I was walking a client through several different techniques to reduce stress and tension and increase positive thinking. She scribbled down notes as we talked and we practiced each one. At the end of the session she said, “The way my brain is working, I won’t be able to decipher my notes. Can you write down a summary of what you taught me.”
That night I wrote up a description of each technique and after my fab wife edited it. I sent it to her. I decided to share it here incase it may be able to help someone else.
3×3: Each day write down three things you are looking forward to (future things) and three things you are grateful for (past or present things). Doing this in the morning or before bed works well but it can be done at anytime of day that works for you. Having a consistent time is usually helpful. On particularly difficult days it may be beneficial to do this more than once. Some days it can be hard to think of anything. On days like that, you might be able to look forward to lunch break, going to bed at the end of the day, or for depression to be smaller. You might be able to feel grateful for having all ten fingers and all ten toes and that your had a warm place to sleep last night.
Take a Breath Plus: When you notice yourself feeling tense, or negative thoughts are filling your head, take a deep slow breath while saying a helpful or calming phrase. For example, say “I will get” as you slowly breath in and then finish the phrase by saying “through this” as you breathe out. Repeat once or twice as needed throughout the day.
5 Minute Meditation: This exercise helps train your brain to notice when you are thinking about unhelpful things so you can shift to focusing your mind on helpful things (like work, positive things in your life, finding solutions, etc). It also helps calm your body, slow down rapid thoughts, and reduce tension in your body and much more. It is an expansion of the “Take a Breath Plus” exercise above.
- Set a timer on your phone or elsewhere for 1 minute and start it.
- Begin to take deep slow breaths as you repeat a calming positive phrase.
- Focus on the act and feeling of breathing and your positive phrase.
- When you notice your mind drifting to anything other than your breathing and phrase, bring your attention back to your chosen focus (breath and phrase). (Your brain will wander and initially it will be difficult to notice when it does. That’s why you set the timer.)
- When the timer goes off, notice what you are thinking about. If you are thinking about your breathing and phrase, great job. Continue to the next step. If you are thinking about something else, that’s OK. Continue to the next step.
- Set the timer for another minute.
- Resume deep slow breath as you repeat your phrase
- Repeat steps 2-6 for a total of 5-6 minutes.
As you get better at catching your wandering thoughts you can gradually set the timer for longer intervals (2 minutes, 3 minutes) until you can consistently go for 5 minutes and be able to catch yourself each time your mind wanders.