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karen allen

Savoring the Good Through the Power of Visualization

Updated: Oct 23, 2023



As I was scrolling through my newsfeed, this article title immediately caught my eye:

“Savoring” is a mindfulness tool that focuses on capturing happy thoughts, moments, and memories and then replaying them in your brain to help you shift into a more relaxed, positive mindset. The author shares her experiment in using happy memories to help her fall asleep.

The idea of “savoring” was a practice that immediately resonated with me.

Even before I understood the brain science behind it (more on that in a minute, because trust me, the science is going to blow your mind!), doing this, making it a dedicated practice, helped me take ownership of my healing and really think through the kind of life I wanted to create for my son and for me.

When I was first trying to process my grief, I had a lot of trouble falling asleep. I could push through the days, but when I laid my head down on that pillow each night, that’s when all of the thoughts and emotions I’d been holding off started to pile up in my head and in my heart.

As I was struggling to find something that would help me, I started a practice that looks a lot like the savoring technique.

I tried thinking about a happy memory, to help me soothe my brain. I’ll be honest, at that point, it was just too hard. Remembering even happy things just made me feel sadder.

Note: I’m sharing this because I want you to use this technique with care, depending on where you are in your journey. If you find that you’re in a stressful season in your life—or even if you’re just having an extra stressful day—trying to call up a happy memory may feel too heavy. If so, tuck the savoring technique back into your toolbox as something you might want to try at another point. Not every tool is meant for every time.

When remembering happier times was too hard, I imagined happier things.

I imagined things that might happen. Things that I hoped for. Things that would bring peace or joy or growth into my life.

I wasn’t making plans or analyzing; I was really daydreaming about what could be as I was falling asleep. And it worked! In fact it still works—I still use this technique almost every day.

And the most amazing thing about this tool is that it works the exact same way as remembering a happy memory. Your brain lit-er-ally does not know the difference between remembering an amazing experience and imagining a happy moment.

Your brain—as incredible and sophisticated as it is—can’t tell the difference between real and imagined.

Pause on that for a second, because that’s powerful knowledge.

Actually, if you really think about it, you probably already know this to be true. This is why just thinking about worst-case scenarios can cause so much physical pain and stress. Your brain doesn’t know that you’re just imagining these outcomes.

Your brain processes those ruminations the same way it would if it were actually happening, so it fires off the same stress hormones and activates the same neural pathways that it would if you were experiencing that negative outcome in real time.

When you relive painful, traumatic moments, your brain responds as if they were happening all over again.

When we dwell in those negative moments, we really are only hurting ourselves.

If we want to nurture a healthy brain, we have to use the power of the mind.

You can use that #brainscience to see the positive possibilities though! When you imagine something that brings you joy or peace or a sense of fulfillment, your brain fires off all the same feel-good hormones it would in response to a real memory.

You get all the same benefits as if you were remembering a happier time.

But that’s not even the most amazing part, guys.

You get all the same benefits as if that happy thing was really happening in the moment.

So I choose to use my mind to create new possibilities. One of the things that brings me into a more positive mental space is imagining things that I know will come to me.

One that I find especially comforting is imagining a future partnership. It’s not about visualizing a specific person. Instead, I focus on how I will feel when I am with that person.

I know what healthy love is going to look like, so I imagine those moments playing out. I imagine us dancing in the kitchen when we’re cooking. I see us on fun trips and being silly together. I call up these vivid, specific scenarios because the more detail I can add, the more positive connections my brain can make and the more feel-good hormones it will release in response.

What’s happening is a beautiful blend of brain science and spirituality. When you take time to envision the positive possibilities ahead of you, you truly are manifesting that life.

On the science side, when we start to think about good things—whether they’re real or imagined—it fires up our reticular activating system (RAS). Our RAS plays a vital role in how we direct our attention and what we notice.

You’ve probably felt your RAS at work, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. You know those moments where you stumble on an eerie coincidence? That may just be your RAS at work. You’re thinking about buying a white Nissan, and suddenly you start noticing white Nissans everywhere you go. Your friend mentions the name of a band you’ve never heard before, and suddenly you feel like you hear their songs everywhere you go. You’re at a busy, noisy playground, but you hear your child’s cry and immediately know it’s them.

Why? Well, your brain has to filter information. Just pause in the moment and try to take in every detail around you—every sight, smell, sound and every physical and mental sensation. You literally can’t. Every second of our lives is filled with more than our brain can actually process. So our brains learn what information we actually need to notice versus what can be weeded out.

Just like filters you use when you do a database search, your brain starts to set up filters to focus on important things—the things it knows you’re looking for. You think about white Nissans, and your RAS adds it to the list of things you’ll notice in any given moment. Same thing with band names, new words, the very nuanced sound of your child’s voice.

You’ve trained your RAS that this is vital information, and it responds by pulling your attention to it.

Pretty amazing, right???

So when you decide that you’re going to replay happy moments each night, your brain sets up a filter—create a mental snapshot of happy moments. You have programmed your brain to notice the good, so you start seeing good things everywhere you look.

Not only that, you’re asking your brain to hold on to that moment.

If you used to watch The Office (or if you’re still binging it regularly—no judgment here), you might remember this iconic moment:


If you didn’t watch, here’s a quick breakdown of what’s happening here. (If you did watch, take a moment to wipe that tear away—I know, this moment is so good!)

That’s Pam, and it’s her wedding day. She wants to remember the best parts of the day, but she knows everything will be a whirlwind. So her aunt suggests that she take mental snapshots. In the special moments, she literally stops, brings a fake camera up to her face, and says “click,” so she can lock the moment into her mind.

Guys, Pam is doing it!!!

By deciding she’s going to take these mental pictures, she’s telling her RAS to notice the simple, beautiful moments that she might otherwise miss.

Instead of rushing past something so simple that could’ve passed you by—the sound of your child’s laughter, the feeling of nailing a presentation at work, the soothing feeling of taking your first sip of hot coffee in the morning—your brain will take a snapshot of that moment so that you can come back to it later.

If you think of each day as a series of moments that you could easily forget, what you’re doing is giving your RAS an assignment: hold on to the things I might want to come back to later.

Suddenly you notice how many of those beautiful moments there really are!

And on a spiritual level, when you envision and set an intention for something good to happen in your life, you’re really raising your energy vibration to match the energy of that thing you want. In this sphere of limitless possibilities that the universe has to offer, you are opening yourself up to the reality that all of those good things can absolutely come to you, even if you can’t see how just yet.

You are pushing away from your limiting beliefs and opening yourself up to the good that could be.

You are inhabiting the energy necessary to draw those good things to you, and your brain is primed and ready to notice when that opportunity presents itself. You are teaching your brain to look for the good, and that’s amplifying all of the incredible things that are already all around you.

That’s leveraging the power of neuroplasticity to create the life you love! Because when you notice the good, the good gets better, and that’s your incredible mind teaching your brain how to process all of your experiences in a way that accelerates your growth.

That’s a superpower, my friend, so own it and use it to become the person you want to be and create the life you want to live!



 

When you're ready, here are 3 ways I can help…

  1. Stop & Shift: This book will teach you a simple yet powerful technique to help you build your mental strength and rise above life's turbulence.

  2. The Visualization Masterclass: Go beyond just daydreaming about your goals and learn how to connect visualization with tangible results.

  3. Leading With A Growth Mindset: Join over 119,000 other learners inside Leading With A Growth Mindset. This comprehensive course will teach you how to strengthen your greatest asset: your mindset, and create a thriving workplace.

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If you still love a good read, welcome to my blog. My hope is that every article will give you at least one tid-bit to help you shape your life in the most beautiful way possible. 😊 WELCOME!

Hi, I'm Karen! 

Hi, I'm Karen.

I've made it my life's work to teach as many people as possible about synergistic trifecta of human potential and transformation: mindfulness, positive psychology, and neuroplasticity.

 

This fusion creates a holistic approach to personal growth, well-being, and resilience, empowering you to thrive, navigate life's complexities with grace, and tap into your fullest potential.


​​I've worked with companies such as Nissan, Golf Channel, Google, Universal Orlando Parks & Resorts, LG and many more. 

Whether I'm teaching from stage, in a conference room, or via Zoom, my #1 mission is to help as many people as possible tap into the power of their mindset and start living more fully. Because when you become better, you make the people around you better, and that's how you make the world a little better, too. 🌱 #BetterTogether

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