Remember being in school and a teacher telling you to really pay attention to something because it will be on the test? In my work at the university we’re trying to make sure that that is not the focus of learning because you probably won’t remember any of that knowledge a few months later, but when someone tells you to pay attention to something specifically because you’ll need to remember it later in the day, you tend to pay attention.  This might also include things like who did you talk to today (maybe you’ll need an alibi) or what did you eat today because you’ll need to write it in your food journal. 

I’ve written previously about my habit of noting my gratitudes in the morning and in the evening, and that I write my “wins / made me smile” and “challenges” in my planner at the end of the day. Sometimes I write something in those “wins” and “challenges” columns during the day when I have the time and I know I want to include that. Yesterday, in a meeting with a professor I gave her an idea for a change to her course that made her very happy. That went in my “win” column. So did that I had a lot of fun at my daughter’s baseball game last night.

By having a practice of noting those “wins / made me smile” and gratitudes every evening I find that I’m more likely to notice those things that “make me smile” or that I’m grateful for throughout the day because, well I have to have something to write in those space. The benefit of seeing those things as my days goes on is that it helps to keep me in a more positive mindset.  If I wasn’t set on writing these things down before I go to sleep, they might slip by me and I may be more likely to focus on the negative things that happened that day, not only making me feel pretty bad about the day, but also a kind of miserable person to be around.

This practice, along with meditating (190 days in a row and counting), has made me at least a bit more present in the moment throughout my day. I’m more likely to see the good things, but also have become more aware of what things are “triggers” for pulling my mood down and how I’m responding. For someone who has been dealing with depression and some anxiety, all of this awareness (the good and the bad) is invaluable, but it’s also useful for people who aren’t dealing with these challenges, so I recommend giving the practices that I’ve described above some serious consideration.

Featured image courtesy of Vic under a CC-BY license.

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