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Today's 'Just Notice' Challenge: Cataloging the Contents of Your Mind

This "Just Notice" Challenge will help you increase your ability to notice and label your thoughts, emotions, sensations, and action urges.  Increased ability to observe and label internal experiences assists with self-awareness and emotion regulation.

​In the previous "Just Notice" Challenge, humans (often at the mercy of their minds) were likened to fish. That's right... fish. Wait! Don't go! Let me explain... Fish don't 'know' they are under water, they just swim. Similarly, we 'swim' in our thoughts, often largely unaware of the thought content responsible for our emotions, urges, and choices (until it's too late, right?!). Consider whether this is true, in your experience. Go ahead - take a moment! And, if you didn't catch the previous challenge ("What's In Your Water?"), be sure to check it out at

Perhaps you would like to live a more present-focused life - showing up for the moments that really matter to you. Or maybe you have started down a path of learning to experience and respond to your emotions more effectively, in order to be less afraid of your anger, anxiety, or sadness and better able to respond to situations in a values-consistent manner. Either way, this "Just Notice" Challenge is for you.

Your task: As thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, action urges, memories, or evaluations/judgments show up, assign them to a category, much like you would assign them to a drawer in a filing cabinet. Take a moment to picture this in your mind's eye. One file for thoughts. Another file for feelings, and so on. For example, if you experience the emotion of anger when your toddler kicks the family cat, label this, "Emotion" (do not call out the specific thought or emotion; instead, focus on the category to which the content belongs). If you observe a physical sensation of increased heart rate when you realize the exam you thought was next week is actually at 3:00 this afternoon, label this, "Sensation." Let's say you make a mistake related to a group project at your place of work, and your mind gives you this: "I can't do anything right. I shouldn't even bother asking for a raise. I don't deserve one anyway." What file drawer would you pull out? That's right - "Evaluation" or "Judgment." Say these categories aloud if you are able. Once you start this exercise, see if you can stay with it for a few minutes. If you notice it's been quiet for a stretch, see if you haven't been hooked by a thought or feeling that's taking you for a ride. Then gently come back to the exercise.

Take a moment to consider the potential impact of this exercise, if practiced with some regularity. What kind of a difference could this make in your life? Are you ready to find out? Just notice, and observe what happens next.

For more on this topic, check out this great video:

Want more "Just Notice" challenges? Check back at

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