The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Thought Balancing

No. 122: Use the Positivity Ratio

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

…I am going to practice using the Positivity Ratio to help shift my thoughts and feelings. Researchers in the field of Positive Psychology have found that it takes three positive thoughts to shift a negative thought. This week, I am going to practice consciously having positive thoughts, so that when I find my thoughts going dark, I will be able to use my skills to improve the moment.

As I go through each day, I will try to pause whenever I remember to and list three positive things I have recently noticed. I will work to list the smallest things I can, as well as noticing bigger things. This will help me get really used to noticing the elements of things that might bring me some joy. This week, I am going to learn how to notice the things that might give me joy. I will let them exist alongside anything that I find unpleasant or distressing.  As I list my three positive things, I will focus my awareness on each thing and make myself really mindful of all of the good things about it and what it is that makes it positive to me. I will try to do this at least two or three times every day this week, regardless of how I feel. It might help to schedule in to do it in the morning and at night so I remember to practice – remembering to practice can be really hard.

When I am familiar with purposefully thinking of three small positives, I will add ‘Use the Positivity Ratio’ to my Personal Coping Kete. When I notice myself having pessimistic thoughts or feeling really bad, I will use the positivity ratio to make myself mindfully aware of three good things, however small they may be. I will let those three good things, exist side-by-side with whatever else I am experiencing so that the hard things do not stop me from noticing the good things.

No. 120: Reserve Judgement

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

…I will practice reserving judgement about what the future might bring. Each day, when I find myself moving into a new task or situation, I will take a couple of seconds to say to myself “Lets just see what happens, whatever happens, I’ll handle it. For now I reserve judgement.” Then I will move on to the next part of my day with an open mind.

When I am comfortable saying this to myself in ordinary, everyday situations and moving forward with an open mind, I will add this strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of improving my mood during times of stress and distress. When I find myself stressed or distressed about what I think might happen in the future, I will take a moment to reserve judgement and trust myself to handle whatever comes my way. This might help me balance out my fears and worries, when they seem overwhelming.

No. 118: Declare a Peace Treaty with the Moment

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

… I will practice mindful distraction and self-soothing by regularly pausing and declaring a peace treaty with the current moment. When I declare a peace treaty with a moment, that means I am committing to spend a moment in peace before moving on to my next experience of the day. I will surrender whatever is on my mind for a moment and peacefully engage my attention in my surroundings.

This week, when I am in between tasks, I will practice saying to myself either silently or out loud “I declare a peace treaty with this moment.” I will then take a minute or more to ground myself peacefully in the current moment before I move on to the next task before me. Declaring a peace treaty with a moment means that for this moment I will interact with myself and my surroundings in a kind, calm way.

I will take 10 slow, deep breaths while I stop and mindfully observe my current surroundings. As I notice thoughts about the past or the future surfacing, I will remind myself of my peace treaty with this moment and turn my attention back to my peaceful breathing and the space around me in this current moment.

In accordance with my peace treaty, if I notice critical or judgemental thoughts, I will say something kind or accepting to myself to soothe them. I will then bring my attention back to my breathing and observing my current surroundings.

In this way, I will practice giving myself times of relaxation and release from worrying or critical self-talk. By practicing breathing at the same time, I will be able to return to the next task of the day with a clearer mind and calmer mood.

Each time I find myself in between tasks, I will stop and practice declaring a peace treaty with the moment again. Throughout the week I will experiment with different ways of doing it until I find what works well for me. I will keep a record of the things that make it tricky and how to respond to them differently next time, so I can start to build a good list of what a Peace Treaty with the Moment looks like and involves for me.

Once I have become familiar with the practice of declaring a peace treaty with a moment and taking some time to be present and kind to myself in between ordinary, daily tasks, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete for times when I find myself struggling against stress and distress. I will be able to declare a peace treaty with the difficult moment, disengage from feelings of conflict and take some time out to send myself some mindful messages of calm and compassion before I respond.

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Acknowledgement: This mindfulness strategy was inspired by Thich Naht Hanh’s Peace Treaty method for communication during conflict. Thich Naht Hanh is known for creating the Engaged Buddhism movement  and popularising mindfulness in the Western world. 

No. 111: Make Someone a Card

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

…I will practice turning my attention to something positive by taking time in my week to make a card for someone I am grateful to for something and deliver or post it to them. I will schedule a time later in the week to make the card, so I have plenty of time to get organised. For the next little while, I will think over the people and things that I am grateful for until I think of a person I want to acknowledge and make a card for. It could be for something big, something small, something recent, or something from a long time ago.  It doesn’t really matter, but if this kind of thing makes me nervous, I could pick something small, like a recent favour from a friend. Once I have thought of someone, I will start getting ready to get creative.

I will want to find some card or paper to make it out of and design my own image for the front – I could draw something or cut pictures out of magazines or print something off a computer – but I won’t buy the card, this week’s strategy is also about using my creativity.  Finally, I will write a short thank-you message on the inside, letting them know I appreciate what they have added to my life.  I might need to spend a little while drafting what I want to say on some scrap paper. No matter what is happening in my day this week, I will find time each day to think about or work on making my card to someone I am thankful for. It is much harder to do these things when we feel low, so I might do it in little bursts, bringing my attention mindfully back to the card and where I am up to with it, whenever I am able. 

This week, I am practicing the art of emphasising the good stuff. It’s not a skill that comes naturally to all of us, and modern life isn’t set up to help us remember to notice and highlight the things we are grateful for.

Making a thank-you card means I will practice turning my attention towards positive memories as well as get a chance to practice letting myself be creative. By sending the card, I am learning another way of sending positive vibes out into the lives of others. These are all things I could feel good about.

Once I have gotten comfortable being aware of the things I am grateful for and making a card for someone at any old time, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of balancing my attention when life seems to be throwing all the hard stuff my way. When I notice I am finding things distressing on a regular basis, I will spend some time thinking of things I am grateful for, making a card to acknowledge one, and sending it to the person. Each time I notice myself getting pessimistic, I will bring my thoughts back to my card and the meaning behind it to help balance my thoughts and remember that it isn’t all bad, all the time.

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. 109: Create Something Simple to Have Faith in

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

… I will practice coping with uncertainty by creating a simple vision for the future that I can have faith in achieving and then reminding myself of it on a regular basis.

First of all, I will think of the simple things I would like to see in my future. I will make sure I think of positive and realistic things, that I could have faith in achieving or maintaining if I put my mind to it. I could list things like being close to my family, a safe place to live, regular healthy meals or a daily routine I enjoy.

Second, I will visualise or imagine what a day would look and feel like in that future. I will try my best to bring a realistic and detailed picture of it into my mind, from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night.

Finally, I will write down all of the things I imagined I did and experienced as part of that day.

As I move through my week, I will regularly bring my mind back to that simple vision of my future and remind myself that no matter where I am now, my vision of the future is where I will one day be. If I find this hard, I might set an alarm on my phone to remind me to spend a moment visualising it.

Whenever I can, I will mindfully do what I imagined I would do in the course of a day in my vision of the future.  In this way, I really can have faith that I will gradually get there and I will give myself small bits of evidence that helps me have hope every day.

When I am familiar with creating a simple vision and visualising it throughout the day, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for self-soothing and engagement in times of stress, distress or mental unwellness. When I am finding it hard to have hope, I will focus my attention on creating something I can have hope in.

By spending time visualising a positive picture of my future and reminding myself of the small things I can do to achieve it, I can actively balance any worried thoughts I might be having about how things are going to turn out and leave room for the possibility that everything will turn out okay in the end.

No. 102: Remembering I am not my Thoughts

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

… I will practice reminding myself that automatic thoughts are ideas not facts. This week I will remember that I am not my thoughts.

We all have automatic thoughts constantly throughout the day as our minds try to figure out what is happening around us. We can have automatic thoughts about anything that we have ever seen or heard. We can have automatic thoughts that we disagree with and that are the opposite of what we want, so my automatic thoughts do not really say anything about me or who I am. They really are just ideas.

This week, as I move through my day, I will practice observing my thoughts and reminding myself that “these are ideas I have had, but they are not me.”

Once I am comfortable thinking about my thoughts as ideas not facts about who I am, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of soothing distress with my self-talk. When I notice I am distressed, I will observe my thoughts and remind myself these are ideas. I will look at which of these ideas I want to hold onto and which ones I don’t really agree with. When I have thoughts I do not want to have, I will remember that it is normal to have thoughts I don’t agree with. It doesn’t mean anything bad about me.

No. 99: Normalising and Validating My Own Responses

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

… I will practice normalising and validating my own emotional responses and thoughts by regularly tuning my attention into what I am currently thinking and feeling and reassuring myself that these are normal responses, that make sense given my situation. Making sense, doesn’t mean they are accurate or worthwhile hanging on to, but I am human and my thoughts and feelings are acceptable, even when I don’t like them.

“Whatever I am feeling is okay, I am where I need to be, I am still moving forward.”

Sometimes we judge ourselves for our thoughts and feelings and this makes us feel worse and try to hide what is going on for us. Hiding things almost always makes them worse. This week, I do not need to hide my emotions and thoughts because I will remind myself that my emotions and thoughts are acceptable.

I will start out by noticing and normalising only slight moods and negative thoughts. Once I am comfortable with letting myself know my slight moods and negative thoughts are normal and valid, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for comforting more extreme feelings of distress: Remembering I Have Normal, Valid Responses Like Everyone Else.

When I can make sense of my experiences as valid, normal responses, I will be more empowered to express myself and get support.

No. 97: ABC Thought Catching

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

… I will practice engaging with my thoughts and how they are affecting my mood by practicing thought-catching. Being able to catch my thoughts and follow their connection to my moods is a key step towards being able to reason myself out of stress and distress when I need to. Taking a moment to be aware of the core components of my experience will help me be able to respond with awareness.

This week, whenever I notice a slight drop in my mood, I will take a moment to ask myself what just happened (A), what it did to my mood (C) and what I might have been telling myself about whatever happened to cause that mood change (B).  It is not easy to notice our own thoughts, which is why I will start out by trying to catch thoughts associated with minor changes in mood. Once I’m comfortable with that, I will move on to using thought-catching as an engagement strategy in times of stress and distress.

It is often helpful at first to use a pen and paper to note these things down in three columns.

(A) Activating event: What just happened?

(B) Thoughts / Self Talk: What might I have told myself about that?

(C) Mood Change: What happened to my mood?

In this way, I will start to build up a picture of the kinds of thoughts that make my moods swing, and the kinds of situations that trigger those thoughts. This will prepare me to be able to recognise and catch those thoughts later when they are fueling my distress.

Once I have gotten good at making myself aware of what my thoughts are, I will add thought-catching to my Personal Coping Kete. In times of stress and distress, I will be able to practice catching my thoughts and observing to myself what triggered them and how the thoughts made me feel. By engaging with my thoughts and emotions before I respond, I will be better prepared to soothe, express, distract myself from or get support with them.

No. 90: Picturing my Supporters at my Back

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

…when I am stressed, pressed or distressed, I will self-soothe by imagining my various support people standing encouragingly at my back, boosting me up. This might include my parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, therapist, key-worker or someone else, just all the people in my life who want me to do well and want me to feel better when I don’t.

I will make a list of some of these people before I try to practice imagining them standing supportively at my back, so I’m not having to remember from scratch in the middle of a moment of distress. Some of the people might be in my daily life, but some might be more distant or less available, but they are still people in the world who want good things for me. It doesn’t matter if I see them everyday or once every two years – they care for me and if they were here they would give me comfort.

I will picture them sending me good vibes, saying comforting things and believing in me. No matter what is happening now, these people want good things for me. With them at my back, I know I don’t need to cope with whatever life throws at me by myself. I will breathe and imagine my people are there quietly supporting me.

If I find it particularly hard to think of people who fit the bill as supporters or I think I don’t have ‘enough’ of them, it might be that I need to spend some time finding some supporters for myself. But we don’t need a huge number of supporters to get through, we really just need one or two people we can rely on when things get rough.

Once I’ve worked out how to get this strategy working for me, I will write it on a card and add it to my Personal Coping Kete, for future use.