Grab a cuppa, fluff up the pillows, settle in.
Here's a tale about my mother-in-law Aileen, who moved to Kyogle from Sydney in 1996 at the ripe old age of 80. Motivated by escape from Sydney winters, her sights were on Southeast Qld but there was a catch: her older brother Keith.
Keith had suffered from bi-polar since his late teens. Out of all nine siblings, big-hearted Aileen took it upon herself to see he was looked after through the decades. Nish, as a kid, remembers Keith over at their place, talking to the mantelpiece.
Aileen wanted to move but refused to leave Keith behind in Sydney at the Salvos home where he lived.
What to do? She wanted him nearby, where she could bring him the regulation carton of cigarettes, but there were no beds for him in Queensland.
THICK AS THIEVES
Enter the knight in shining armour, my partner Nish, who had a spectacular brainwave. "How about I try Kyogle, mum?" He rang Kyogle aged care (in those days housed at the old hospital building).
Miracle of miracles: they had a bed! Available straight away!
The very next DAY Keith was flown up from Sydney (for free). Aileen followed soon after. We'd found her a lovely flat in Kyogle Rd; her sale in Sydney came through just in time.
Two years later our son Ned was born; grandma and grandson became thick as thieves. Keith passed away; Aileen and Ned endured until she died the year Ned was in Year 6. Sadly missed!!
I tell this story in connection with the negativity bias, the ingrained habit of the brain to focus on bad news and overlook the good. And its remedy, gratitude and savouring practice.
For months, for years on end, Aileen never tired of recounting the chain of auspicious events:
By recounting the feel-good moments again and again, Aileen was demonstrating, without meaning to, a sure-fire route to flourishing mental health.
A study from 2017 gave worriers the chance to try one of two practices: mindfulness meditation or savouring various activities. The result? Savouring offers benefits similar to meditation—and some additional ones.
Both mindfulness meditation AND savouring improved participants’ anxiety, negative emotions, and curiosity. The marked benefit of savouring over mindfulness meditation however, was to boost participants’ positive emotions. (Though to overcome negative rumination, mindfulness meditation won the day).
Savouring practice isn't something unfamiliar; it's similar to gratitude, tho takes it a bit further.
Both gratitude and savouring are proven reliable methods for increasing happiness and life satisfaction, while boosting optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions.
Savouring is unique in that it includes a somatic component: drinking in the good at the level of body sensation. You absorb the good feelings. Marinate in them.
Your nervous system will love you for it.
copyright Shakti Burke 2023