The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Pleasure Schedules

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. 136: One Thing I Can Do/ One Thing I Like

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

…I will practice focusing my attention on the things I can do and the things I like to engage with so I can self-soothe when I am stressed and create  positive emotion when I am low.

To prepare, I will take a page in a notebook and divide it into two columns. The first column, I will title ‘One Thing I Can Do’ and the second column I will title ‘One Thing I Like’ (see example below).

To practice, I will take a moment at the end of each day to write down an example of ‘One Thing I Can Do’ and ‘One Thing I Like’ from my day. In the ‘One Thing I Can Do’ column, I will write down one thing that I did that day that I think I did well and what skill it involved. In the ‘One Thing I Like’ column, I will write down one thing from my day that I enjoyed or appreciated and what it was that I liked about it. If I’ve been having tough times for a while, it might be hard to do this because I will be out of practice at noticing these things and I might have stopped doing a lot of the things I am good at and like. If I find it hard, I will have compassion for myself and practice noticing the smallest of small signs of ‘Things I Can Do’ or ‘Things I Like’ – for example, getting out of bed, showering and single moments of laughter.

As I move through the week, I will think through my growing list and know that there are things I can do to get through and things I like that can change my mood. As my awareness grows I will start trying to mindfully do those things when I notice my mood is low or my thinking is negative.  This week, I will practice building the evidence that lets me remind myself “there is always one thing I can do and one thing that I can enjoy.”

Once I am comfortable noticing what I can do and what I like, and mindfully doing those things, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with distress. When I find myself feeling stuck, hopeless or unsure of myself, I will be able to self-soothe by coming back to my old list to remind myself of all I can do to get through and change my mood and engage with a way of shifting my experience by doing just one of the things I can do and one thing that I like. This strategy could become self-soothing, engagement or mindful distraction depending on how I used it. 

My notebook columns would look something like this… 

No. 135: Reward Myself for Surviving

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

… I will practice injecting enjoyable moments into my daily life and appreciating myself by scheduling reward points into the end of every day. During my scheduled reward points, I will be able to practice being aware of what I deal with each day and responding by rewarding my efforts, whatever they may be, whether I struggled or succeeded.

To get started, I will write a list of things that I find enjoyable and can use as rewards. The list could include things like going to a movie or having a treat food or doing a hobby activity or lying around listening to music or catching up with someone you enjoy or having a massage or anything at all. Rewards can be big or they can be small, but they cannot be harmful. So having a binge-drinking session or taking drugs wouldn’t be the right kind of reward to use.

Once I have my list of rewards, I’ll schedule time to give myself one reward at the end of every day for the next week.

At the scheduled time each afternoon/evening, I will take a quiet moment to reflect on what I have survived that day. When I think of difficult moments in the day, I will observe the thought and say to myself “and that was hard so I can reward myself for getting through.” When I think of positive moments of the day, I will observe the thought and say to myself “and that was good, so I can reward myself for having a part in it.”

Once I have reflected for 2 or 3 minutes, I will go ahead and give myself the reward I had planned.

When I am comfortable with engaging in rewarding behaviour on a usual week, I will add ‘Plan Little Rewards’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy to use during times of distress. When I notice I am upset, I can reflect on what I have been surviving, make myself aware of how much I have to reward myself for by saying the reflection statements and then planning some rewarding activities for the coming week.

No. 133: Play

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

… I am going to play everyday. It’s true that all work and no play makes for a pretty dull time – it also means that we don’t get a chance to properly wind down after something stressful. Life can’t be all serious, sometimes we need a bit of silly. This week, I will spend some time everyday playing. I might spend five minutes seeing if I can still do knuckle-bones or an hour with a friend and a board-game or twenty minutes outside with a basketball or half an hour in the park on the swings. I might need to do a bit of prioritising and planning to make sure it actually happens. If I find it hard to think of something to play, I will make a list of things that I enjoyed playing as a child and work my way through each of them. It could be tricky to fit a play in everyday, but I can do it if I have lots of different kinds of play, some that I can do in the space  of five minutes and fit in at a busy time. Sometimes I will play with another person, and other times it can be solitary play. The key is that there is a time of light-heartedness in my day. This week, no matter how I feel each day, I will make sure I get at least five minutes of play. I will try to notice what things make me laugh or lift my mood and what things don’t make any difference, so I can repeat the things that work for me.

Once I am comfortable with playing everyday, I will add ‘Play’ and a list of the things that worked for me to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for times of stress and distress. When I notice myself having a low mood or starting to get stressed on a regular basis, I will engage with some play to inject some balance in my life and shift my mood for a little while. Playing won’t change the bad things in my life, but it will give me a break and insert some lighthearted variation into my daily life that might make it easier to cope with and recover from the tough stuff. When things are stressful, we all need a bit of time to recover, I will be able to use play as a way to recover my energy levels when things are hard.

No. 116: A Moment for Self-Care

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

… I will practice using small moments of self-care to create positive experiences in my day. Self-care is the act of caring for myself by meeting my basic needs for food and water, movement, fresh air, sunlight, stillness, and physical care. I will spend some time every morning and evening focused on a self-care activity from one of these categories.

I will start out by making a list of activities I like for each kind of self-care first and then use my diary to plan which activities I will do each morning and night. I might even add to these categories if I want to, I could add ‘Connection’ or ‘Noise’ or any other kind of activity that I feel fits with my idea of what my ‘basic needs’ are.

For example

  • Food and water
    • Sit down and eat breakfast
    • Take time to prepare lunch
    • Make something really healthy for dinner
    • Eat a favourite food
    • Stop to drink a glass of water
  • Movement
    • Dance to music in my room
    • Go to a ‘No Lights No Lycra‘ event
    • Do some yoga stretches
    • Take mini-breaks to stroll round the room
  • Fresh air
    • Pause and do some belly-breathing
    • Stand outside and breathe deep for a moment
    • Pop my head out an open window
  • Sunlight
    • Read a book in the sun
    • Do some gardening
    • Eat lunch outside
  • Stillness
    • Go to bed early to read a book
    • Light some candles and listen to chill-out music
    • Paint something on that blank canvas I have sitting around
  • Physical care
    • Make one of the spaces in my house nice to be in
    • Cleanse and moisturise my face
    • Wash and brush my hair
    • Wear something that feels good to be in

As I do each activity I will focus all my attention on the task at hand, being aware as I go that I am making a simple gesture of caring to myself. As I move through the week, I will be mindful of how I am affected by my moments of self-care so I can tell which activities work to shift my mood and whether I want to adjust them at all.

Once I am comfortable purposefully doing self-care activities on a regular basis and have found some that boost my mood, I will add them to my Personal Coping Kete and use ‘A Moment of Self-Care’ as a way of nurturing and valuing myself during times of stress and distress.

No. 110: A Sense A Day

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

… I will use mindfulness of my senses to practice shifting my thoughts and improving the moment. This week, I will regularly tune my attention into one of my senses each day and deliberately plan activities that will allow me to indulge it a little. I will plan in advance which sense I will do each day, and then throughout that day I will make myself aware of that sense. The next day I will practice being aware of a different one of my five senses.

For example, on Monday I might pay particular attention to what I taste whenever I eat or drink, on Tuesday I might stop what I am doing for a moment throughout my day and pay attention to the different things I hear, on Wednesday I might practice being aware of the sensations I have when I touch things, on Thursday I might practice taking time to pay attention to the sights around me, on Friday I might practice taking time out to notice the smells around me. In this way, I will practice mindfully shifting my attention onto something different.

Once I am comfortable practicing mindfully shifting my attention like this, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of distracting myself from unhelpful thoughts when I am distressed or stressed.

No. 104: Connecting with Interests & Skills

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

I will practice connecting with my interests and developing my skills by joining some kind of community course. Most community centres offer cheap community classes on topics ranging from cooking and clothing alterations to ballroom dancing, yoga and martial arts.

This week I will spend time exploring my options and finding a first class to try. It could take a few tries before I find a class that suits me. I will use my local telephone directory, The Community Resources Directory, web searches and local noticeboards to get a picture of what is available in my community. I might also talk to the people around me about what is out there and whether they recommend anything.

As I move through my day I will remember that I am exploring my interests and am well on my way along the path towards a more enjoyable life. Any points of dissatisfaction are simply the areas that are still works in progress.

It might be hard for me to get myself along so I might ask a friend, family member or other supporter if they want to come with me. That might also be a nice way to strengthen a relationship I have been wanting to build.

Once I have found a hobby-course that I enjoy and I have become familiar with the activity I have been learning, I will add the activity to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of engaging with my skills and interests to shift my mood when I am distressed.

* * *

Today’s post marks two full years of The Coping Kete in its online form.

The Coping Kete book is coming soon.  

No. 101: Stretching Distraction

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

…I will practice stretching to distract myself from the present moment and lift my energy.

Once a day I will spend a few minutes doing some basic yoga stretches. As I do them I will practice mindfully focusing my attention on the movements I am making and the way they feel in my body. I will practice letting thoughts of the day pass through my mind as I observe them and bring my mind back to my stretches.

  1. Neck Roll: Standing up, relax your shoulders, drop your head forward to rest your chin on your chest. Slowly roll your head to rest your right ear on your right shoulder, pause, return to centre then slowly roll your head to rest your left ear on your left shoulder, pause, return to centre. Repeat.
  2. Shoulder and Arm Rotation: Stretch your arms out to the side and imagine you are pushing apart two walls. Repeat three times. Keeping the arms at shoulder level, rotate the shoulders forwards and then backwards. Repeat three times. Slowly drop arms to the side and observe the sensation produced in your body.
  3. Swaying Tree pose: Standing with your feet at hip-width, reach your arms above your head, clasp your hands together, exhale and lean gently to the left. Inhale and come back to centre. Then exhale and lean to the right. Repeat.
  4. Cat Pose: Kneel on all fours with hands shoulder distance apart and your knees the same distance apart. Exhale while arching your back up and looking down at your belly. Hold for a few seconds. Inhale as you arch your back down and lift your head.

Once I am familiar with doing stretches as part of my ordinary day, I will add them to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of distracting myself from distressing moments and times of stress and tension. When I notice I am feeling tense, I can take myself away from present company for a moment and practice my stretches.