The Coping Kete

Monthly Archives: June 2012

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No. 103: Mindfulness of My Senses

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

…I will practice using the 5 senses of taste, touch, sight, sound and smell to shift my attention away from unhelpful thoughts, concerns and moods.

This week, as I move through my day I will take pauses whenever I remember to and make myself aware of my five senses in that moment. This will allow me to practice moving my attention away from a moment and onto my senses during everyday situations. I might set an alarm to remind me to practice.

Each time, I will take a few belly breaths like in the standard breathing exercise and I will mentally scan through each of my senses.

  1. What can I hear right now?
  2. What can I see right now?
  3. What can I touch/feel right now?
  4. What can I taste right now?
  5. What can I smell right now?

I will spend a moment on each sense, making myself aware of what I am sensing right now. Then I will turn my attention back to my day.

If my thoughts wander back to my day during this exercise, I will watch the thoughts pass through my mind and I will say to myself… “I am here, sensing the world.

Once I have a bit of practice with turning my attention away from the day and onto my senses for a while, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of distracting myself from unhelpful thoughts or moments of distress.

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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. 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. 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. 

No. 100: Use Energy Lifting Words

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

… I will practice using positive, inspiring words in my self-talk and my communications with others to help shift the mood of things. This week, I will become aware of the kinds of words I am using with myself and with others. Each time I notice what I am thinking, I will find a way to reframe it that allows me to use more positive words. Each time I notice the kinds of words I am using/want to use when talking to others, I will think of a way of inserting more positive words.

It might help to first make a list of the kinds of energy-raising words I could use, such as inspired, peaceful, harmonious, content and enjoyment. So for example, instead of thinking or saying ‘I feel awful right now,’ I might reframe things so I think or say ‘I want to do something to inspire me’ instead.

Sometimes just thinking about the positive concept can lift our energy. Using these words in our communication can help lift the energy of those around us and make the way we communicate our problems more effective.

Once I am comfortable doing this as part of my regular day, I will add ‘Reframe to use positively charged words’ into my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for self-soothing and/or expressing myself when I am stressed or distressed.

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.