Intrusive thoughts…and how to take back control

Christine Pignet, a graduate of the Sophrology Academy shares her thoughts on this common issue.

Perhaps you have been bothered at times by unwanted intrusive thoughts.

It can happen anytime, it can be fleeting or last for rather a long time, and be very unpleasant when it happens during a concert, a yoga class, a meditation … or Sophrology session.

Sometimes, these thoughts are useful: your brain is working hard to solve a problem, to create something or remembering happy moments.

But often these thoughts are a nuisance you could do without, especially if they bring uneasiness or anxiety.

I have experienced this very common situation myself. I would often feel my brain getting out of control, but I now have the capacity to control it a little better … and it has changed my life!

A lot of Sophrology exercises can be useful for getting back in control of our mental activity. They help to develop our capacity to be in the present whilst staying gentle with ourselves.

Over time you will likely develop your own helpful ways to focus on the present again and put aside your intrusive thoughts.

Here are some examples, two very simple things I use myself when I want to “switch off” my own mental activity.

First example: observing your own breathing

You can do this at any time: walking, on public transport, before going to sleep. And it only takes a few minutes.

It’s about observing, not trying to change anything, just observing:

  • the air coming in, going down your throat, towards your chest, going out
  • the temperature: perhaps a little cooler when you breathe in, a little warmer when you breathe out
  • the movement of your body: are your shoulders moving? Your chest? Your belly?
  • the pace and rhythm: is it quick, slow, regular, or not
  • how long does it take to breathe in: 2 seconds? 3? more? And to breathe out?

How does it feel now?

Second example: focusing on the “points of contact”

Whatever your position is, your body is in contact with the floor, a chair, a bed, your clothes, the air.

Take your time to bring your attention to each point of contact, one by one:

At first, it might be difficult to stay focused, to notice your sensations. That’s okay, little by little, it will get easier.

And once again, you can do this anywhere, anytime, and it only takes a few minutes.

As often with Sophrology, the best way is to try and experiment before it is needed. As if you were preparing tools and learning how to use them before you begin working with them.

And next time you feel streams of unwelcome thoughts intruding on your mind: unsheathe your tools!