The Coping Kete

Monthly Archives: July 2015

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No. 162: Observe and Re-Colour the Mood

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

Coping Kete… practice using mindfulness and visualisation to self-soothe with an exercise in observing your emotions and comforting them with calming colours. Schedule a regular time to practice the exercise and as it starts to feel familiar begin testing out how to use it during moments of stress and distress.

Mindfulness simply means paying attention to the present moment, one thing at a time, on purpose and without making judgements about what is good or bad. We all make judgements all the time, so we won’t be able to stop doing it completely. But when we are being mindful, we pay attention to the judgements, name them for what they are (e.g. ‘I notice myself judging xyz to be something I don’t like’) and bring our minds back to the present moment, rather than staying caught up in or hooked by the thoughts. Paying attention to the present moment means we notice or observe what is outside and inside us and we describe it to ourselves in words. Once we are mindfully aware of what is happening inside and outside us, we are able to decide how we want to participate in the moment and what we need to do that – like maybe a bit of comfort. Rather than being pushed along by our mind’s autopilot settings, we can use mindfulness to make space for our experiences and turn our attention towards visualising something soothing. There are an infinite number of ways to do that and this visualisation is based on colours.

Try to spend 5-10 minutes each day, practicing how to use mindfulness and a colour visualisation to comfort the places you feel distress.

This is an exercise in three-parts. It can be helpful to learn each step separately first before trying to put them together and many people find it easier to start out with audio recordings to guide them. Find a list of apps and websites with guided exercises you can use to get you started in the Online Resources Pack.

  1. Brief Body Scan: Settle yourself into a comfortable position and close your eyes or let them fall on a spot in front of you. Allow your breath just to breathe itself in your natural rhythm while you observe what is happening in your body from your head to your toes. Just check in briefly with each part of your body and describe to yourself in words what sensations you notice – how hot or cold is my skin? is there tension, pain or discomfort? As you notice other thoughts, observe and describe these to yourself too, in the most neutral terms you can find, and come back to scanning the sensations in your body from head to toe. Find a more detailed guide for a brief body scan here.
  2. Mood Scan: Once you have scanned your body, check in with the emotions that are showing up for you right now – What is the strongest emotion? Where do you feel it in your body? How does it sit in your body? Is it heavy or light? Moving or still? If you could see it, what would it look like? What temperature and colour is this feeling or mix of feelings? Observe and describe the thoughts, urges and other emotions that arise in response or that pull you away from paying attention to this feeling fully, without judgement and without judging your judgements.
  3. Comforting Colours: Once you have tuned into the strongest emotion in this moment and found a colour that matches it, bring to mind a colour or mix of colours that you find soothing. This could be a colour you find peaceful, relaxing, happy, exciting, energising, calming, loving, gentle, supportive. What comes to mind when you think of this colour? What sensations, images, sounds, tastes and memories belong with this colour? Turn your mind back to the strongest emotion, where it sits in your body and the colour that goes with it. Next imagine you have filled a cup with your comfort-colour and you are drinking it down, into the part of your body where the strongest emotion lies. Each time you take a breath, imagine you are taking another sip. Imagine re-colouring that strongest emotion with your comfort-colour, seeing it settle more and more, seeing it cool down or warm up as needed, seeing space and tension free up, as you pour more and more of your comfort-colour into that part of your body.

Then you can gently bring yourself back to the room and the next task in your day. You can make each step as long or short as you like. It helps to prepare a few reflections on your comfort colours before you get started, especially the first time.

When you notice your mood shift throughout the day, see if you can practice observing it, noticing where it sits in your body, giving it a colour, finding a comfort-colour and re-colouring that space in your body.

Once you are familiar with using this mindful visualisation, add ‘Observe and Re-colour the Mood’ to your Personal Coping Kete as a way to self-soothe and create space inside yourself during moments of stress and distress. Instead of trying to stay away from what you think or feel, and being pushed around by it, you will be able to use this strategy to observe what is happening inside you, locate where you feel it, and create some comforting sensations inside you before choosing how you want to respond. With each wave of sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration, fear or any other kind of stress, distress or upset, these three steps can allow you to tune in, observe the feeling and move your mind towards something comforting for a moment.