Your Thoughts Matter – a 4-H Project

Mental health matters for everyone. Mental health is not the same thing as the absence of a mental illness. Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Just like health doesn’t mean only the absence of disease, positive mental health doesn’t mean that people are always stress free and happy. Positive feelings alone aren’t enough (especially because there are some not-so-healthy ways to feel good). It means still being able to function when facing challenging times and knowing how to get support when you need it. You can also learn how to help others when needed.

We are encouraged to take care of our physical health before we feel sick. We may take advice to eat well, exercise, and try to get enough sleep to help maintain overall wellness. What if we took the same approach to mental health? Just as you may work to keep your body healthy, you can also work to keep your mind healthy.

One way to learn more about mental health is the Your Thoughts Matter: Navigating Mental Health 4-H project. Your Thoughts Matter is an advanced-level 4-H project designed for youth who are interested in learning more about mental health, why it is important to overall well-being, and steps that promote more positive understanding and action.

Topics in the Your Thoughts Matter project include:

  • What is Mental Health?: What mental health means and its impact on those around us
  • Mental Health Disorders: The difference among some common but serious mental health disorders
  • Stigma: How society communicates about mental health in casual speech and in the media
  • Self-Help and Resources: Self-help and becoming part of the solution

In this project, you will be prompted to complete all 10 activities and all the Talking It Over questions, take part in at least two learning experiences, become involved in at least two leadership/citizenship activities, and complete a project review.

Today’s Take-Away: You can listen to this short video for a project review. In this video, Luke Uhlenbrock, a 4-H member from Clermont County, gives an overview of the project and shares his thoughts about participating in the Your Thoughts Matter virtual SPIN Club last year.

This project book is currently available for download on the Stay-at-Home Projects page on the Ohio 4-H website. In addition, another virtual SPIN (Special Interest) Club will be offered later this year. We will share the dates when they become available.

You can also access other Mental Health Month resources on our Ohio 4-H webpage. Come back here for more information and ideas.

Yours in Health,


Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

Getting Started in Mindfulness

hands hold mug of tea

        Getting Started in Mindfulness

Mindfulness has become a popular term. But what exactly is it? Mindfulness is the ongoing process of paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judging. How can you get started in mindfulness?

To start, let’s break down this definition:

  • On purpose – Doing something on purpose, or being intentional, means you don’t leave it to chance. You make it a priority to use mindfulness techniques and to go about your day in a mindful manner.
  • In the present moment – Often we are worried about things that happened in the past or might happen in the future. This worry overtakes us to the point where we can’t focus on the present. Being mindful means that we focus on what we are experiencing in the here and now. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think ahead and plan, because that’s important too.
  • Without judging – Sometimes we are so hard on ourselves. We get down on ourselves for not doing better and then feel like a failure. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t “make the best better” and try to improve our skills. It means we need to be kind to ourselves, because these negative thoughts can actually have the opposite effect – we give up trying to do better. Without judging also applies to how we approach others.

We are also often quick to judge others and their motives. I try (but don’t always succeed) to give people the benefit of the doubt, and hope that people will extend that same consideration to me when I’m having a bad day. I was reminded of this one time on an airplane trip a few years ago. The woman next to me had the air blasting and was fanning herself. I did an internal eyeroll and thought to myself, “This is going to be a long flight.” As we were nearing the end of the trip, we struck up a conversation. It turned out she had been flying all day and was on her way to a funeral of a family member. Boy, did that put me in my place. You never know what someone else is dealing with that might explain their actions. At least I kept my thoughts to myself and didn’t say anything mean to her. It was a good reminder to withhold my judgment. And if there is anything that 2020 taught us, it’s to approach life with a healthy dose of grace.

            Watch: Everyday Mindfulness

Today’s Take-Away: This short video explains what everyday mindfulness is, and how being aware of what is going on around you and inside of you can help make life more enjoyable and less stressful.

Why mindfulness? Research shows that mindfulness can improve mental health and well-being. When young people learn and practice techniques for mindfulness, it can help them pay attention, which can lead to better school performance. It can also reduce stress levels.

As Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, reminds us in her Introduction to Mindfulness fact sheet, the purpose of practicing mindfulness exercises on a regular basis is not necessarily to get better at it. The goal of the practice is to make mindfulness a habit or routine as part of a healthy lifestyle. As the 4-H slogan says, we “learn by doing.” As with anything new, it can take a while for these techniques to seem natural and become part of your routine.

To Learn More…

Mindfulness is a way to bring connection between the brain, mind, body, and behavior. In yesterday’s post, I shared the upcoming Healthy Body Healthy Mind SPIN Club. The activities in this SPIN Club, such as yoga and breathing exercises, will help you learn some mindfulness techniques. This SPIN club is a great place to start your mindfulness practice.

Extension Educators Shannon Carter and Pamela Montgomery will be offering a program next week to introduce teen volunteers, adult volunteers, and 4-H parents to the concept of mindfulness. The Mindful Wellness program will be held on January 12 from 5:30-6:30pm. This one-time program is designed to equip healthy people with practices and skills to strengthen the mind and body connection and promote holistic health and wellness across the lifespan.

  • When: January 12 from 5:30-6:30pm
  • Where: Zoom (link sent after registering)
  • Who: Designed for adult volunteers, teen volunteers, and 4-H parents
  • What: Extension Educators Shannon Carter and Pamela Montgomery will lead this session.
  • Cost: It’s free to participate.
  • Register here.

It’s never too early to encourage the practice of mindfulness. In her Cloverbud Connections article, Aubry Fowler, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Fairfield County, shares some ideas for working with Cloverbuds (ages 5 to 8).

We’ll revisit the topic of mindfulness as part of Ohio 4-H’s Mental Health Month. Come back for more information and ideas!

Yours in Health,