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Health & Well-Being

In Focus: Savoring the Sweet, Salty, AND Bitter of the Past Year, Present, and Future

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Savoring is a positive psychology practice in which we “take in the good” or engage in benefit finding in the past, present, and future. Savoring includes not just the pleasant parts of our experience but also those that cause us discomfort. This practice can be particularly helpful during transitions whether that be at the end of a vacation or the end of the year.


Rumination May Be a Reason to Worry

Rumination involves repetitive thinking or dwelling on negative feelings and distress. Rumination and worry are the most common forms of maladaptive processing of the mind. They are VERY normal and can even be adaptive when they motivate us to engage in beneficial behaviors. However, when we participate in these for long periods of time or they become chronic, they are very unhealthy for the mind. Choose savoring instead!

Savoring the Past: Reminisce and Process

Revisiting the good things from the past is good for us. According to Rick Hanson, to the extent that we “take in the good” from our past it is “installed” in our memory as a resource in hard times.

Try it! In your journal, make a list of the pleasurable and positive events of 2022. Revisit these memories and elaborate on them by describing what happened (what, when, why, sounds, smells, feelings, etc.). Like the glass memory balls in the movie Inside Out, imagine that each time you revisit each memory that it gets stronger. As for the bitter memories and those for which you are still “salty,” take note of them in a separate area of your journal. What lessons can you glean from these events? What simply needs to be grieved?

Savoring the Present: Gratitude and Grief

When we practice appreciation, the value of the things we appreciate goes up. If we wait, then gratitude will come eventually but only after we lose that thing and that is because gratitude is born in grief.

From disappointment to divorce (code for breakups), to death, grief must be acknowledged and processed. Gratitude can help you celebrate what you have while acknowledging what you have lost.

Try it! Take a breath and be fully present in this moment. Scour your consciousness for 1, 2, or 3 things (big or small) for which you are already grateful but have not fully realized it. Use this moment to also check in with your losses and disappointments. If you are sad about something right now, don’t judge it feel it and go find a “spotter” to help you lift those heavy weights.

Savoring the Future: Anticipation and Cultivation of Hope

Anticipation plays a role in lifting our mood by giving us a sense of purpose and something to be excited for. As we anticipate what is to come this new year, think about what things you are hopeful for. By cultivating hope, you recognize that your goals are attainable, despite barriers or challenges you will experience. 

Don’t confuse hope with optimism. Optimism is about expecting good things whereas hope is about how we plan and act to achieve what we want.

Try it! Make a list of things that you are looking forward to this new year and quarter.

May this integrated savoring practice guide you towards finding and installing the good as well as help you to learn from, grow from, and grieve from the challenges and struggles you have/will encounter in the past, present and future.

Written by: Donnovan Somera Yisrael, ‘89, Well-Being at Stanford


Stanford Resources

Books for Cultivating Hope: 

  • Hope vs Optimism by Vaclav Havel
  • Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
  • Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck