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Savoring the Positive: A Post Thanksgiving Practice

savoring the positive

I spent this last Thanksgiving Holiday traveling in Cuba.  I was surprised how much I missed the tradition of a home cooked meal of Turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes and pies of all sorts – and of course the love and fellowship of friends and family.  Thanksgiving is also a time for us as Americans when we stop, unplug and reflect on all that we are grateful for.  My holiday in Cuba brought my awareness of gratitude to a whole other level.  I experienced such gratitude and love of life from the Cuban people and they have so little in comparison to the rest of the Western world and even much of the developing world.  I could see the years of austerity in  the country’s infrastructure, on the empty shelves in the stores, and on the lines on the people’s faces and the wear and tear on the clothes they wore.  But their hearts and smiles shown brightly…and they danced!  They love to dance and sing and the did this all day and all night EVERY day


Witnessing this reminded me of a mindfulness and brain entrainment practice I call, “Savoring the Positive”

The practice off savoring the positive comes out of the field of positive psychology.

According to Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff (2007), savoring involves noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of life – the positive counterpart to coping.  So many of us know that having positive thoughts and feelings are important for our health and well-being, and for our success.

But sometimes as hard as I look I just can’t seem to find that positive thought let alone have a positive feeling come along with it.  I don’t think I am alone here.  My research on brain science has taught me a couple of really cool things that have helped turn this around.

These are two of my favorites:

Our brains are wired to remember more negative things than positive for our survival.


Consistently aligning our thoughts with the positive can change the brain so it becomes more in tune and attuned to the positive and ultimately more happy and satisfied.

And, savoring is simple to do.  Simply taking a moment one or two times a day and remembering something positive for 20-30 seconds is all it takes to begin to retrain your brain.  Try to remember as many details and sensations as possible.

Savoring also makes other positive experiences more possible.  For example:

  1. Marveling regulates awe.
  2. Thanksgiving regulates gratitude.
  3. Basking regulates pride.
  4. Luxuriating regulates physical pleasure

Savoring can also occur in various timeframes. We can anticipate future pleasures, experience present pleasures, and reminisce about past pleasures. People are different in their preferences for future, present, and past savoring. If you particularly enjoy anticipating, start planning early so that you have lots of time to think about a future event. If you particularly enjoy reminiscing, keep pictures and reminders to revisit past pleasures.

So for myself, following this Thanksgiving holiday, I am putting myself on a diet of savoring the positive for 30 days.  I would enjoy your company and I would love to hear your results!



  1. Jeannette

    December 2, 2015 - 3:29 am

    I appreciated hearing about your Cuban experience and how they sing and dance so much. What joy this must bring. I love your suggestion of savoring and would like to do this myself. Even the word savor conjures positive feelings, so thank you Alison for this terrific reminder to be in gratitude and joy!

  2. Pernilla Lillarose

    December 2, 2015 - 8:50 pm

    Yes, indeed, Alison, savoring the positive is a skill most of us need to practice. As you said because of survival instincts we are so conditioned to look for threats to hide from and now we are so wired to look for that only that we miss the rest of Life.
    I agree with Kim that it is not always easy to do that if the whole body is conditioned to the opposite and it can feel kind of phony at first. We still need to meet the parts of us with kindness, care and understanding instead of just leaving them behind in order to look for the positive. For trauma issues this does not work at all. It can even feel like more violence by not giving those traumatized parts what they need first. In my work as a Hakomi Therapist we call it the ‘missing experience.’ Once we get that missing peace those parts can start relaxing and notice what else is here.
    But at some point we do need to move our attention away from problems and fear in order to let the mind know that there is more to life and that it will grow the more we put our attention to it.
    I think there is a healthy balance between the two until the negative part knows and feels that it’s not all about survival and solving problems.
    Thank you for bringing our attention to this

  3. Lesa

    December 3, 2015 - 3:19 am

    Savoring the positive for 30 days sounds like a really lovely challenge, especially through the holiday season when we can get so caught up in the endless tasks and to-do lists.

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