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By Emily Sommers, MSW – September 3, 2019

Mindfulness, simply put, means paying attention to the present. It means taking a step back and noticing the world around you and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings.

With practice, mindfulness can help both adults and children cope with stress and anxiety, and it has been shown to have positive effects on both physical and mental health. 

Many students I work with enjoy mindfulness through journaling. However, as much as they may like to write and express themselves, many have much difficulty getting started. I truly understand that “block,” because I have experienced this before as well. 

Several years ago a colleague and I were inspired to take a journaling class taught by local journaling expert Barbara Stahura. Barbara’s love for journaling planted many seeds and inspired me to use a tool that means so much to me to this day. 

What I did not know, and was excited to learn, was that this tool could provide a certain emotional, physical, and mental release. I personally use it and continue to develop on this tool in my own practice of mindfulness. 

Journaling has become a very big part of my own self-care. I am also able to teach it to students and adults that I get to serve in the capacity of supports provided through Youth First. 

One of my favorite journaling techniques is tapping into something I will call “a non-negotiable” – gratitude. I have found so many different ways to tap into gratitude through journaling.

Within the last year, I was provided a profound and simple suggestion I want to share with you that was a game-changer in the way I look at my gratitude list today. It is the self-reflective question, “What happened today that made me smile?”

That one-liner prompt written at the top of the page with some willingness to shut off any possible distraction can provide an oasis of positivity that is the best dose of goodness one can give themselves.  

I encourage you to try this for yourself! All it really takes is some willingness, honest reflection and open-mindedness to go within yourself about what happened in the course of the day that simply made you smile. 

Sharing this technique as it was shared with me can create that “a-ha” moment for others too, and once practiced becomes even more convincing. 

I would also like to encourage a suggested technique to test just how good this business of mindfulness is and to pre-measure feelings before doing the journaling activity, or any mindfulness activity for that matter. 

List a few feelings you are experiencing. For example, your list might include, “tired, stressed, and overwhelmed.” Complete the mindfulness activity whether it is journaling or another form of mindfulness that appeals to you.

The next step is to post-measure your feelings after doing the activity. List a few feelings you are experiencing immediately afterward. 

Often there is a shift that takes place within the way one feels and many will share feeling more relaxed, calmer, and happier. The results are undeniable and very encouraging. 

Gratitude does have a contagious element to it and could be just the key to establishing that dose of mindfulness needed. Go grab a pen see what happens for you!