Tack­ling painful thoughts

Gloucestershire Echo - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE - WITH DR EL­LIE MILBY

that the un­help­ful cop­ing strate­gies we use of­ten serve to keep our prob­lems go­ing, it frees us up to do things dif­fer­ently and find new ways of re­spond­ing to our thoughts.

One way we can free our­selves from the trap of try­ing to avoid painful thoughts is us­ing a tech­nique called de­fu­sion. When we defuse from our thoughts, we learn to re­late to them in a way that means they have much less im­pact on how we feel and much less in­flu­ence on our be­hav­iour.

Be­low are three sim­ple tech­niques you can use to help you defuse from your thoughts.

LA­BELLING THOUGHTS: To help you get some dis­tance from up­set­ting thoughts, such as “I’m a bad per­son”, in­sert the phrase “I’m hav­ing the thought that…” in front of it and re­peat this sev­eral times. Then ex­tend the phrase fur­ther to “I’m notic­ing that I’m hav­ing the thought that…” and re­peat this sev­eral times.

MU­SI­CAL THOUGHTS: Take an up­set­ting thought and sing it to the tune of a fa­mil­iar song such as “Happy Birth­day”. This is a great way to hold your thoughts more lightly.

THANK­ING YOUR MIND: Spend some time re­flect­ing on the sto­ries your mind tells you. For ex­am­ple, do you have an “I’m a fail­ure” story, an “I’m not good enough” story, an “I can’t cope” story or an “I’m unlov­able” story?

When these thoughts arise, try say­ing “Thanks, mind!” – not sar­cas­ti­cally or ag­gres­sively, but with warmth and hu­mour and no­tice what hap­pens.

Dr El­lie Milby is a coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist

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