The Coping Kete

Category Archives: Mindful Distraction

No. 161: Laughter Yoga

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice laughter yoga every day. Laughter yoga is the practice of deliberate, voluntary laughter. The idea is that forced laughter soon turns into real laughter and has the same benefits for body, mind and mood that spontaneous laughter does. Laughing on purpose can help us learn how to create laughter from the inside and how to use laughter to shift our moods, rather than waiting for our moods to shift before we can laugh. Laughter yoga is usually practiced in groups. We get the most benefit if we can laugh vigorously for 20-30 minutes, according to Laughter Yoga Aotearoa New Zealand. Natural laughter usually comes in bursts and this why practicing in groups can help. But there’s no reason why we can’t also practice laughter yoga alone, using a few simple exercises to get us started.

This week I will schedule time to practice laughing for no reason, without needing something ‘out there’ to make me laugh. It might help to start with just a few minutes and build up to 10, then 20, then 30. I might also need to warn the people I live with to expect to hear some loud laughter coming from my room for a while – they might even want to join me. Laughter yoga is something that can wake my body up, so I won’t schedule my practice time right before bed, unless I find that it tends to make me feel relaxed and tired afterwards. It will probably feel strange to do this at first, but that’s okay. This week, I give myself permission to be silly for a brief time each day.

To practice laughter yoga, I will do some simple exercises that involve forced, extending laughing.

  1. Take a Laughter Drink
    • Standing up straight, feet hip-width apart, I will raise one hand in front of me as if I am holding an imaginary (and bottomless) cup full of laughter.  I will take a deep breath into the bottom of my belly, then ‘pour’ the laughter into my mouth for the entire out-breath. As I tip the ‘cup’ into my mouth and breath out I will force myself to laugh out loud as I ‘pour’ more of the laughter out of the cup. I will repeat this for ten breaths in and ten breaths out, trying to pour more and more laughter out of the cup each time.
    • This time I will imagine the cup is full of different kinds of laughter. The light, giggling laughter is floating on the top, the deepest belly laughter is sitting on bottom. This time, when I tip the cup to my mouth, I will start with light tee-hees and move through the whole range of laughs until I get to the loudest, deepest ha-ha-has. With each cycle of breaths, I will try to laugh for a little bit longer.
  2. Laughter Balloons
    • Standing with my back straight and my feet hip-width apart, I will place both palms flat on my belly and imagine I am holding a giant, empty balloon against my stomach. This time, on my first out-breath my laughter will fill the balloon, until my arms are stretched out in a circle in front of me. Then I will take a deep breath in and slowly release the laughter out of the balloon on my next out-breath, laughing out loud until the balloon is emptied and my palms are once again flat on my belly. I will repeat this two-step process five to ten times, aiming to laugh for longer each time.
  3. Laughter Hand-Ball
    • Standing with my back straight and my feet hip-width apart, facing a wall, I will pretend I have a laughter ball in my hands. I will take a deep breath in and on the out-breath, I will ‘throw’ the ball at the wall with a burst of laughter, and ‘catch’ the ball when it bounces back with another burst of laughter. The louder my laugh, the faster the ball will travel. I’ll experiment with a different kind of laughter each time.
  4. Laughter Body Fill
    • Standing with my back straight and my feet firmly grounded on the floor, this time, my laughter will fill my body. I will imagine each in-breath fills a different part of my body with the energy to laugh. On each out-breath I will laugh out loud from that part of my body, starting with my toes, legs, stomach, chest, shoulders, nose and the top of my head.

If I work up to spending five minutes on each exercise, I’ll eventually be doing 20 minutes of yoga laughter a day. As I move through the week I will observe how this affects my body and moods.

Once I am comfortable using yoga laughter at an everyday kind of time, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. Doing some laughter yoga could allow me to take a break from my distressing thoughts, shift my body’s physical stress responses and release some of my brains happy chemicals.

No. 159: Mindful Drawing

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice being mindful by taking a few moments a day to sit and draw something I see.  Drawing can teach us to notice properly rather than gaze absentmindedly (The Book of Life), it doesn’t have to be about artistic ability at all. The aim can be simply to notice properly the parts of things and how they fit together. This makes it a good way to strengthen our mindfulness muscles. My drawings could be simple scribbles in pencil or ballpoint pen. If I notice I get too caught up with trying to draw a ‘good’ or accurate picture, I could do the exercise without looking at the paper at all – it really matters that little what I actually put down on the paper.

It’s never easy to start a new practice, I might need to schedule in some time to do this each day and organise myself some basic materials to have on hand. I could snatch a moment at lunchtime or I could plan a little trip to somewhere I might enjoy noticing in more detail.

Sitting down to draw, I will take a moment to settle into my stillness and allow my breath to fall into its natural rhythm. Sometimes concentrating on drawing can lead us to hold our breath – this isn’t a breathing exercise, but it’s still important to breathe. I’ll allow my eyes to wander until they settle on a scene or object to draw. For the next few moments, I will simply draw what I see on the page, however it comes out. As my mind wanders, I will notice my thoughts and bring myself back to what I am drawing. As I notice my thinking mind judge the ‘goodness’ of what I am drawing, I will use my watching mind to observe the thoughts and bring my attention back to the detail I see around me and continue with the task of drawing it.

As I move through the week, I will experiment with drawing in different locations and drawing different things and observe how focusing on these different things effects my thoughts and feelings.  What is beautiful and soothing to me? What is energising and inspiring for me to see? What sights and scenes weigh me down? How does my body respond to this? Always coming back to my watching self and the act of marking down what I see.

Practicing mindful drawing could help me ground myself in the present moment during times of stress and distress. It can be a useful way to learn mindfulness when it is hard to do breathing or visualisation-based exercises, or if mindfulness is an unfamiliar practice. Really, mindfulness just means paying attention to the present moment, this involves using the part of our mind that is aware of our thoughts (our ‘watching mind’) instead of being totally involved in the part of our mind that is doing the thinking (our ‘thinking mind’). Other names for our watching mind are our ‘Observing Self’ (in ACT) or ‘Wise Mind’ (in DBT). In DBT our ‘thinking mind’ is broken down into our ‘feeling mind’ and our ‘rational mind’, because we really do have lots of different kinds of thoughts running through our brains at any point in time.

Once I am comfortable doing mindful drawing in ordinary moments, I will add Mindful Drawing to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with stress and distress. Mindful drawing could take me out of my thoughts for a moment, allow my body a chance to calm down, and give me something neutral or positive to focus on for a while, which could give me a tiny injection of positive vibes when things are feeling chaotic or overwhelming. I could also use the exercise as an excuse to take myself somewhere I might enjoy. Giving myself pleasurable experiences is an important part of engaging with a life I feel is worth living.

No. 152: Do Something for My Future Self

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice choosing the course of action that will make me feel better later by doing something for my future self each day. We so often spend our time caught up in surviving the day-to-day things that lie in front of us, that we forget to spend time setting up our future selves  to thrive. This week I will practice nurturing my future self.

To start with I will make a list of small things I could do in a day to help me feel better later. Each day, I will choose one thing from my list to do and plan in a time to do it.

For example, going to bed 30 minutes earlier might make my mornings easier; eating breakfast might make my afternoons easier; doing a job I’ve been putting off might make me feel less stressed tomorrow; going for a walk might give me a mood lift and help me sleep better later; setting some goals might help me feel like I have a bit of direction later etc…

As I get used to the practice of doing small things for my future self in a planned way, I will practice pausing as I make decisions in my daily life to ask myself what course of action would help me feel better later. In this way I will get familiar with responding to typical daily decisions in a way that nurtures my wellbeing in the long-term.

When I am used to making choices for my future self on ordinary days, I will add ‘Do Something for My Future Self‘ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. When I find myself feeling upset, I will be able to distract myself by doing something that will help me feel better later and self-soothe with the idea that my actions will make things easier for me soon. This might help me be able to hold my distress without getting caught up in it.

No. 151: Mindful Moment

This week to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will pause once a day to practice being mindful of the present moment and myself inside it. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment on purpose, without judgment and with full awareness of both the internal and the external parts of our experience. I can do this by purposefully observing the present moment, describing it to myself and then participating in the experience.  In order to fully observe, describe and participate in the moment I need to focus on one thing at a time, take a non-judgmental stance and be effective. Being effective means choosing the direction that is most helpful or doing what needs to be done without being trapped in our emotions but without ignoring them either. This week I will practice taking the time to observe what is around me and what is inside me. I might need to set an alarm or decide on another reminder ahead of time to help me remember to practice. While I’m new at mindfulness, I’ll practice at a time when my emotions aren’t running super high.

Once a day I’ll practice taking a mindful moment. Breathing calmly and moving into a comfortable position, I will focus my mind on the here and now…Noticing what is happening around me right now, I will observe my surroundings and describe them  to myself without judgement. When I notice myself making judgments, I will observe them that way, carefully re-word them and return my mind to the present moment as I continue with my breathing. I can ground myself in the present moment by paying attention to my five senses and participating in them with awareness. What do I see around me right now… what do I hear… what do I smell… what do I taste… what do I touch? I will allow my thoughts and feelings to register and come back to my senses. I will name thoughts as thoughts, feelings as feelings, separating the past from the present, acknowledging the things that are unwanted instead of pushing them away. I will observe and describe any thoughts and worries about the past or future that arise, without evaluating them or chasing them. I will then turn my attention back to observing and describing the physical environment around me and how I experience it. Once I have observed the whole of my surroundings and what is going on inside me, I will turn my attention to the next task I have at hand, carrying my wider awareness with me.

When I am comfortable paying attention to the present moment at an ordinary time, I will add ‘Mindful Moment’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with stress and distress. When I notice my emotions starting to run high, I will be able to pause, ground myself in the present and tolerate my distressing thoughts and feelings without pushing them away. I will be able to observe and describe my experiences for what they are and continue to be fully aware of my surroundings and my senses.

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Acknowledgement: Mindfulness can be traced back to buddhist philosophy. Thich Naht Hanh is known for creating the Engaged Buddhism movement  and popularising mindfulness in the Western world. Jon Kabbat-Zinn is known for popularising mindfulness in the medical community with the Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction (MBSR) programme at the University of Massachusetts. Marsha Linehan is known for popularising mindfulness in the mental health community with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).  The basic practice of mindfulness features in many strategies shared in The Coping Kete. Once you learn the basic skills, you can use mindfulness in any moment you find yourself in, in countless different ways. There is an awful lot behind each of the skills involved. Follow the links above to learn more. 

No. 147: One Thing at a Time

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice doing just one thing at a time. I will pick one daily activity, like taking a shower or brushing my teeth, drinking a coffee or eating breakfast. Each time I find myself doing my chosen activity, I will do just that activity, with an awareness of what I am doing in that moment. For example, instead of drinking my coffee while I read emails – I will just drink my coffee and notice the experience in its fullness. I can anchor myself in each of my five senses as a way to practice being aware of what I am doing: sight, taste, hearing, smell and touch.

While I notice the activity at hand, I will practice letting my thoughts come and go, without chasing them. My inner world is part of my current experience in any moment and I will allow it into my attention.  By turning my attention to the one thing I am doing, I’ll practice not being pulled into other thoughts and feelings, even though I know they are there. As other thoughts enter my mind, I will observe them and my responses to them with kindness, then bring my attention back to the one activity in front of me.

Doing one thing at a time, frees our minds up to do that one thing more efficiently. Taking time to do one thing at a time also lets us experience the simple pleasures of everyday things more fully. Practicing doing one thing at a time and focusing my attention on the task during everyday activities, will help strengthen my ability to focus my attention on mindful distraction tasks during times of distress.

Once I’m used to the art of doing one thing at a time, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping when the going gets tough. When I am feeling overwhelmed by emotions or unwanted thoughts, I will choose any small activity I can find to do and I will focus my awareness on that for a while. I’ll observe my thoughts as they float to the surface of my attention, notice my responses to them and then turn my mind back to doing the one activity before me and experiencing it fully. It could be anything from dusting an ornament to making dinner. Whatever I choose, I will do just that one thing and I will pay attention to every part of it.

No. 146: Be Still and Breathe

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice being mindful of the wider moment by pausing as often as I can remember and simply being still. Throughout the day, wherever I am when I remember, I will stop what I am doing, be still and just breathe. Whatever is going through my head, I will notice and let pass, while I breathe and be still. I will take this time to notice the light and temperature and textures around me and the sensations in my body as I stop what I am doing and settle into the moment.

When I notice thoughts I will practice noticing them kindly, without judging them. I will practice letting the thoughts I notice pass by looking at what else there is to notice in this moment. Moving my awareness on will help me make sure I don’t get hooked into one particular train of thought. If I notice myself making judgements, I will observe the judgement and again move my awareness to what else I notice while I am breathing and being still.

In this way, I will practice having little rest spots throughout my day, where I can slow down and notice what is happening inside and around me, without getting hooked into the stressful stuff. Taking moments to slow down and be still might help me be aware of what am dealing with, while I allow myself to be mindfully distracted by my surroundings. After a little while of being still and breathing, I will carry on with what I was doing.

When I am comfortable stopping to be still and breathe in everyday moments, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for times of stress and distress. When I notice I am getting wound up, I will be able to stop what I am doing, be still, breathe and look around me to get a bit of soothing space between feeling and responding.

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This week’s Coping Kete strategy is inspired by a strategy from a member of the public who attended The Butterfly Diaries launch during Mental Health Awareness Week.

No. 145: Look For Movement

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice taking a break from thinking and focusing on something relaxing to improve the moment.

This week, when I notice myself caught up in my thoughts, I will pause and mindfully look around me or out the window at all that is moving. For just a minute or two, I will mindfully breathe and notice all that is moving in the space where I am and, if I am indoors, all that is moving outside my space, through the window.

As I stand or sit, I will simply observe the movements of the things around me. When I notice my mind wandering back to my thoughts of the future, I will congratulate myself for being mindful of my thoughts and turn my attention back to noticing the movement of the things around me – the direction the grass is blowing in, the way the flowers in the garden throw their heads around, the way the trees move, the laundry on the washing line and how it all moves together.

After a minute or two, I will return to my day and what I was doing.

Once I am comfortable interrupting a thought and making myself mindful of the movement around me, I will add ‘Look for Movement’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of giving myself space when I am distressed. If I can give myself space when I am feeling stressed or distressed, I will give my mind and body time to rest and make it easier for me to face the things that are tough. If I can give myself space before I react to my distressing feelings, I might react in a different way that has more helpful consequences for me in the long-run.

This week’s Coping Kete strategy comes from a member of the public who attended The Butterfly Diaries launch on the 13th of October and decorated the launch tent with a strategy that helps them feel better when things are tough.

 

The Butterfly says: “I Take a break from thinking sometimes and go outside and notice how everything is moving in the wind.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Acknowledgement: Mindfulness can be traced back to buddhist philosophy. Thich Naht Hanh is known for creating the Engaged Buddhism movement  and popularising mindfulness in the Western world. Jon Kabbat-Zinn is known for popularising mindfulness in the medical community with the Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction (MBSR) programme at the University of Massachusetts. Marsha Linehan is known for popularising mindfulness in the mental health community with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).  The basic practice of mindfulness features in many strategies shared in The Coping Kete. Once you learn the basic skills, you can use mindfulness in any moment you find yourself in, in countless different ways. There is an awful lot behind each of the skills involved. Follow the links above to learn more. 

No. 144: Be Aware of My Choices

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice noticing all the different ways I can control my outcomes by paying attention to the choices I make each day and purposefully choosing the option that moves me towards more of what I want.

This week, as I move through each day, I will practice being aware of each of the small choices I make. When I notice that I am making a choice, I will practice pausing to observe what options I am choosing between and what the possible outcomes of each of the options might be. I will then deliberately choose the option that will bring me closer to what I want for my future – whether that is how I want to feel later in the day or what I want to be doing next year.

I’ll start out doing this with the small choices I make, such as what I eat and drink, what I watch on TV, what I work on next, where I sit and everyday things like that.

Noticing how my small choices change the way I experience my daily life, might help me to be make more mindful decisions, that effect me in more positive ways. Slowing down and thinking about our choices is especially hard when we are distressed, which is why we so often do and say things we regret when we feel angry or upset. If I practice slowing down and being aware of my choices in everyday moments, it might be easier to slow myself down and think about my choices when I’m distressed. In this way, I will learn how to hold my own responses and act based on what I want and need, not just on what I feel.

This week, as I notice myself making a choice, I will pause, ask myself what the other options are, think about the possible consequences and what consequences I want, then choose the option that brings me closer the outcome I desire.

When I am comfortable pausing myself and observing my options before I make everyday kinds of choices, I will add ‘Be Aware of my Choices’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. By being aware of the choices I am making and choosing the option that brings me closer to what I want for my future, I will be able to guide myself through the tough moments in a way that has a positive effect on me, rather than getting caught up in my distress and making coping decisions that make things harder in the long-run.  The simple act of stopping to think through the options and make myself aware of what I want and need will help me practice giving myself a delay between feeling and acting, a mini time-out to have a little think. Doing this could be a form of mindful distraction, moving my mind away from how I feel in the moment to what I want in the future and what my choices are.

No. 143: Finding Excuses to Get Outside

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

…I will find excuses to spend small amounts of time outside and work them into my day to give myself little moments of mindfulness in nature.  To start with, I will make a list of all the things I can do outside around my house or around my work or anywhere in between.

For example:
Weed the garden
Check the mail
Water the garden
Hang out washing
Bring in washing
Read the newspaper in the sun
Have lunch at the local park
Eat breakfast on the lawn
Drink my coffee under a tree
Walk to the dairy for milk
etc… etc…. etc…

Then, as I move through my week, I will practice giving myself time outside to do these things. I might schedule them in to my diary to help me remember to do them or I might be able to remember whenever the opportunity presents itself. When I find myself outside I will mindfully observe the environment around me and how it feels to be in it doing what I am doing. I will describe each part of my experience to myself and fully focus on participating in the experience of being outside. If I notice my thoughts distracting me from my moment outdoors, I will observe them for what they are and bring my mind back to the present moment. This will allow me to practice engaging with environments that are soothing and enjoyable as part of my everyday life. It might also help me get all the Vitamin D I need. Vitamin D comes from the sun.

Once I am used to enjoying outside as part of daily life, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way to self-soothe or distract myself during times of stress and distress. Taking myself outside and mindfully doing something else when I am distressed might give me the space I need to feel more calm before I respond to my distressing feelings, while still allowing them to be there.

No. 141: Observe My Physical Connection to the Moment

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellness…

…I will, practice grounding myself in the physical moment as a way of changing my experiences. This week, I will interrupt myself once a day, place both feet flat on the ground and take a few deep breaths into the bottom of my lungs (see belly breathing exercise here). As I breathe, I will focus my attention onto the sensation of my feet connecting with the ground. I will look around me and notice the other sensations I feel as my body connects with the environment around me – the air on my skin, the temperature of the light. After a few moments, breathing slowly and noticing my connection to the space around me, I will turn my attention back to my day.

I might set an alarm on my phone to help remind me to practice turning my attention away from one thing and onto my connection with the physical environment around me in this specific moment. In this way, I will get skilled at letting go of one moment and shifting my attention to something calm and grounding.

When I’m familiar with interrupting an ordinary moment to ground myself in the space around me, I will add the strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. When I notice myself becoming upset or focused on unhelpful thoughts, I will be able to take some time out to calm my distress before returning to what needs my attention next. The breathing will help me to soothe my physical responses while being mindful of my physical space will distract me from unwanted or unhelpful thoughts.

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Acknowledgement: Mindfulness can be traced back to buddhist philosophy. Thich Naht Hanh is known for creating the Engaged Buddhism movement  and popularising mindfulness in the Western world. Jon Kabbat-Zinn is known for popularising mindfulness in the medical community with the Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction (MBSR) programme at the University of Massachusetts. Marsha Linehan is known for popularising mindfulness in the mental health community with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).  The basic practice of mindfulness features in many strategies shared in The Coping Kete. Once you learn the basic skills, you can use mindfulness in any moment you find yourself in, in countless different ways. There is an awful lot behind each of the skills involved. Follow the links above to learn more.