Simple daily 5 minute mindfulness activity

There are close relationships between learning, forming new habits and wellbeing, and whenever I come across something that explores these themes I often find myself curious to know more! I recently came across a post entitled ‘A 5 minute mindfulness exercise that’s ideal for skeptics and grumps’! (Melody Wilding) and it caught my eye! Not because I think of myself as a skeptic – or a grump (well – not every day anyway!) – but because I have a tendency towards practicality; i.e. yes, that is interesting, but what could I do with this information that is of value?

The post explored some of the positive psychology findings, exploring

  • the importance of noticing and savouring positive emotions – gratitude in particular,
  • not being a ‘Pollyanna’ about negative emotions – learning to cope with and learn from them rather than to ignore them, and
  • the need to recognise personal achievements or those of others – here described as the ‘hero’ moment.


It prompted me to pull together an information visual that reflects 4 themes of reflection that I find of value:


a) Today’s High – What went well?

In the spirit of the gratitude concept, the ‘What went well?’ question encourages you to savour something good about the day. Our lives can be so busy that we regularly don’t stop to notice things; we quickly move on to the next item on the ‘to do list’. Studies have shown that doing this, ideally finding and savouring 3 things that have gone well – can have an extremely positive impact on your wellbeing. (See a previous post called : The power of noticing good things at work).  It helps you to recognise your strengths, and prompts you to find ways to use more of your strengths each day. It can also help you to activate the thinking – learning – part of the brain.

Tied in to the 3:1 ratio for positive:negative emotions shared by Professor Barbara Fredrickson, humans need a ratio of at least 3 positive emotions to every negative one if they are to ‘flourish’. Sometimes called the Losada ratio, studies have shown a ratio of less than 3 positive emotions to every negative one decreases one’s resilience. Notice the ratio is not 3:0 – it is ok to have negative emotions. Hence the next question…

b) Today’s Low – What didn’t go so well? What will I do differently next time?

Humans are wired to have a negativity bias. Our kids are living proof. Rather than focusing on the 99% they get right, they obsess about the 1% they get wrong! Humans attach more weight to the negative feelings. But it is naïve to try to ignore them – in fact negative feelings are necessary. By asking ‘What didn’t go so well?’ we can trigger learning that inspires us to find better ways.

c) Today’s Smile – Who or what made me smile today? or What made me feel proud today?

The ‘What / who made me smile today?’ question is a bit similar to the ‘Today’s High’ question, but it offers an opportunity to explore one of the other building blocks of wellbeingPERMA – P – positive emotion, E – engagement, R – relationships, M – meaning, A – achievement (Martin Seligman).

It might trigger a moment of recognition of being lost in what you were doing (engagement), the help a team member gave you (relationships), the steps forward you made on a project (progress towards achievement) or the idea you shared that contributed to making a customer satisfied (meaning). And if you can’t think of an answer to the first – try the second – ‘What made me feel proud today?’ It might be what your team did, or something as simple as someone giving up their seat for someone else on the train – it does not have to be a work thing.

d) About Tomorrow – What am I looking forward to?

And the final question ‘What am I looking forward to?’ triggers feelings of inspiration, curiosity and / or hope. Another contribution to your 3:1…these are positive emotions too!

Form a new habit that is good for you!

Reflecting on these 4 themes at the end of the day need only take you 5 minutes. You may think about the questions and answers before you leave for the day, or sometime before you head to bed. You may even think about writing the answers down – and re-read them on another day when you need a bit of a ‘pick me up’.

As we’ve written about before, forming new habits, even those with the best of intention, can be tricky. So try hitching (associating) them to something else you already do – like turning off your laptop at the end of the day, or your last coffee.

Reflecting on these 4 themes of questions – for 5 minutes each day – is, as Melody writes, a “balanced way to take stock of the okay, the great, and the to-be-improved.”

Other blogs that may interest you:

The power of noticing good things at work

So Mindfulness is good for me…but how can I make it part of my day?

Ideas to help fuel positive emotions

Word tag – Wellbeing