The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Visualisation

No. 162: Re-Colour the Mood

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

Coping Kete… I will practice using mindfulness and visualisation to self-soothe with an exercise in observing my emotions and comforting them with calming colours. This week I will schedule a regular time to practice the exercise and as it starts to feel familiar I will 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 we notice ourselves making, 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 being hooked into the judgements we have made. 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.

This week, I will spend 5-10 minutes each day, practicing how to use mindfulness and a colour visualisation to comfort the places I feel distress. This is an exercise in three-parts.

  1. Body Scan: Sitting still, in a comfortable position, breathing in my natural rhythm.Closing my eyes, I will sit in silence and observe what is happening in my body. Starting at my feet and moving up to the top of my head, I will tune my attention into each part of my body and describe to myself in words what sensations I notice – how hot or cold is my skin? is there pain or discomfort?  As I notice other thoughts entering my mind, I will observe these to myself too, and come back to scanning the sensations in my body.
  2. Mood Scan: Once I have scanned my body, I will turn my mind to the emotions I am feeling in this moment – observing and describing to myself, each of the thoughts, images, memories and feelings I notice and bringing myself back to what I feel. What is the strongest emotion? Where do I feel it in my body? How does it sit in my body? What temperature and colour is this feeling or mix of feelings? With each question I ask myself, I will observe and describe the thoughts and emotions that arise in response or that pull me away from paying attention to this feeling fully, without judgement and without judging my judgements.
  3. Recolour the Mood: Once I have tuned into the strongest emotion in this moment and found a colour that matches it, I will bring to mind a colour that I find soothing. This could be a colour I find peaceful, relaxing, happy, exciting, energising, calming, loving, gentle, supportive. What comes to mind when I think of this colour? What sensations, images, sounds, tastes and memories belong with this colour? I will then turn my mind back to the strongest emotion, where it sits in my body and visualise the colour that goes with it. I will then imagine I have filled a cup with my comfort-colour and am drinking it down, into the part of my body where my strongest emotion lies. In my mind I will imagine re-colouring that strongest emotion with my comfort-colour, seeing it settle more and more, seeing it cool down or warm up as needed, seeing space and tension free up, as I pour more and more of my comfort-colour into that part of my body.

I will then open my eyes slowly and bring myself back to the room and the next task in my day. When I notice my mood shift throughout the day, I will practice observing it, noticing where it sits in my body, giving it a colour, finding a comfort-colour and re-colouring that space in my body.

Once I am familiar with using this mindful visualisation, I will add ‘Re-colour the Mood’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way to self-soothe and create space inside myself, during moments of stress and distress. Instead of trying to stay away from what think or feel, and being pushed around by it, I will be able to observe what is happening inside me, where I feel it, and create some comforting sensations inside me. With each wave of sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration, fear or any other kind of stress, distress or upset, I will tune in, observe the feeling and re-colour it with something comforting.

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. 160: Call On My Compassionate Self

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

… I will create a compassionate self to call on in times of stress and distress. We often have a strong self-critic or even a self-bully that pipes up to tell us all the worst things about ourselves and what we are going through. If we reflect on our self-talk in times of distress we might notice we use blaming, judgmental and sometimes downright mean words with ourselves that leave us feeling ten times worse. Having a compassionate self allows us to use soothing, understanding, non-judgmental, kind and supportive words with ourselves instead of or in response to the self-critic or the self-bully.

The first step is to create a character map of my compassionate self. This starts with thinking about what compassion means to me. I will think about what I might need from my compassionate self and what compassion involves for me. Is my compassionate self forgiving, respectful, kind, aware of what is important to me, caring, accepting, humorous or all of those things and more?  What does my compassionate self think about making mistakes, flaws, limitations, weaknesses and negative life events?

The next step is building a visual image for my compassionate self. What does my compassionate self look like? My compassionate self could look like someone who has treated me this way in the past, a creature I have found comforting or it could look like me when I am being compassionate, understanding and kind. I’ll think about what facial expressions and gestures my compassionate self might make to show their compassion and what it feels like to be near that. How does my compassionate self look at me? Next I need to create a voice for my compassionate self. What does my compassionate self sound like? I’ll think about what tone of voice it uses, what it sounds like, how loud its voice is and how fast it speaks. Finally, I need to create some words for my compassionate self. What does my compassionate self say to me? I will think about what words and phrases my compassionate self uses to soothe, show kindness and be understanding. It’s easiest to do all this on a piece of paper, in writing or drawing, to make it concrete and give us something to come back to later.

When I have created a character map for my compassionate self, I will practice using it by taking one to two minutes each morning to sit mindfully and visualise my compassionate self talking to me about the coming day, whatever it might hold. Whenever I notice other thoughts distracting me, I will describe them to myself, respond to them using my compassionate voice and return to visualising talking to my compassionate self about the coming day.

Once I am familiar with visualising my compassionate self and responding to my thoughts with my compassionate voice, I will add “Call on My Compassionate Self” to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with stress and distress. I will be able to call on the compassionate part of myself to talk me through stressful times with soothing, kind, respectful and understanding words, ideas and images. My compassionate self can even talk directly to my self-critic and my self-bully when they appear. I might not be able to make those parts of me go away altogether when times are tough, but showing compassion for why they are there and sharing some different ideas with them might make them quieten down.

No. 158: Plant Seeds and Nurture Them

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

… I will practice being aware of my valued actions by visualising or symbolically planting seeds for each of my valued intentions. New Years Eve is a good time to set goals for the coming months, but goals tend to be short-lived and easily side-tracked by shifting priorities. On the other hand, our values represent how we want to be in the world, regardless of the state of our goals. Values are always in progress, whereas goals can be achieved, failed or finished with. A goal might be to ‘Quit Smoking’. A value might be ‘Care for my Physical Health.’ Different values tend to take on differing levels of importance as we move through life. Much of the suffering we go through is the result of being distant from our values.

So this week, I will do a ‘Seed Planting Ceremony’ for the New Year. First, I will take a moment to sit in stillness and bring my mind to what I want to nurture in the coming three months. How do I want to treat myself, the planet and others in the coming months? What is most important to me right now? When my mind throws up thoughts of what I don’t want, I will name it to myself and bring my awareness to the values I would like to be guided by in such situations. Next, I will choose an object for each of the important ‘seeds’ or values I want to ‘plant’ and nurture in the coming months, or make ‘paper seeds’ by writing each one down on a piece of paper. Finally, I will take a moment to name each of the ‘seeds’ I am planting, visualise what nurturing that ‘seed’ will look like for me, and place it in a special jar or container. I’ll try to make sure there’s a different seed for each of the most important areas of my life, such as my relationships, my identity/self, my body etc.

As I move through the coming days, I will take time once a day to turn my mind to the ‘seeds’ I planted and my visualisation of nurturing those values in myself.  Over the coming weeks, I will practice bringing my attention to these seeds and seeing how they can guide my actions. When I notice myself feeling lost or confused or distressed or at uncertain, I will pause and visualise how I might nurture each of my seeds as I move forward. Focusing mindfully on these positives that are meaningful to me, might soothe some of that stress or confusion, by opening up a flexible path ahead for me and perhaps balance out some of my negative expectations and self-talk.

Once I am comfortable with setting my intentions by naming and visualising the values I want to nurture, I will add ‘Plant Seeds and Nurture Them’ to my Personal Coping Kete. In times of stress and distress, I will practice planting new seeds or returning to seeds I have previously planted and visualising how I want to move forward, given what I have got.

No. 156: Extend the Image

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

… I will practice using extended imagery as a way of coping with unhelpful thoughts of the future that hold me back. Often future-predicting thoughts come to us as images. We ‘see’ ourselves making a fool of ourselves or feeling awkward or finding something unpleasant or ‘failing’ in some way. In real life, events keep unfolding after that moment. Everyone moves on. Someone helps. We learn from our mistakes, solve problems, come away stronger. But our minds usually only give us a flash of the worst bit. This week, I will practice seeing the extended view.

I’ll take a minute or two each day to practice extended imagery so I am familiar with it during times of distress. At my chosen time each day, I’ll sit for a moment just breathing and tune my thoughts to the coming week. As I notice images surfacing in my mind, I will observe and describe the images to myself and then imagine what might happen next, and after that, and after that, until I can take the image all the way forward into the future. Instead of stopping with the image of us feeling tired and unmotivated doing some chore, we could carry the image forward to seeing us resting, guilt-free, with a small sense of accomplishment afterwards. Instead of stopping with the image of us embarrassed or uncomfortable arriving somewhere, we could carry it forward three weeks when the meeting is a distant memory.

It can seem risky to stay with a distressing image our mind has predicted. Our first instinct is often to stay away from the thought (and the situation we’ve imagined). It can seem like staying with it would make the emotion worse. But by extending it out beyond that single worst threat moment, we can learn to send our minds safety signals about that threat in the wider context of our lives. This can be tricky to do during times of distress if we are unfamiliar with the strategy. The temptation can be to use the strategy to linger over a series of possible worst moments or to to linger over that one moment. If I notice this happening during my practice, I will practice extending the image even further, past the image I am stuck on, or extending the image out for the other people present – how will they feel about it the next day/month/year?

As I practice extended imagery, I might also need to practice using the impartial observer voice that goes with most mindfulness exercises. Eventually, I will get to a point in time, when the current predicted image falls into perspective.  I’ll practice daily with my thoughts of ordinary upcoming situations until I’m used to this kind of strategy and have figured out how to make it work for me. We each have our own methods of getting in our own way and I’ll have my own special ways to work around too.

When I am comfortable and familiar with extending images, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for times of stress and distress. When I find myself upset or anxious, I will tune into the images my mind is throwing me and visualise extending those images forward in time. During moments of distress, we are often stuck on a particularly distressing image. By moving our minds beyond that single imagined moment, we might find some perspective. Even if something terrible has happened and our lives are irreversibly changed, we might see that in many years time we have found a way to adapt.

No. 138: Visualising My Intentions

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

I will practice telling the difference between my expectations and my good intentions and get in the habit of letting my intentions guide me instead of my fears. While my expectations are useful, they can get in my way at times, but my good intentions bring me back to what it is important to me, back to my values.

This week, I will take a moment every morning to practice slow, belly breathing while I focus my attention on visualising my positive intentions for the day. 

Before I get out of bed in the morning, I will lie back and do a few minutes of belly breathing.

As I breathe slowly down into my belly and let each breath float back out, I will think about my good intentions for the day by saying to myself “today I would like to ….” and then picturing it happening in my mind.

If my self-critic or inner future-predictor interferes and I start thinking about barriers to my good intentions or reasons why it won’t work out, I will notice the thoughts then come back to my breath and my intentions for the day. After a few minutes, I will open my eyes if I had them closed and move on into my day, carrying my values and positive intentions with me.

In this way, I will get used to setting aside my expectations to get a clear sense of what I value and what I want to happen, so I can carry these things throughout my day and come back to them when I find myself in a tough moment. I’ll also get to start my day off with a bit of calm breathing which might help set me up for a more relaxed day too.

Once I am comfortable with spending a few moments breathing and connecting with my values and wishes rather than my fears and expectations, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for self-soothing during times of stress and upset.When I notice I am distressed, I will be able to take a moment to breathe, come back to my own values and intentions as a way of soothing my unhelpful thoughts and problem-solving how I will deal with the situation I am facing. 

No. 132: Breathing Affirmations

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

…I will spend a moment every morning taking some calm, slow breaths while I repeat a couple of positive self-affirmations in my head.  For just two minutes, I will sit still, with my eyes closed, as I breathe deep into my belly and gently repeat my affirmations in my mind. As I notice my mind drifting away from my affirmations into doubtful, critical or negative chains of thought, I will bring myself back to my slow breathing and once more begin repeating my affirmation to myself. After a couple of minutes I will open my eyes and carry on with my day. Before I try this, I will need to prepare some statements that I might find validating, hopeful, strengthening or soothing in some way. 

A positive self-affirmation is just a statement about something positive that I think is true about myself or my place in the world.

What is a useful, comforting affirmation for one person, might not be any help to another person. So this exercise involves doing some exploration of what fits for me. Some people use inspiring quotes they have read somewhere, others use simple self-statements like “I am okay, whatever happens, I can survive it.” Others like to acknowledge their values and intentions. Others like to remember things like “I am connected to the wider universe and the ancestors that came before me.” Really, an affirmation can be anything at all.  Over the week, I will pay attention to the kinds of statements that I find useful and figure out what kinds of self-affirming statements work for me.  This week, each morning, I will have a chance to get used to hearing myself being kind and encouraging to myself.

Once I am comfortable with doing a breathing exercise while I think some self-encouraging statements, I will add the Breathing Affirmations to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. When I notice myself feeling upset or troubled in some way, I will take a moment to breathe and feed my mind some soothing, strengthening thoughts.

No. 126: Be the Super Hero in My Own Story

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

… I will practice being the super hero in my own life. So often we can find ourselves being the villain in our own stories, bullying ourselves with negative self-talk, sabotaging our own goals, holding ourselves back from new and exciting things, treating ourselves badly and keeping ourselves in situations that are ultimately harmful. This week, instead of being my own bad-guy, I will be my own good-guy.

So this week, as I move through each day, I will practice making my decisions and talking myself through with the intention of being the hero in my own daily life. This means, that I will encourage myself when I need encouraging, I will allow myself to dream big, I will throw myself the life-line of hope and help myself to reach out for it, I will rally my support troops around me when I need a whole crew of super heroes to get through a particular struggle. When I need rescuing from a bad day, I will give myself some kindness. When I feel vulnerable, I will visualise myself reacting from a place of strength. Whenever I find myself at a cross-roads moment, I will ask myself, what would the hero in my story do right now? In this way, throughout my week, I will use the idea of being a super hero for myself to practice real, genuine self-care and building a sense of inner strength.

Once I am familiar with imagining I am my own super hero to self-soothe and meet my needs, I will add ‘Be the Super Hero in My Own Story’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy to try during times of stress and distress. If I find myself feeling overwhelmed, I will approach the situation as the hero of my own experience, giving myself just what I need to get through safely.

No 117: Allowing Myself Room to Hope for the Best

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

…I will practice hoping for the best, rather than fearing the worst, by doing exercises where I imagine things go well. This week, I leave room for the possibility that the best outcome might happen. I will keep my hopes realistic so they don’t become expectations (For example, winning lotto and becoming a millionaire by the end of the day is perhaps unlikely but doing my job well today and having some pleasant interactions with other people is much more achievable).

As I move through my day, I will pause at the start of each task I do and I will take a moment to imagine it turning out how I would like it to. I will remind myself “it is possible for things to go well for me.” I will do this even for small ordinary tasks that I have no doubt about doing well. In this way I will start to build up my sense of things turning out okay sometimes, so it slowly becomes easier to let myself hope for the best, especially when I get to the big things.

When I am familiar with reminding myself of the positive possibilities in the course of an ordinary day, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of balancing fearful, anxious or pessimistic thoughts and feelings when they crop up. Sometimes it is too easy to be overcome by thoughts that predict the worst. I can cope by allowing room for the possibility that things will be okay for me in the end.

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.