The 5-Minute Practice That Changed My Outlook (No Meditation Required)

The 5-Minute Practice That Changed My Outlook (No Meditation Required) Hero Image

I’m spending the month exploring stress-busting mindfulness techniques, thanks to Aetna’s Month of Mindfulness — a 30-day program created to help people experience how mindfulness reduces stress and boosts health.

My challenge today was to start on the path to mindfulness by focusing on my emotions and thoughts. We spend all day thinking and feeling yet rarely pause to be aware of and try to course-correct our minds. This pattern was evident right when I woke up. The idea is that by recognizing your thoughts, you can begin to gain control over them to help better your life rather than let your thoughts control you. Easier said than done!

As I lay in bed in a post-alarm haze, my mind raced. I felt anxious about what I should pack for my ski vacation tomorrow, swamped with all the work I needed to do to prepare, and — wait for it — worried about the produce in my fridge that magically needed to disappear in 24 hours.

But then I decided that a paralyzing thought spiral was probably not the textbook definition of “emotional awareness.” So I pulled out my journal.

My dear friend Emily just moved to San Francisco and gave me a beautiful, personalized journal as a parting gift. I often make such objects so precious that they go unused. But this morning I felt drawn to the virgin pages and began writing about everything I was grateful for: a loving family, my ability to be active, the cup of coffee waiting for me at a job I enjoy. I wrote for five solid minutes and felt light as a feather when I finished. Writing all my blessings in one place made me realize how fortunate I am.

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I took a photo of the page, sent it to a few friends, and asked them to send me the image back if I ever felt down in the dumps. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with one friend even exclaiming, "Wow, you DO have a lot to be thankful for! This is a great list, and I'll keep it in a safe place for you." The outpouring of love and connection made my heart overflow with gratitude.

The best part? Everything worked out, even without me worrying about it. (You’d think I would have learned by now!) I got home on time that night and was able to accomplish my pre-vacation errands. I even made a version of this roasted fall vegetable recipe with the remnants of last week’s Trader Joe’s run!

Want to join me and explore how emotional awareness can help reduce stress? Visit aetnamindfulness.com to participate and learn more.

This post was sponsored by Aetna, who believes health is about the body and the mind. Stress can affect emotional and physical health, and reducing stress can boost well-being. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blogger's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Aetna. To learn more about stress reduction, visit aetnamindfulness.com.

Photo by Chloe Bulpin, mbg Creative