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How many times have you found yourself repeating that unhelpful thought or thing that you do, when it brings down your mood and you REALLY don’t want to be doing it anymore?  You know – those little devil thoughts like “I deserve another glass of wine”, or “I need that piece of chocolate cake!”, or “I’m so stupid and forgetful”.

There is a very useful technique, from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), called Thought Stopping which you can use to interrupt the process of negative thoughts or unhelpful behaviours.  This is how it goes.

  • Sit quietly, close your eyes and put yourself in the kind of situation where you might usually think the negative thought or act out the behaviour, e.g. pour yourself another glass of wine.
  • Now go back in your mind to just before you have the thought or start the behaviour and notice what your thoughts are as you lead into it.  For example, let’s take the glass of wine scenario.  Maybe, as you think about it, you become aware that you feel your partner, or the kids, or your work colleagues don’t appreciate how hard you work.  This leads to the next thought that you deserve another glass of wine (because you work so hard).
  • Next blank your mind and start again, this time saying the thoughts out loud.  Just as you get to the problem thought interrupt the process by clapping your hands and shouting the word “STOP!”.   As you do this “see” in your mind a BIG RED STOP SIGN.  Make it as vivid as you can, use flashing lights, sirens going off, etc.  Immediately take your mind to a pleasant memory that is not related to the problem you are dealing with.  Relax and let yourself enjoy the memory and the good feelings that go with it.
  • Repeat these steps 3 – 5 times, relaxing and enjoying your pleasant memory between each repitition.
  • Blank your mind once again and repeat the steps again, this time imagine hearing yourself clap, a loud voice shouting STOP and see the flashing lights.  Enjoy the pleasant memory between each repition as before.
  • Keep practising!  Habitual thoughts and behaviours can be stopped but just as you learned the habit in the first place, you need to keep repeating it until it just happens.

Simple exercises like this can make a real difference if you spend a few minutes every day following the steps.  So, go on have a go – see what a difference you can make!

If you live in a busy city, finding tranquillity in your daily life can be a challenge. Research shows that green spaces on side roads, which are often hidden from view, tend to have high levels of tranquillity due to the screening effects of buildings from the noise of busy streets. Pedestrianised squares in towns and cities were also shown to be acceptably tranquil because of the distance from traffic – some of these squares also featured grass and trees.

Similarly, well-maintained side streets – especially with avenues of trees – or heritage buildings can also score highly due to good visual attributes combined with low traffic noise. Close proximity to water was also shown to be good for tranquillity because it is naturally nice to look at and is relaxing to listen to. To boost the tranquillity of an area, the first step is to reduce man-made noise. Obviously on a city scale this could be done by things like rerouting traffic, lorry bans and low-noise road surfacing, as well as noise barriers. But in terms of your own surroundings, anything you can do to reduce unnatural noise the better. Higher and longer fences and walls next to the road can help here. As can creating a small quiet area with perhaps a natural-sounding water feature close by.

Increasing the percentage of natural features through “greening” can also help to boost the tranquillity of an area. Introducing more trees, shrubs, or trellising to “hide” building facades, makes people feel less stressed and calmer in their surroundings – so go wild with the greenery.
Having “natural” sounds can also help to make a place feel more tranquil. This could be done by installing a water feature or pond. This which will not only help in terms of relaxation but it will also encourage water fowl and birds. What all this shows is that creating a refuge from the din of city life doesn’t have to be a huge task. And it is often neglected green spaces that can be re-imagined as havens of tranquillity.

In Sheffield we are so lucky with parks like The Botanical gardens and the Rivelin Valley Nature trail, we are also surrounded by the Peak district, with hills, caverns and reservoirs. There are no end of tranquil places to visit. Here’s some more ideas to chill out my friends: