How To Distract Yourself

Sometimes, distraction can help… 
There are healthy ways to distract yourself from a breakup, depression, anxiety, panic attack, from eating, physical pain, stress, intrusive thought, sadness, thinking about someone, negative thoughts, OCD thoughts, smoking, hunger and etc. This is called purposeful distraction.

Purposeful Distraction is anything you do to temporarily take your attention away from strong emotion. Sometimes focusing on a strong emotion can make it feel even stronger and more out of control. Therefore, by temporarily distracting yourself, you may give the emotion some time to decrease in intensity, making it easier to manage.

100 Ways To Distract Yourself

Displacement Distraction

  • Bite into a chilli
  • Chewing leather
  • Draw over all your old scars, which will provide a repetitive action and hopefully will relieve urges.
  • Draw yourself or around your arm on a piece of paper, draw the harm you are imagining then destroy the  picture
  • Drawing on yourself in red marker
  • Make ice cubes with added red food colouring and rub them on where you want to self-harm
  • Mix warm water and food colouring and put it on your skin
  • Putting on fake or henna tattoos and then peeling them off
  • Putting plasters or bandages on where you want to self-harm
  • Snapping an elastic band on your wrist
  • Squeezing ice cubes
  • Take a hot shower and use a good exfoliating body wash and a sponge or glove and scrub!
  • Take a photo of yourself when you are feeling upset, write all over it how you are feeling then destroy the picture.
  • Use skin coloured plasticine, smear it on your skin, cut into the plasticine (carefully) pour fake blood or food colouring into the fake cut.
  • Use stage makeup to create fake injuries

Physical Distractions

  • Dancing
  • Exercise – Situps etc.
  • Going for a drive/bike ride/ bus ride/walk/ run
  • Going to the gym
  • Having a pillow fight with the wall
  • Playing catch with a ball
  • Playing with a stress ball
  • Plucking your eyebrows
  • Popping balloons
  • Popping bubble wrap
  • Punching a punching bag
  • Ripping up paper into small pieces
  • Shouting and screaming
  • Stamping your feet (with boots on)
  • Swimming
  • Taking your anger out on a soft toy
  • Throwing socks against the wall

Creative Distractions:

  • Crocheting
  • Doodling or scribbling on paper
  • Drawing or painting
  • Knitting
  • Making a mixtape, a compilation of your favourite music
  • Memorising poetry or song lyrics
  • Origami
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Sewing
  • Singing
  • Writing poetry, journals, letters, stories etc.

Comforting Distractions:

  • Allowing yourself to cry
  • Cuddling a soft toy/pillow
  • Drinking hot chocolate
  • Having a massage or massaging your own hands and feet
  • Playing with a pet
  • Sleeping
  • Taking a shower or bath
  • Wearing your pyjamas and watching daytime TV

Constructive Distractions:

  • Calling a helpline, Samaritans, childline etc
  • Cleaning
  • Cooking, bake a cake or make cookies, meal
  • Doing school work, homework, paperwork
  • Dying hair
  • Gardening
  • Organising CD’s, DVD’s and books in genres, alphabetical and/or chronological order
  • Organising your room, clothes photographs
  • Painting your nails
  • Polishing furniture, jewellery
  • Posting on web forums/replying to posts
  • Putting on fake tan
  • Putting on false nails
  • Reading a book
  • Shredding
  • Stamping on cans for recycling (with sturdy shoes on)
  • Untangling necklaces, string, wool
  • Writing a list of positive things in your life
  • Writing a to-do list

Fun Distractions:

  • Building things from Lego then destroy them and rebuild
  • Colouring in
  • Colouring or scribbling over pretty women in magazines or cutting up magazines
  • Counting anything, patterns on wallpaper, bricks on a wall, ceiling tiles
  • Doing crosswords, word searches, sudoku etc.
  • Dressing up, glamorous or silly
  • Finger painting
  • Going shopping to treat yourself
  • Going to see a film, watching a DVD
  • Going to the zoo and renaming all the animals
  • Hunting for things on eBay
  • Jumping in puddles
  • Listen to music, download new music
  • Looking for your perfect house in the paper
  • Naming all your soft toys
  • Planning an imaginary party
  • Play with a slinky
  • Playing computer games
  • Playing with a distraction toy such as a bedlam cube, geomag, or a tangle
  • Playing with play dough or modelling clay
  • Pop balloons
  • Surf the internet
  • Using makeup or face paints
  • Watching your favourite TV show
  • Write down your full name then make as many words out of it as possible

Distractions With Others

  • Generally being with other people
  • Going to a public place
  • Helping someone else
  • Hugs
  • Phoning a friend
  • Talking about your problems with someone close to you that knows what you are going through
  • Visiting a friends

Inspiring Distractions

  • Look at works of art
  • Looking up into the sky, cloud watching or star gazing
  • Meditating
  • Picking an object a shell or rock for example and focusing on it very closely
  • Watch fish, birds or butterflies
  • Watching a candle burning
  • Yoga/Tai chi

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