with supportive and loving relationships. Most notably, people involved in both healthy romantic and non-romantic relationships typically live longer. They also have lower risk of heart attack, improved immune functioning, and reduced feelings of isolation and depression. Furthermore, healthy loving relationships can provide a source of support and reliability, which can lead to reduced stress and a stronger sense of reassurance, knowing you have a close partner or friend to help you work through challenges.  

Maintaining a healthy loving relationship takes effort and intention. Consider the following suggestions for strengthening your relationship:

Spend time looking and listening to one another with your full attention. Maintain eye contact and act as if you had just met.  

Make an effort to express how you feel and make sure to communicate this to your partner on a regular basis. In addition to negative feelings, you can also share when you feel happy, excited or proud.

Discuss ways you can spend more quality time together away from distractions.  Find a reasonable goal and commit to it.

Tell your partner or friend what you need and what is important to you. Although we can benefit from taking note of nonverbal cues, open communication makes our needs more clearly known.   

Slow down and think more intentionally about the challenges your partner or friend manages on a day-to-day basis and the ways they contribute to your life.

Share a compliment.

Share affectionate contact and keep physical intimacy alive. Touch is a foundational part of human existence and holding hands, hugging or kissing are important ways of connecting and showing your affection.  

It is easy to take a comfortable loving relationship for granted. Take time to appreciate being loved and cared about.  

Have fun. Look for small ways to have fun together. Leave a note or send a silly joke.  Connecting in a playful way is both fun and refreshing.   

At their best, healthy loving relationships provide an experience of being deeply valued for your authentic self. They allow us to live a healthier life as we gain confidence in our existing strengths and feel supported to take risks as we learn to build new ones.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Reducing Stress through Body Awareness

When our brain perceives our circumstances as stressful, our body often reacts by becoming tense. Body awareness helps us recognize these physical sensations that indicate we are experiencing stress. Once we recognize and acknowledge these physical experiences, we can practice stress reduction exercises such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, body scanning or other basic mindfulness skills to help reduce our stress throughout the day.     

A 2016 study in the journal of Biological Psychology supports the role of body awareness for reducing stress. Researchers had participants engage in a stress inducing task and found that individuals with lower self-reported interoceptive awareness or reduced attention to bodily signals of stress displayed higher stress-related brain activation. In other words, the brain appears to register lower levels of stress when we are aware of the stress experienced in our body, thereby reducing our overall stress response.    

Improving your body awareness starts by recognizing when you feel stressed. General indications of stress include fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, upset stomach and sleep problems. You can also notice when your behavior changes as a reflection of stress if you find yourself struggling with angry outbursts, overeating, drinking excessively, withdrawing or skipping your typical self-care. In the moment, it is helpful to practice noticing if you feel anxious, restless, or irritable and when you find yourself thinking anxious or worrisome thoughts.  

A few ways to practice body awareness:

Deep breathing – Breathing techniques can be one of the most practical and easily accessible ways of reducing stress in the moment as they can be used at almost any point throughout the day. Practice taking a slow deep breath from your abdomen and silently count up to five. Next, hold your breath for a moment and again count silently count up to five. Finally, exhale slowly as you again silently count up to five. It can also be helpful to imagine yourself inhaling a sense of fresh energy and exhaling stress.  

Basic Mindfulness – Similar to breathing techniques, mindfulness can be used in virtually any circumstance. One practical way of applying mindfulness is to incorporate mindful moments throughout your day, such as pausing for a minute each time you sit down at your computer. This practice is especially helpful if you find more structure helpful. You can also pause at any point and practice bringing your attention to the present by noticing the sights and sounds in your environment. Likewise, you can practice mindfulness by selecting an object and focusing your attention on this object for a minute or so as you ground yourself in the present. All of these strategies can help you stay connected to your body by increasing present moment awareness. 

Body Scan – Body scan techniques apply mindfulness specifically to our awareness of our body and allow us to connect with areas of stress and release tension. This is likely the most effective way to practice and improve body awareness. You may practice sitting comfortably or laying down. Begin by noticing the pressure of your feet against the floor or bed, the temperature, comfort or discomfort, itches, or anything else. Expect your mind to wander, and when it does, return your attention to your feet. Let your attention rest with your feet for a minute or two before moving on and repeating this process with your legs and the rest of your body, all the way up to your head. Notice any physical sensations and practice breathing into areas of tension as you release stress by breathing and relaxing your muscles.  

Although all of these strategies are beneficial, simply becoming more aware of the stress we carry in our body is significant step in reducing our overall stress and the impact of stress on our well-being.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Self-forgiveness

We all make mistakes. Yet, it is important to learn ways of accepting and moving on from our mistakes so that we don’t become overwhelmed by feelings of frustration, anger, and guilt, or stuck in a repetitive loop of rumination and self-hatred.  

Although we typically think of forgiveness as something we grant to others, it is important to consider the positive impact of forgiving ourselves. Self-forgiveness is a helpful process that involves recognizing and acknowledging mistakes, validating our feelings, taking responsibility or corrective action when possible and reasonable, and finally shifting our focus to learning, growth, and acceptance. Self-forgiveness is not intended to be an excuse and should not lead away from taking responsibility or empathizing with anyone harmed as the result of a mistake.  

Research suggests that the practice of self-forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety as well as improved physical health, such as lower blood pressure. Practicing self-forgiveness can also allow for us to cultivate an attitude of forgiveness in our relationships with others and motivation to acknowledge, repair, and rebuild relationships when mistakes happen.

Self-forgiveness is often a significant challenge. For many reasons, a lot of people find it difficult to forgive themselves and may hold beliefs about needing to punish themselves or suffer consequences. Self-criticism and perfectionism can also make it difficult to practice self-forgiveness and we tend to have a lot of practice reinforcing these beliefs and behaviors.  

Indeed, taking responsibility and corrective action is an important part of moving on from a mistake. However, perpetuating our distress in the form of guilt, self-criticism, and self-hate is rarely productive as it most often harms our ability to learn and grow, while also serving to reinforce a negative self-image. 

Connecting with our inherent worth and value is a helpful place to focus when we are shifting to growth and self-acceptance. It is helpful to recognize and separate your mistake from yourself – you are not your mistake. It is important to remind yourself that you are far more than one mistake or even one decision. In this manner we can begin to see how it is possible to separate out a mistake and move away from identifying with the mistake as part of our identity or self-worth. To be sure, people of great integrity and intelligence make mistakes just like everyone else.  

Before moving to self-forgiveness, it can be important to reassess your assignment of blame. If you tend to unfairly blame yourself or take on responsibility for things that are completely out of your control, it might be important to work on understanding why this is the case. Nevertheless, in most cases, self-forgiveness can be a meaningful way to improve your relationship with yourself and others.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Equanimity

Difficulties, setbacks, and pain are an unavoidable part of life. However, it is possible to approach our experience of these difficulties in a manner that allows for us to remain grounded and cope more effectively, ultimately reducing the impact of painful experiences and allowing us to respond from a place of resilience.  

A major part of coping effectively resides in the way we respond to pain or distress.   

The metaphor of two arrows, or what is often referred to as “the second arrow,” metaphor is often used to describe this process. In this metaphor, the first arrow is the actual pain or painful circumstances at hand. This might be a small arrow, such as a setback at work or a hurtful comment, or a large arrow, such as illness or loss. We cannot control or avoid the first arrow.  

However, we can have an impact on the second arrow, which is our reaction to the first. If we struggle, avoid, withdraw or fight against the first arrow, we will experience the second arrow and find ourselves experiencing more pain.    

The practice of cultivating equanimity is one big way we can begin to shift our reaction to the first arrow and reduce or avoid the self-inflicted pain of the second. Equanimity can be defined as the quality of remaining grounded and stable in the midst of your experience. It involves responding with compassion and acceptance to whatever arrows strike us. It also involves letting go of futile attempts to change our reality or push back against things we cannot control.  

When you find yourself struggling with the first arrow you might practice saying the following phrases to yourself:

May I experience acceptance 

May I be at ease with my mind

May I know I am appreciated and loved

As you continue to reflect on any points of distress and consider your reactions to difficult situations, you might also practice repeating the following:

May I act with wisdom

May I respond with compassion

May I move forward in promoting the welfare my loved ones and others in my community 

You can practice connecting with a sense of equanimity in the face of distress or worry by repeating such phrases to yourself, while focusing on grounding yourself by taking a few deep breathes. You might also consider writing down your own short phrases and repeating these as you practice responding from a place of equanimity. 

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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The Wisdom of Uncertainty

Uncertainty is a difficult thing for many of us. Nevertheless, there can be wisdom in uncertainty if we allow ourselves to accept that many things are out of our control. Likewise, if we are able to work toward greater acceptance of uncertainty, we might find greater possibilities as we take on new challenges.  

Beginner’s mind is a useful way to practice changing our relationship to uncertainty. It involves letting go of our expectations and preconceived ideas about something and looking at things with a fresh mind, just like a beginner. This can be a difficult practice. Nevertheless, if we can learn to tolerate and accept uncertainty, we can begin to see the wisdom in not knowing or having all of the answers.    

The following strategies are helpful for cultivating beginner’s mind:

Assume a stance of beginner when you enter a conversation. Rather than rushing to express your opinion or highlight your expertise, ask questions and express curiosity.

Change your typical routine or route to the office or store and take note of your new environment.  

Practice noticing your habits and be curious about why you do the things you do. Ask yourself, why do I do this every morning? How could I do this differently?

Attend to the automatic narrative in your head. Step back from judgements about what is right or wrong or what you should or should not being doing. Ask yourself, where do these ideas come from?

Try a new activity that you have not done before. Practice tolerating any anxiety that may arise from stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Spend time with people different from yourself and be curious about their experiences and perspectives.

Explore something that often goes unnoticed. For example, you might slow down and notice the full taste, texture, and color of an apple as you eat it.

Experiment with a new type of cooking or try a new food. 

Emulate the wonder of children. 

We can also extend the wisdom of uncertainty to our future expectations. We often become fixated on achieving a particular outcome or using a particular approach to solve a problem. This can hinder our creativity and cause increased stress as we work hard to stick to our plans. Try letting go of your attachments to particular outcomes or opinions about how things should be done and observe if this allows for more room in your thinking and less stress as you navigate challenges. 

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Simplicity

There is a parable about a rich king who was growing older. He had no family relations to inherit his many riches and rule his kingdom. Therefore, he decided to invite all of his most devoted supporters to a grand party, during which time he planned to offer meetings with his subjects and select an heir to the throne. The king hoped to provide a taste of his many riches with fine foods and drinks as well as new clothing and performances by the most talented musicians and performers. After the party was underway, the king emerged from his quarters to begin inviting his guests to meet and discuss how they might rule the kingdom. When he entered the festival, he found that most of his guests had already left the party and returned home. Lost in the many pleasures of the party, the guests had forgotten why they had come to the castle in the first place.  

What comes to mind when you think of simplicity? Do you have a positive or negative reaction? Do you wish you had more simplicity in your life? What would that look like? In what ways can you experience more simplicity in your life today? 

It is easy to get distracted by the many things in our lives. Foremost, our society tells us that we must be active and striving to make progress at all times. Even our vacations can become a list of achievements. Beyond these pressures, we are increasingly surrounded by distractions such as cell phones, email, and social media accounts.  

Simplicity is a great way to unburden ourselves and allow for more open space in our lives. As a result, we might experience a greater sense of purpose and intention as well as a stronger connection to what we most want or desire.  

Here are a few practical ways of inviting more simplicity into your life:  

Shift your diet to include more foods that are simple and natural. 

Eat mindfully and in moderation.  

Consider what you already have in your life. Develop an awareness and compassionate concern for the many people around the world struggling with little or no resources.

Lower your overall level of personal consumption and buy fewer items to make yourself feel good. Focus on buying only what you truly need.  

Develop a meditation practice by devoting as little as five minutes a day to meditation. 

Spend time in nature (without headphones).  

Invest in yourself by further developing your professional skills or engage in more creative projects.

Engage in gratitude practices such as a daily gratitude journal.  

Declutter your environment and consider donating items you no longer use.

Unplug from your phone, social media, and perhaps even television.

Notice and embrace moments of silence.  

Simplicity can help you feel more connected and intentional in your life while also decreasing the burden of having too much on your plate. Choose one or more of these strategies to invite more simplicity into your life today.    

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Awareness as the Antidote to Rumination

If you find yourself obsessing over past events, stewing in resentments, replaying conversations over and over again, and beating yourself up for minor setbacks, you are likely struggling with rumination. 

Rumination is the mental act of repetitively reviewing a thought or a specific problem without coming to any resolution. It can also be thought of as dwelling excessively on your problems or insecurities. Rumination is common to both anxiety and depression. Research suggests that rumination or excessively dwelling on negative events is a predictor of depression and anxiety as well as the level of stress people experience. Therefore, taking steps to mitigate rumination can have a significant positive impact on mental health.   

There are two aspects of rumination that can be examined to better understand why it can be so problematic. First, rumination often goes unnoticed as we go about our day worrying or ruminating on a negative event that occurred or second guessing ourselves after a recent social interaction. Second, rumination often fuels a cycle of negative emotions and feelings of insecurity or inadequacy that only serve to further reinforce and perpetuate more rumination. Together, we can see how rumination can perpetuate itself and function unconsciously to wreak havoc on our mood and increase our stress. 

The good news is that we are well equipped to begin changing our relationship to rumination.    

Awareness is an incredibly important and powerful part of our mental functioning and it can be cultivated through mindfulness to help us see and respond differently to the negative thought patterns that typically form the core of rumination. As we work to incorporate more mindfulness into our daily experience, we can begin to step outside of the rumination cycle.  (see previous posts on practicing mindfulness)

It is sometimes helpful to think about rumination as a form of background noise or a talk radio station. As with our mental life in general, this radio station is playing constantly, whether we like it or not. Therefore, a great first step to improving your relationship to rumination involves become more aware of the radio station playing in your head. You can practice turning up the volume on this station and observing what is being said. 

Bring your awareness to the thoughts in your head. Are you ruminating or dwelling on something specific? If so, acknowledge the event or situation and check-in with how you are feeling. Notice how your ongoing thoughts about this event are impacting your mood. If there is something that can be done, write it down and make a plan. If not, then your mental efforts to solve the problem will only cause more distress.  

If your experience of rumination feels overwhelming, you can try shifting your attention to more positive thoughts or distracting yourself. You might try talking to a close friend or family member, listening to uplifting music, taking a walk, watching a movie, or thinking about positive experiences in your past. In either case, you are using the power of your awareness to notice and acknowledge rumination so that you can relate to it in a more helpful way.  

Rather than judgement, approach this task of noticing your thoughts with curiosity and compassion, reminding yourself that most people struggle with rumination to some extent. Recognize that you cannot typically change the past or control your future. However, you can choose your attitude and feel empowered to act in the present to help promote a greater sense of satisfaction in your life. 

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Savoring

Savoring is a concept related to mindfulness, but it often gets much less attention. Nevertheless, it can be practiced and incorporated into your daily experience to promote greater life satisfaction and happiness.    

My former undergraduate advisor, Fred Bryant Ph.D., a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago, is considered the father of research on savoring. He cites the presumption that people naturally feel joy when good things happen, while suggesting that we may not always respond to these good things in a way that maximizes their positive effects.  

So what is the difference between savoring and mindfulness?  

Mindfulness is observing the present moment without judging it and then letting it go. In contrast, savoring involves being engaged and aware of your feelings during particularly positive events and attempting to hold onto these experiences. Dr. Bryant describes savoring as observing a positive moment and then trying to cling onto it and not let it go. Ultimately, it is the focus on positive events and the effort to stay fully emersed in the positive event that differentiates savoring from mindfulness.  

There are many benefits to savoring our positive experiences. Research shows savoring can improve mood, lead to greater life satisfaction, increase feelings of gratitude and appreciation, and even help us remember things more vividly. Savoring can also promote stronger relationships and improved mental and physical health.

How can I practice savoring? 

In his 2006 book, Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, Dr. Bryant explains, “It is like swishing the experience around in your mind,” when describing the practice of savoring. This metaphor is an excellent starting point as you begin to incorporate savoring into your life. Just as someone might savor a glass of expensive wine, you can savor the enjoyable moments in your life as you swish them around in your mind and fully experience everything these moments have to offer.  

The following strategies are effective ways to practice savoring:

Take a mental photograph by pausing for a moment and being consciously aware of the things you want to remember. 

Tell others when you are feeling particularly appreciative in a given moment.

Focus more attention on your sensory experiences, such as the taste of a good piece of chocolate. 

Allow yourself to be more expressive by speaking enthusiastically or literally jumping for joy!

Allow yourself to become absorbed in the moment. This may allow you to experience what researchers describe as “flow,” or the moments when you are so absorbed that you lose your sense of time and place.  

Connect with a sense of appreciation and gratitude.  

Avoid negative thinking by being more aware of negative self-talk and work to move on by shifting your attention to the positive side of things.  

Remind yourself that good times move quickly! Pause frequently and remind yourself to savor.

For many of us, the holidays may present an excellent opportunity to practice savoring. Perhaps you can pick one or two of these strategies as a starting point to savor the holidays or any other positive moments that come your way in the coming weeks.

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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