SAVOR monthly digest

Welcome to the newest SAVOR digest – an appetizer plate of what I’ve been exploring (and recommending) in recent weeks. I’m continuing to feature educational content related to mind/body health, although I’m no longer breaking information into three categories (HEAL, GROW, and SAVOR).

This particular digest happens to focus heavily on mindful eating, therapeutic horticulture, and savoring. Pretend it’s a buffet and sample what you’d like. Enjoy!

Next month, I’ll return to a limited schedule of telehealth (online individual psychotherapy) services, focused upon stress management and women’s health. But this educational arm of The SAVOR Project will continue and eventually, after I’ve completed my second vaccine dose, I’m hoping to offer low-cost, socially distanced classes in various community garden spaces. Stay tuned.

In February, I’d completed a fun class on bird-friendly gardens, sponsored by the Seattle Audubon and Tilth Alliance, and now I’m currently working my way through their book Your Farm in the City: An Urban Dweller’s Guide to Growing Food and Raising Animals. On Insta, I’d recommended another book, Maritime Northwest Garden Guide, a simple but useful primer for new gardeners. A publication I’d discovered – YES! magazine, published this heart-warming article The Tale of the Hamlet – highlighting the joy, nourishment, and connection provided by a community’s front (and back) yard edible gardens. And I just found this article about how neighbors in my own community of South Seattle came together to target food insecurity.

Today is the last day of National Nutritional Awareness Month. Much gratitude to the many experienced nutritionists and dietitians that center Health at Every Size and size inclusivity in their treatment philosophy. I also appreciated this brief article in my local Seattle Times paper on “personalizing our plates” in ways that are satisfying and culturally relevant.

Throughout March, I reviewed a variety of videos on mindful eating and as I outlined in a previous post, explored examples of how BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) leaders apply mindful eating in their own communities.

“Mindful meals are a simple and concrete way to immediately take a step forward. We focus on diet, but we do so in a way that focuses on community and puts you in touch with others. One of the most powerful ways to reduce stress is by joining in compassionate relationships with others. The power of family and community to reduce stress and promote healing is enormous. So, immediately through the process of community food, we are building a foundation for social change.”

David Castro,

Another video segment I revisited was from Room to Breath, a charming documentary on teaching mindfulness skills to young children. This scene reminds me of the time I visited my daughter’s class when she was in kindergarten, to lead a mindful eating exercise. Oh, the many places a five-year-old can stick a raisin!

I enjoy Krista Tippett from NPR’s On Being so I was very pleasantly surprised to discover the following interview with chef Dan Barber, filmed at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, a historic synagogue in Indiana. My Jewish heart swelled. (Representation really makes a difference, friends.) Although recorded over ten years ago, this talk is still relevant and engaging. I absolutely agree with Barber’s comments about making dinner plans more realistic and accessible – and yet still centering it as much as possible in family life.

Finally, Dr. Jan Chozen Bays was one of my earliest mindful eating teachers, and she’s a pioneer in the field, so I always like to share her work. You can check out her offerings (and participate in one of her courses) here.

A while ago, I discovered this comprehensive article with extensive resources on mindful eating, worth passing along – more than you could ever need on the topic, and well-curated.

Still related to mindful eating – but also parenting, food literacy, and food citizenship, I’ve discovered Waffles & Mochi on Netflix. My tween rolls her eyes when she catches me watching it but seriously, I’m in love. So sweet to find Michelle Obama starring in a show that includes some of my personal foodie favorites, such as Samin Nosrat and Michael Tweety. A show. Just. For. Me.

I mean, obviously, it’s designed for kids and their families. Obviously. 🙂

And while I’m on the topic of general yumminess, a few images I savored and shared on social media in March:

I’m in the process of reviewing Bryant & Vrtoff’s research-oriented book, Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, but this article Is Savoring the New Mindfulness? highlights the many benefits (and potential limitations) of a savoring practice. However, one thing I noticed – and I’m wondering if Bryant was quoted accurately when he defined savoring in this way – is the tendency to emphasize “clinging” to our pleasurable experiences, which generally isn’t recommended in most mindfulness-based approaches.

(When’s the last time you’ve tried to “cling” to positive experiences? Give it a try – I suspect that you’ll have the same experience many do when we attempt to hold on too tightly:

Oh, this is good, good, good….oh darn, it’s going away…oh no!, it’s gone….not so pleasurable, now…in fact, here’s suffering, while I long for that pleasurable experience now passed…why, oh why, can’t I always stay happy?I must be doing this savoring thing incorrectly…what’s wrong with me?!).

I’ve spent the past twenty years researching, practicing, and teaching mindfulness skills in many forms, and I have to say – I’m very hopeful about the future of savoring practices, especially in the context of positive psychology-related interventions. Similar to the tools of mindfulness and self-compassion, savoring can help increase the awareness of our full experience, connect us positively to our bodies, and combat the harmful effects of our tendency to become ensnared in negativity. So as long as we maintain realistic expectations about the benefits of savoring (it won’t rid us of the painfulness of being human, shouldn’t be used as a form of experiential avoidance, and sometimes we need to turn to another strategy instead), such practices have utility in our toolbox of life skills.

Suggestion for a quick daily savoring practice:

  • Position yourself next to a window.
  • For few seconds, allow your eyes to take in the entire scene, a “wide lens” gaze, without focusing upon any one detail. You might play with following the frameline of the window, as an outline for your view.
  • Observe brightness, colors, textures – even sounds. Listen and gaze for a handful of seconds. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back, like a curious puppy or an adventureous child.
  • After this initial scan, gradually direct your attention more intentionally (as if it were the beam of a flashlight) to one aspect outside the window that you find particularly interesting or pleasurable. Notice as much as you can about the experience. Drink in those specific details.
  • Notice any thoughts, feelings, and/or sensations that arise in the mind or body, in response to this pleasant experience.
  • Then, just as we might mindfully chew and swallow a delicious bit of food, and move on, practice letting go of this experience. Move back into the river of your day.
  • If you notice a bit of longing or resistance to letting go, acknowledge this fact: I might like more of this pleasure or joy. Keep an eye out for additional opportunities to become fully, pleasurably present throughout your day. Remind yourself of what is possible outside your window – and in your life.

*Disclaimer: Resources shared in these SAVOR weekly digests are not meant to be a professional endorsement, or a substitute for medical or psychological treatment. Always seek consultation with a licensed healthcare professional if you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

Dr. Dawnn McWatters, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist (WA), adult educator, and long-time edible gardener. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington, with her biracial, interfaith family, and a wild, constantly changing assortment of plants and pets.

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