Savoring 101

girl texting accidentWhen I commuted to work whether just on a subway from the Upper West Side of Manhattan or the grueling, hellish commute from Orange County New York to Manhattan, I read a lot of magazines. I remember that one that caught my eye that was about the secret to happiness.

It had, as you might have guessed, something about being IN THE MOMENT. This is a drum I beat ALL THE TIME and people say, “Yes I know…” but it’s half hearted. The article said that both scientific research and clichés had it right. Those who take time to savor the moment, no matter what they are doing, are the happiest people. I already know this, having practiced having my head where my feet are, for 25 years. It is not just when things are good, but that is the BEST time to do it, but even when things are not going so well…you sit and listen to yourself, to your thoughts, you feel your feelings even when sad or angry…that is how you recover. If you are always trying to get out of how you feel…you can’t go through the process…you NEED to go through it…the only way OUT is through.

When we are grieving, we need time, we need space…to sit and be…to experience our feelings…to work through the sadness and the anger and the pain of it all. Our mind is disordered. It has the monumental task of putting our world back together without the person or the job or the house or the situation we were in. Even when we have a good change, we have to go through the “moving on” process and sometimes we feel grumpy or spacey for no reason that we can think of. (But everything is GREAT! we might say…and not understand AT ALL why we feel so blue…it’s our mind reordering things to adjust to our new world.)

I talk about balance in GPYB. You must work out the bad and work in the good. When you sit and allow yourself to just “be,” it’s important to allow your sadness for a time (I find that 20 – 40 minutes should be the maximum clump of time…otherwise you just dissolve into a puddle.)

It’s also important, even though you are sad, to spend some time just appreciating where you are and who you are and being grateful for whatever is around you. It may sound absolutely ridiculous to some but when I wake up in the morning, I spend a few minutes listening to the birds. They’re not around in the winter and it’s just silent. I love when they show up in the springtime and throughout the summer and fall. And I miss them when they’re gone.

When I wake up, I don’t reach for a computer, a phone or any other distraction. I get up, drink my coffee, and just sit and be for at least a half hour. If I’m sad, I allow that. If I’m neutral, I think about the things I am grateful for. If I’m happy I concentrate on why. I learn to THINK ABOUT my life. My one and only life. The one I live. Separate and apart from everyone else. I give myself value. If you don’t value you enough to just sit and be with yourself, no one else will value you.

In the 90s, I worked for a large computer company. We had email and we had forums, both work-related and personal. The company wanted us to connect with each other all around the globe…and we did. My non-computing friends couldn’t imagine email or forums or anything like that. We loved it and we became quite the close-knit family (my company) via forums.

But I taught a course called Investment in Excellence by the late, great Lou Tice who is the person who introduced me to affirmations and my methodology is his methodology. I have read many books on affirmations but Lou Tice’s way is the one that works best. I was privileged to meet him and his wife Diane and I was very saddened when he passed a while ago. Lou was one of my biggest influences.

Anyway, I taught IIE to managers and it was a required course. It was about goal-setting and perspective and gratitude and really having your head where your feet are. We talked about learning to sit still and just BE and even veg out…I remember a saying from back then, “You’re a human being, not a human doing.”

We talked about the forums and how great they were but recommended that people get out and meet those they worked with (many of us worked on teams throughout facilities) and do in-person groups etc. It was so we did not get lost in technology as we were wont to do. Well, today that is epidemic.

I was standing in line at the bagel shop one Monday morning and up and down the line there were heads bent down looking at their phones (I don’t want to know about their posture in 30 years). I was the only person without a phone. There were a group of kids about 12 years old at tables with their parents and every person had a phone out…kids and parents. There were so many times one person (adult or kid) would show something on their phone to another. The other person would almost always look up from their phone for a second…nod…and go back to their phone. It was as if they were saying, “Don’t bug me with your distraction, I have my own over here.” There was a young couple (in their 20s) and, at first, they were both on their phones, but then she put hers away and tugged at him and he shoo’d her away. It wasn’t angry or upset, it was more absent-mindedly, and she didn’t look hurt or upset. It was obviously either understandable to her or par for the course. I thought how sad that is.

The parents are not appreciating their kids who will be grown and gone soon. The couples are not appreciating each other and those who are by themselves are not appreciating just being. Just being alone and having a nice morning to yourself. Not being at the office, not tending to small children, not arguing with someone, not being exasperated by the bananaheads of the world… just hanging out waiting to get bagels. When did being in line become so difficult that people can’t do it for 10 minutes without a distraction?

The article I was reading that prompted the original version of this post talked about this. It talked about SAVORING 101…about just being in the moment…no matter what it is…and savoring it.

Scientific research shows that the happiest people are people who savor the moment and the people in it. The happiest couples are the ones who savor the moments and each other. If you’re standing in line together, talk, joke, laugh…put the phone away.

If you eat while watching TV you enjoy the food less (if you remember eating it at all,) if you surf while talking on the phone you enjoy your conversation less (again, if you remember it at all). This is what research found, not what I’m saying though this is what I find.

In writing the Power Affirmations course, I impress upon the students that observation is important, but so is gratitude. Both are important to increasing your feelings of well-being.

You will stay positive if you make a habit of noticing things that are positive.  I have written extensively on the people on the platform where I wait for the train.  The train moves along the Hudson River which is rich in activity. Every morning the ducks and geese from the inland pond (the train tracks run over the river and cut off the pond from the rest of the river) take off at 8:20 a.m. You can almost set your watch to it.  The whole group on the pond starts quacking loudly and then they take off in groups of 10-12, about 5 minutes apart.

They make a formation right over the tracks and move off down the river.  Although it seems rote, there is something magical about the timing, the formation and the way each group waits for a period of time before launching.  There are about 30 to 40 people waiting on the platform and maybe 3 of us are watching the birds.  Some take photos of them but others, like me, just watch.  The rest of the people are looking at their phones.  I fail to understand how you could find anything on that device more interesting or uplifting than watching those birds take flight. If you’ve become immune to the beauty of nature in this world, something is wrong.

Another day I saw a single bird on a gusty day.  He would ride along on the wind gust and just let it take him up and down.  Then he would flap until the next gust and he would stretch out his wings and allow it to take him along…he even did loops…all at the mercy of the wind.  He was having a heck of a good time and I was having a heck of a good time watching him.  I looked around and every single person was looking at the phone.  Only I caught the silly bird action. And it put a smile on my face before work.  No one else was smiling.

Then there’s the jumping fish. I have only noticed this on the hottest of days but it’s in the same spot where a fish jumps  up and out of the water and comes down with a splat. It happens at almost the same spot across a few years on the hottest days. When the temperature soars, I start to look for him in the morning.  A few times people looking at their phones look up at the first splat and then return to the phone.  There are usually 2-3 more splats before the train comes.  The phone people miss it.  You missed a fish jumping out of the water.  You. are. a. fool.

Another day (one more and I’ll stop), it was raining and I was standing at 42nd street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.  A car went by with a dog in the back seat.  He had his head out the window and was catching raindrops on  his tongue and he was wagging his tail like a crazy person. It made me laugh and I looked around to see if anyone else caught it.  Nope.  Even waiting for a light, they were looking at their  phones.  How much do you miss when you do that? Can it wait?

The way I see it is that I will be locked in an office all day with technology without a bird, a fish or a dog in sight.  Why do I want to spend my morning ignoring spontaneous movement among species that don’t have phones?  Other people are stuck in traffic or don’t have this wonder to start their day.  Why pull out a phone?  Enjoy the fact that you have this glorious place along the Hudson or in the city to start your day.  Learn to observe and learn to have gratitude when life presents itself to you.  Even if you don’t have something like that to start your day, there is no reason to jump into work or messages or anything else on your phone. If you’re stuck inside (or even outside) doing what someone else tells you to do, and having to pay attention to THAT, why sacrifice the precious freedom you have in the morning?

To remove yourself from the phone zombies, is to recognize and understand that your life is much more important than all that noise coming from inside your phone.  There is a WORLD out there and you are a very special part of it.

A few years ago I gave up my cell phone for a few months. Before that I never took it into the mall, stores or anything like that. I went for walks without it. I don’t want to be bothered. I rarely answered my phone. A long time ago a very wise woman told me that a ringing phone is a request, not a demand. I finally gave it up for a few months when I was having trouble putting it down. I HAD to detox.

I had been paying way too much for something that annoyed me. I had a small pay as you go phone that I took with me driving somewhere I might need to call for directions or something. Other than that, I didn’t have it. People don’t believe me. I don’t care.

If your friends have you trained to answer every text immediately, you’re in a sorry state. I rarely text. People don’t believe me but I don’t. Ask anyone who knows me knows that I RARELY text.  I will not allow that to run my life the way I see everyone else having it run theirs. I run my life. Not a phone and my friends’ insane texting habits. During my cell phone hiatus I said to a client, “I don’t have a cell phone.” and he absolutely did not believe me.

I know that sort of thing cuts down my happiness and I need all that I can get. I spend more time on my computer than I would like and I unplug several hours each week as I have blocked out. It’s a commitment I make to myself. Everything goes off…phone, computer, tv, radio, ipod etc. I read a book, I go for a walk, I just sit and meditate. I aim for 5 hours a week and usually get 4-10 in. Last week I hit an alltime high of 12 hours of unplugged time for the week and I felt better than I have in a long time. IT WORKS.

My husband Michael had horrific ADHD…his mind was going a million miles an hour in 10 different directions at all times. He loved to bass fish. I once asked him why and he said it was the only thing that quieted his mind. He didn’t know how or why but he loved it. It was his time. His alone time (he liked taking the kids but he liked his alone time too…) I never called him when he fished and most times he left his phone in his truck.  He would walk to his boat or to the lake edge and set about fishing. He said he felt at peace and never took the phone with him. Everyone needs some time to be alone and unplugged so that NO ONE can reach them.  If the thought of that makes you anxious, something is wrong.

Michael was the happiest person I’ve ever known. And his happiness was infectious. He made others happy and you couldn’t help but be happy around him. He was a sweet, wonderful man. And he knew enough to savor his moments. And when he passed, way too soon, I knew he had lived the life he wanted. Even though we had plans he never saw fulfilled, the time he was here, he spent it wisely.

Even when he was sick, he would show the kids in the radiation unit the fish in the tank. He would talk to the other patients, he would joke with the nurses. There was no way he was spending the last year of his life surfing the web. He was enjoying PEOPLE. And when he was bed ridden he enjoyed his hospice workers and the nurses. He joked and laughed and savored each and every moment. Until his last.

And again, he was the happiest person I’ve ever known.

The scientific research says that the happiest people know this secret. To be where you are. To have your head where your feet are. To enjoy PEOPLE.


Enjoy the good times, the quiet times…the peaceful times. If you’re standing in line, it’s possible to be peaceful and to think, “I’m here by myself, no one knows where I am, I’m not having to be anywhere, I’m not having to have something to my boss, get into an argument with my brother, deal with my ex, listen to my kids whining about something….” It’s an ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE. It’s about PERSPECTIVE. And it works!!!! Be where you are. Clear your mind. Make peace with the peace.

You will be happier for it. I guarantee it.

To read Savoring 101 click HERE

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About Susan J. Elliott

Author, Attorney, Grief Counselor, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, Relationship Expert, Breakup Coach BA English Mount Holyoke College, magna cum laude, High Honors, Phi Beta Kappa M.Ed., Counseling Psychology, Cambridge College J.D. University of California, Berkeley Licensed to practice law in federal and state courts in NY. Licensed but Inactive in Texas and District of Columbia Creator of the Getting Past Your Past and Getting Past Your Breakup programs, seminars, workshops, bootcamps, videos, blogs and podcasts Author of Getting Past Your Breakup, Getting Back Out There and the GPYP Workbook
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