Making Observations and Being Mindful // Trina O'Gorman

Making Observations and Being Mindful // Trina O'Gorman

Expressive writing, writing about our feelings, can be very beneficial to our well-being. Studies have confirmed this and there is a plethora of anecdotal evidence out there to support its usefulness. I advocate the use of this type of writing, on a regular basis; but, I find that it is not the only type of writing that is uplifting and that should be part of a robust and lifelong personal writing journey. Observational writing, I like to call them “field notes,” are real-time notes taken about our daily experiences and observations, as well as reflective notes about what we’ve experienced and observed. This kind of writing has an amazing way of “opening our eyes,” and, in fact, igniting all of our senses to increase our awareness of the world around us.


  • I woke up at 4:57, minutes before my alarm. I’m so sleepy. Maybe a cup of coffee will help. Intelligentsia House Blend is so good, even the smell of that coffee alone makes me happy. 
  • There are stacks of papers lined up on the floor in the dining room, and it’s driving me bonkers. I have to get to those. I seriously need to come up with a better system of dealing with those daily. 
  • I’m straining to figure out what this guy at Java Love does for a living. He’s here every time I come. This must be his “office.” 

  • Taking Notes

    Children are natural-born scientists and approach the world with their eyes wide open. They see and question things that we as adults no longer see. Go out with a child and you’ll find yourself being asked, “What’s this…?” and “What’s that…?” over and over again, sometimes to our own annoyance, because we don’t see the world around us. A lot of us are too bogged down in our own thoughts to even pay attention, and when our thinking is interrupted with so many questions, we feel anxious. And yet, the child is present, living in the now, and would like for us to be there too, so we can experience the world around us! Let us, in this way, be more childlike in our thinking, full of enthusiasm and curiosity every day. 
    What are you seeing, hearing, feeling, and even smelling? Jot things down, from time to time, in your notebook or on a piece of paper to think about later. Jotting down these observations should not become a process that is obtrusive, but rather part of the experience itself. Simple notes, that don’t need to be written in any special way. Just musings. Do not let them overshadow being in the moment/being present.
    There is no limit to how many observations I will make throughout the course of a day. Some days, I may make five observations, and others days I will have written a dozen or more notes and observations before I end my day. I think these observations are probably the most important way that I use my daily notebook. I believe that paying attention to what I am perceiving, helps me to gain insight into and have a better perception of my life and my experiences. 
    We are what we perceive and what we think. But the majority of our thoughts and perceptions are like white noise. We are making hundreds of observations a minute, as we take in the world around us, but most of it is done on a very subconscious level. We are literally bombarded with input that we don’t even realize we are taking in. Writing down notes about what I’m seeing and hearing and feeling, gives me the opportunity to truly pay attention to the world around me. 
    At the end of the day, for ten or fifteen minutes, I like to sit and recap my day. At this time, I will make even more observations, capturing little snippets of memories from the day. And then, if I am inspired, I will jot down what lessons I have learned from the day. Typically, I will jot these lessons on small, separate pieces of paper, that I will clip, tape, or adhere, to a page in my notebook, the mirror in my bathroom, a wall in my house, or stick in one of my son’s lunchboxes. Articulating my own personal life lessons has boosted my self-esteem tremendously over the years, as it has awakened my inner sage. I think all of us possess wisdom or can possess great wisdom if we give thought to our experiences and then extrapolate the lessons from these experiences.

    The Format

    My observations are usually a bulleted list on a dated page, and they are kept pretty simple. I try to add as many sensory details as I can to help me remember in the future., i.e., What am I hearing? What am I seeing? Smelling? Tasting? Feeling?

    After I write my notes, I then take a few minutes to think about any lessons that I might have learned. These lessons give meaning to my life and give me a chance to really process and appreciate my life experiences. It is an amazing boost to one’s well-being and self-confidence to know that one has drawn some meaning and some lessons from life. Far too often, people feel like their circumstances are controlling their very existence, and this can cause anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. But going through life, with greater intention and eyes wide open, can awaken us to just how amazing this journey is!

    Written by: 
    Trina O'Gorman


    • Jenny E: May 03, 2018
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      Thank you for the inspiration to have a meaningful and mindful day!

    • Diana Taylor: May 03, 2018
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      I really liked this article. It gave me have an idea of what to add to my daily note taking journey! Thanks for sharing!

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