Look around.

Monday July 1, 2013

We all know how intrusive and resilient anxious thoughts can be. The problem is that the more we try not to focus on a particular thought, the longer it stays trapped in our attention. There is a way around it. It's called distraction. Instead of trying not to think of something, force yourself to think about something else.

An effective distraction activity works by focusing your mind on another mental task. Not all tasks are as equally effective. For instance, watching television or reading are often not very useful because it's easy to lose concentration and drift back to worrying.

To find the right distraction activity for you, you need to experiment. Some people find puzzles like Sudoku totally diverting. It's quite possible, however, to distract yourself from worrying thoughts without any special materials.

One well known technique uses the world around you as your stimulus. Describe the view through your window or an object in the room as accurately and colourfully as possible, as if to someone not there. If you are out and about, focus on the people around you. Count how many men are wearing ties, how many passersby have blonde hair. Invent biographies for strangers. What do they do for a living? How wealthy are they? What's their house like? You get the idea. There are no limits other than your imagination.

You may well be surprised by how quickly distraction can reduce your anxiety levels. Often it's just a matter of minutes.

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