Exercises

4-1-1 Journal

What is the 4-1-1 Journal?

The 4-1-1 Journal is a 2-part journal.  The first part is gratitude and the second is goal setting.

The 4-1-1 Journal is a combination of a short list of things for which you are grateful today, as well as what step you’ve taken toward accomplishing short-term or long-term goals that you have.

Make daily journal entries.  Be mindful.  Stay focused.

What does 4-1-1 mean?

What will success look like for you when you look back with gratitude at the fruits of all your labor? 

For one won!  Accomplishing your goals and having dreams come true can be considered a win.  An important part of this exercise is to have goals.  Perhaps in the back of the journal or spiral notebook that you’re using, create your list of short-term and long-term goals.  You might even add photos of what you want your life to be like in the future.  A vision board or dream board is another valuable technique for listing your goals or dreams or how your ideal life might appear. 

Goals may consist of different types such as educational, financial, spiritual, career or relationship, just to name a few categories.  These goals may include a bucket list of travel destinations or a new car or a new home.  Other goals might be learning a new language or books you always wanted to read.  You might include fears you wanted to overcome or you may want to be more mindful or meditate regularly.  You might have a goal of becoming healthier, physically fit, or more active.  Contemplate on the different ways you strive to better your life.

What am I grateful for today?

The first section, the 4 of the 4-1-1 Journal, is used to keep a journal of gratitude.  List four (4) things that come to mind in your morning or evening routine of meditation.  This might include your home or things in your home for which you are grateful: running water, electricity, or security.  Other items of gratitude might include the food you eat or the water you drink.  You might be grateful for relationships with friends or family.  Attributes or characteristics such as your health or strength might make your daily list.  You might even add items related to your goals.  The world is filled with abundance and there are abundant reasons to be grateful.  The more you are thankful, the more you will recognize.

What have I accomplished today?

The second section, the 1-1 of the 4-1-1 Journal, is used to list one (1) goal or picture from your vision board and then identify just one (1) step you’ve taken to get closer to that goal.  If you’ve accomplished more, that’s great.  List everything you might have done toward your goal.  Examples might include a travel destination and that plan you made or phone number you called or research you completed for that vacation.  If you’re saving for a new car or a new home, include that and the money you set aside or what you sacrificed to save that extra money.  You might list an exercise you performed in your effort to achieve your health goal.  Your accomplishments can be as expansive as your goals.

Box Breathing

Steps for Box Breathing

According to Healthline.com, Box Breathing is a technique used when taking slow, deep breaths.  It can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever.  Box breathing has also been called square breathing or four-square breathing.

This is not a medical website, so I won’t be getting into medical descriptions beyond my expertise. There’s enough information out there on breathing exercises for you to research on your own.  Please just know and trust that there are many benefits to breathing practices.  Some research on deep breathing suggests that these techniques are useful for stress management as well as for reducing blood pressure and minimizing hypertension.  According to the Mayo Clinic, you can decrease stress by using your breath.  Breath practices are a great meditative way to become more in touch with your mind, body and spirit.

You can also incorporate visualization or mental imagery to achieve a more relaxed state of mind.  Imagine your lungs are a balloon, expanding and contracting with each breath.  Or, the calming ebb and flow of the tide gently washing onto and away from a warm tropical beach.  You may also imagine colors as you inhale positivity and exhale negativity or stress.  Perhaps use an affirmation or a mantra with each step of the box breathing.  Inhale with “I am!” Then, hold it while reciting a mantra to yourself; such as “positive energy.”  Exhale with, “I am that!” And, hold your breath while repeating the entire sentence, “I am positive energy, I am that!”  Then, repeat this pattern for several minutes.

While box breathing does not offer the benefits of physical exercise or meditation, it definitely has its place as a stress management technique.  It’s very easy to learn and simple to practice.  You can do your box breathing exercises just about anywhere at any time; while showering, watching tv, even when you’re at work.

To get started, it is ideal to find a quiet location with minimal distractions where you can focus on your breathing.  Begin by sitting in an upright position if you are able, either on the floor or in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor.

  1. Start by exhaling, through your mouth, to get as much oxygen out of your lungs as you can.  Focus on your breath while counting to four, with each of the steps.
  2. Then, inhale, a slow and deep breath through your nose.  Continue your inhale until your lungs are full and you feel your abdomen expand.
  3. Hold your breath with another count to four.
  4. Again, exhale through your mouth for the same count of four, trying to expel all of the air from your lungs and abdomen.
  5. Lastly, again, hold your breath for that same count of four before repeating the process.

5-4-3-2-1 Grounding

Steps for the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise

From stress to anxiety to simple day dreaming, there are many factors that may derail you from your attempts at mindfulness.  Regaining focus, also known as grounding, would be redirecting your attention back to the present.  There are many techniques to help you to stay in the moment, reset your ability to concentrate on a particular task or take your mind off of any stress caused by worrying about a past or future event.

The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is useful for anyone at any age.  This might even be a good game for children – if you’re trying to help them to recover from distraction.  There is no preparation or knowledge of mindfulness required to perform this grounding technique.  This exercise revolves around your five senses and can be performed almost anywhere at any time; inside your home, outside, from your porch or apartment balcony, in your car, or at work or school. 

My recommendation with any mindfulness exercise is to always begin by focusing on your breathing.  Take a few deep breaths to help calm your inner being.  Then, for the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise, let your attention gravitate to your surrounding environment.

First, on the list is five (5) things you can see.  Look for five things that you can readily see from where you’re sitting or standing.  These can be living or inanimate objects such as people, plants or automobiles.  Take note of what might be right in front of you.  This will help you to take your mind off of distracting thoughts that may be affecting your sense of calm. 

Then, locate four (4) items within your reach, objects that you can touch and feel.  Focus on the texture and temperature of these items.  These objects might include the mouse of your computer, the chair where you’re seated, a guard rail or the wall – inside or outside.  Some schools of thought also include the feeling of your butt sitting in your chair or the way your feet feel in the shoes you’re wearing – or, even your bare feet on the floor or ground beneath you.

Next, listen to three (3) sounds that you can hear.  These sounds could, again, be from living or inanimate objects, such as birds, people talking nearby, the sound of distant traffic or a train, it might even be the sound of the wind blowing through trees.  Just observe …

Then, move your attention to two (2) scents that you can smell.  There might be an aroma in the air from food cooking, or a candle burning.  If you have difficulty finding scents, try to focus on yourself; your skin, your hair or your clothes.

Finally, what you can taste on your tongue or in your mouth.  This might be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth, the lingering flavor of what you recently ate or drank.

Lastly, take note of how you now feel after you inventoried your five senses.  Should your mind immediately return to the stresses or worries of your day or life, maybe walk yourself through the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise once more…

Ten Dollar Rule

In an essay by Benjamin Franklin, printed July 21, 1748, he wrote, “Remember that Time is Money…”  Further on, in that same essay, he concluded, “Waste neither Time nor Money, but make the best use of both.” 

Nearly 300 years later, we still subscribe to the same school of thought.  And, research would suggest that this was not a new concept 300 years ago.  For centuries, or even millennia perhaps, time and money have been inextricably connected.

When I was in college, anticipating that for myself, one day time would equal money; I incorporated this new Ten Dollar Rule.  I applied it to my projects and exams.  The Ten Dollar Rule works like this:  If I only have $10 to spend for any given timeframe, how will I allocate my resources?  Two dollars for studying the most recent chapter and eight for praying that most recent chapter was the only material that would appear on the exam? 

So, for me the Ten Dollar Rule addressed preparation.  How much time will I spend to prepare?  This logic can be applied to so many areas of life, and for me still does.  How much time is spent on a morning routine?  How much is spent on planning for work projects?  How much for any simple daily activity or major life milestone?

In another example, how much should be spent in the morning?  I’d suggest spending a few dollars on exercise, a few more on meditation.  Spend a few to prepare and eat a healthy breakfast.  And, the last few to shower and dress.

Another metaphor is how much energy are you willing to spend on any given situation.  You only have ten bucks, why waste any on worrying or complaining?  From my years of experience with IT helpdesk questions, I’ve concluded that I won’t waste any money or energy, on formulating an opinion, a feeling or any judgment about the call or caller.  I no longer spend money on taking anything personally.  Instead, I try to spend all of my $10 on finding a solution.

Use your energy in a mindful way. Respond mindfully. Don’t be reactive. When walking through a door, have you ever pushed on the left side of the bar and had difficulty, only to look up to see the hinge in the upper left? Plan ahead, look to where the hinge is before opening the door. Be present in the moment and notice your thoughts and feelings. Remember that you don’t have much to spend, only $10. Being mindful will help you take an extra moment, maybe even to just breathe, before you respond to any given situation.

Put simply, time is money and money is time: spend wisely.  There are plenty of time-honored phrases about the importance or significance of time.  Time flies.  Time hangs heavy.  Timing is everything.  Time is of the essence.  For the purpose of this blog, my time is up.

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