Self Soothing

Unknown author

The goal with self-soothing skills is to comfort yourself emotionally by doing things that are sensually pleasant and, most especially, not harmful. At the same time, focusing your full attention on sensory inputs — on what you are physically experiencing in the moment (mindfulness) usually will get people outside of their own heads (and away from troubling thoughts, feelings, and impulses).

The skills and techniques listed below are a starting point only. Everyone has to find what works for them, and it may be things that are not on these lists.

With vision

  • Buy one beautiful flower
  • Make one space in a room pretty
  • Light a candle and watch the flame
  • Set a pretty place at the table, using your best things, for a meal
  • Go to a museum with beautiful art
  • Go sit in the lobby of a beautiful old hotel
  • Look at nature around you
  • Go out in the middle of the night and watch the stars
  • Walk in a pretty part of town
  • Fix your nails so they look pretty (even “real men” can do this)
  • Look at beautiful pictures in a book (I have several photography books that are wonderful for this, one of which is just photos of children)
  • Go to a ballet or other dance performance, or watch one on TV
  • Be mindful of each sight that passes in front of you, not lingering on anything

With hearing

  • Listen to beautiful or soothing music, or to invigorating and exciting music (many people recommend that country music be avoided, since the lyrics tend to be depressing). Classical can be very good, since there are no lyrics to trigger specific thoughts
  • Pay attention to the sounds of nature (waves, birds, rainfall, leaves rustling) or listen to tapes of nature sounds (I use a whale song tape, and a rain forest tape)
  • Sing your favorite songs
  • Hum a soothing tune
  • Learn to play an instrument
  • Call 800 or other numbers to hear a human voice
  • Be mindful of any sounds that come your way, letting them go in one ear and out the other

With smell

  • Use your favorite perfume or lotions, or try them on in the store
  • Spray fragrance in the air
  • Light a scented candle
  • Put lemon oil on your furniture
  • Put potpourri in a bowl in your room
  • Boil cinnamon
  • Bake cookies, cake, or bread
  • Smell the roses
  • Walk in a wooded area and mindfully breathe in the fresh smells of nature

With taste

  • Have a good meal
  • Have a favorite soothing drink such as herbal tea or hot chocolate (no alcohol)
  • Treat yourself to a dessert
  • Put whipped cream on your coffee (or, if you’re like me, your cereal, toast, ice cream, rocks, put whipped cream on almost anything and I’ll eat it)
  • Sample flavors in an ice cream store
  • Suck on a piece of peppermint candy (or other flavors that you like - hard candy is recommended, though, since for many people soft candies can be triggering)
  • Chew your favorite gum
  • Get a little bit of a special food you don’t usually spend the money on, such as fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • Really taste the food you eat; eat one thing mindfully

With touch

  • Take a bubble bath
  • Put clean sheets on the bed
  • Pet your dog or cat
  • Have a massage (I think everyone should do this at least monthly, with a professional that you trust — there are people who specialize in therapeutic massage specifically to release body memories, etc.)
  • Soak your feet
  • Put creamy lotion on your whole body
  • Put a cold compress on your forehead. Or wrap your face in a very warm, damp facecloth (wonderfully relaxing) — my kids and I have done this before dinners sometimes — it really calms everyone down
  • Sink into a really comfortable chair in your home, or find one in a luxurious hotel lobby
  • Put on a silky blouse, dress, or scarf (satin or velour is also great, even for men)
  • Try on fur-lined gloves or fur coats in a department store (artificial furs, please)
  • Brush your hair for a long time
  • Hug someone
  • Experience whatever you are touching; notice touch that is soothing

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