The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Visualisation

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.

No. 161: Laughter Yoga

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

… practice laughter yoga for just a moment 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 experiment with what happens if you schedule some time to practice laughing for no reason, without needing something ‘out there’ to give you a reason. It might help to start with just a few minutes and build up to 5 or 10 or even more. You might want to warn the people you live with to expect to hear some loud laughter coming from your room for a while – they might even want to join you and that can make it even more silly and fun.Laughter yoga is something that can wake your body up, so best not to schedule your practice time right before bed, unless you find that it tends to make you feel relaxed and tired afterwards. Test it out first. It will probably feel strange to do this at first, but that’s okay. This week, give yourself permission to be silly for a brief time each day.

Here are some simple Laughter Yoga exercises that involve forced, extending laughing.

  1. Take a Laughter Drink
    • Standing up straight, feet hip-width apart, raise one hand in front of you as if holding an imaginary (and bottomless) cup full of laughter.  Take a deep breath into the bottom of your belly then ‘pour’ the laughter into your mouth as you breathe out and force yourself to fake laugh until the cup is empty. Repeat this for ten breaths in and ten breaths out, trying to laugh for a little bit longer each time you breathe out.
    • You can also 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. Start with light tee-hees and move through the whole range of laughs until you get to the loudest, deepest ha-ha-has. With each cycle of breaths, try to laugh for a little bit longer.
  2. Laughter Balloons
    • Stand with your back straight and feet hip-width apart, place both palms flat on your belly and imagine you are holding a giant, empty balloon against your stomach. This time, on your first in-breath laughter will fill the balloon as you breathe down into your belly and stretch your arms out in a circle in front of you. Then slowly release the laughter out of the balloon on the out-breath, laughing out loud until the balloon is emptied and your palms are once again flat on your belly. Repeat five to ten times, aiming to laugh for longer each time.
  3. Laughter Hand-Ball
    • Standing with your back straight and your feet hip-width apart, facing a wall, pretend you have a laughter ball in your hands. Take a deep breath in and on the out-breath, ‘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 your laugh, the faster the ball will travel. Experiment with a different kind of laughter each time.
  4. Laughter Body Fill
    • Standing with your back straight and feet firmly grounded on the floor, this time, laughter will fill your body. Imagine each in-breath fills a different part of your body with the energy to laugh. On each out-breath laugh out loud from that part of your body, whatever that means to you, starting with your toes, and moving up through your legs, stomach, chest, shoulders, nose and the top of your head.

If you work up to spending five minutes on each exercise, eventually you will be doing 20 minutes of yoga laughter a day. As you move through the week, observe how this affects your body and moods. Test out different ways to adapt the exercises to suit.

Once you are comfortable using yoga laughter at an everyday kind of time, add it to your Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. Doing some laughter yoga could allow you to take a break from my distressing thoughts, shift your body’s physical stress responses and help release some of your brain’s happy chemicals.

No. 160: Call On Your Compassionate Self

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

… 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.

Start out by creating a character map of your compassionate self.

  1. First, think about what compassion means to you. Think about what you might need from your compassionate self and what compassion involves for you. Is your compassionate self forgiving, respectful, kind, aware of what is important to you, caring, accepting, warm, humorous or all of those things and more?  What does your compassionate self think about making mistakes, flaws, limitations, weaknesses, failures, and negative life events? Write your reflections down somewhere so you can keep them for later and add to them as you develop these ideas further.
  2. The next step is building a visual image for your compassionate self. What does your compassionate self look like? They could look like someone who has treated you with compassion in the past, a creature you have found comforting or it could look like you when you are being compassionate, understanding and kind to someone you care about. Think about what facial expressions and gestures your compassionate self might make to show their empathy, understanding and warmth and what it feels like to be near that. How does your compassionate self look at you? What do they do when they see you suffer?
  3. Next you need to create a voice for your compassionate self. What does your compassionate self sound like? Think about what tone of voice it uses, what it sounds like, how loud its voice is and how fast it speaks. Finally, create some words for your compassionate self. What does your compassionate self say to you? Think about what words and phrases your 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 you something to come back to later.

Now you are ready to practice, take one to two minutes a day to sit mindfully with your thoughts and practice responding to them with this compassionate self you are learning to build inside you. What would this kind, accepting part of you say back to these thoughts and feelings you are holding right now? What would they offer you? How would they do it?

Once you are familiar with visualising your compassionate self and responding to your thoughts with a compassionate voice, add “Call on Your Compassionate Self” to your Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with stress and distress. You will be able to call on the compassionate part of yourself to support yourself through stressful times with soothing, kind, respectful and understanding words, ideas and images, instead of being pushed along by your mind’s negative self-talk on autopilot.

No. 158: Plant Seeds and Nurture Them

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

… practice being aware of your valued actions by visualising or symbolically planting seeds for each of your valued intentions.

It is New Years Eve and that is 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 ‘Caring for my Physical Health.’ See the shift? A goal is a place on a map, but a value is a direction on the compass we use to guide us. 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, or prioritising one set of values over things we also hold dear to our hearts.

So this week, try doing a ‘Seed Planting Ceremony’ for the New Year, or the day or week ahead. First, take a moment to sit in stillness and bring your mind to what you want to nurture in your life. How do you want to treat yourself, the planet and others in the coming months? What is most important to you right now? When your mind throws up thoughts of what you don’t want, name it to yourself and bring your awareness to the values you would like to be guided by in such situations. What do you want to stand for as a person? What brings vitality and meaning to life for you? Write everything down as you go, then read back through and pick out the things that are priorities for you at the moment.

Next, make ‘paper seeds’ for each of values you want to ‘plant’ and nurture in your life by writing each one down or drawing them on a separate piece of paper. Give a name to each of the ‘seeds’ you are planting so you can easily bring it to mind when you need help to find a valued path forward. Choose a small object or picture for each of the important ‘seeds’ too if you would like. Next reflect on what you are doing, have done, or would do when living fully in line with this value that is so important to you? What small actions will grow it? Write these down too and then place the paper and the object in a special jar or container.

Try to create at least one different ‘seed’ for each of the areas of your life that are important to your health and wellbeing. As you learn more about what you value in your heart of hearts, you can return and create more paper ‘seeds’ to grow.

Take some time once a day to turn your mind to the ‘seeds’ you ‘planted’. Pick a few out of the jar, reflect on the ways you have moved towards it that day, acknowledge the things that have pulled you away with compassion, and visualise yourself nurturing this in yourself tomorrow.

As you move through each day, see if you can practice bringing your attention to these valued directions, by naming them to yourself as a reminder and seeing how they can guide your next steps.

Once you are comfortable with setting your intentions by naming and visualising the values you want to nurture, add ‘Plant Seeds and Nurture Them’ to your Personal Coping Kete. Then in times of stress and distress, you’ll be able to returning to your values as helpers and visualise how you want to move forward, given what you have got.When you notice myself feeling lost or confused or distressed or uncertain, pause, find a valued direction, and choose one workable step towards it.

No. 156: Extend the Image

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

… practice using extended imagery as a way of coping with unhelpful thoughts of the future that hold you 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,  practice seeing the extended view.

Take a minute or two each day to practice extended imagery so you are familiar with it during times of distress. At your chosen time each day, sit for a moment just breathing and tune your thoughts to the coming week. As you notice images surfacing in your mind, observe and describe the images to yourself and then imagine what might happen next, and after that, and after that, until you 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 ourselves resting, guilt-free, with a small sense of accomplishment afterwards. Instead of stopping with the image of ourselves embarrassed or uncomfortable arriving somewhere, we could carry it forward three weeks when the meeting is a distant memory or a year down the track with some new friends.

It can seem risky to stay with a distressing image our mind has predicted and extend it out. 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 you notice this happening, try extending the image even further, jump forward in time past the image you are stuck on, or extend the image out for the other people present – how will they feel about it the next day/month/year?

As you practice extended imagery, you might also need to practice using the impartial observer voice that goes with most mindfulness exercises. Extend all the way forward until you get to a point in time, when the current predicted image falls into perspective. Maybe you discover that all the consequences are bad ones; that can be good info to attend to as well. If that’s the case then we really need to change the course we are on, not our thoughts about it. Time to shift strategies. Try seeing what someone you trust thinks.

Practice daily with your thoughts of ordinary upcoming situations until you are used to this kind of strategy and have figured out how to make it work for you. We each have our own methods of getting in our own way and you’ll have your own barriers to work around too. Sometimes we are simply too distressed for our minds to allow us to adopt the long view and we need to do a bit of grounding or self-soothing first.

When you are comfortable and familiar with extending images, add it to your Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for times of stress and distress. When you find yourself upset or anxious, tune into the images your mind is throwing at you 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 just happened and our lives are irreversibly changed, we might see that in many years time we may have found a way to adapt and make meaning out of the experience.

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.