How do you think happy thoughts?

by Marita on February 10, 2012

Post image for How do you think happy thoughts?

When I’m really stressed or anxious I see spiders each time I close my eyes. Wandering across the back of my eyelids, large and small. It makes sleep very hard at those times as I lie awake with my eyes open to avoid the spiders and try and calm myself so they will go away.

One trick I have had since childhood is to build an ice cream sundae in my head, visualising the bowl, then each layer. We used to get those ice cream sundaes with my parents at Dreamworld, so I think this technique is one I learned / was taught as a very young child.

Annie often has bad dreams or bad thoughts in her head that keep her awake at night so she can’t sleep. The melatonin has helped but there are still times in the early hours of the morning where she lies awake with the bad thoughts keeping sleep at bay.

I tried to teach her my trick, visualise something happy, like my ice cream sundae which is associated with happy memories of my childhood.  But something happened that surprised me, Annie can’t build pictures in her head, she can’t visualise these things.

So I need a new trick to teach her, a different tool. Would love to hear what works for you.

{ 22 comments }

Annelise February 10, 2012 at 5:53 am

Perhaps give her a real ice cream sundae that she can see? (someone had to say it!) If Annie’s not visual then perhaps calming music could literally drown out the sound of scary thoughts.

I sometimes get “bad” thoughts in my head (things like what if I went and murdered someone I really love because I really hate them?). the more I tried not to think about it, the more I thought and the more I worried. I ended up talking to mum and realising that I don’t have bad thoughts because I’m a bad person who would do those things; most people have an occasional fleeting bad thought and brush it off, but anxious Aspies fixate and worry. now instead of trying not to think of something (impossible), I take a good hard look at it, knowing it didn’t make me a horrible person, and then it’s much easier for me to not think about because I’m not trying to avoid it. For more realistic worries, I put them on a convertor belt in my head and watch them ride away, knowing they will come back again, they aren’t forgotten, but I don’t need to look at them right now. Very visual, but perhaps writing a worry down and putting it in a worry about later box would work?

Marita February 14, 2012 at 7:33 am

We’ve had a worry box that didn’t work very well, mostly because Annie lost it in the stuff in her room.

Could suggest revisiting the idea. Thank you :)

Martine@themodernparent February 10, 2012 at 7:06 am

Another strategy that some have success with is to talk about all the worries she has with you before she goes to sleep, discuss briefly the likelihood of those worries eventuating and the consequences if they did. Usually you would then visualize them being packed up in a box or suitcase until another time but as she has trouble visualizing maybe you could get an actual box, decorate it and even call it a ‘worry box’. Then at night you can open it with her, discuss the worries and then close it up when she goes to bed and tie a big ribbon around it. Trying to get into the habit of only allowing the worrying to happen when the box is open. Hope you find something that helps :)

PlanningQueen February 12, 2012 at 11:22 am

Love this suggestion Martine.

Marita I hope you find something that works. It must be hard having disrupted sleep for so long.

Nic xx

Marita February 14, 2012 at 9:19 am

Thank you Nic :) It isn’t so much the falling asleep but the waking up in the early hours of the morning that is the hardest part.

Marita February 14, 2012 at 9:17 am

Thank you :) We did have a worry box but it fell out of use due to getting lost in her bedroom. I’m trying to work out a way she could use her iPad to write down her worries.

Sarah @fignutmum February 10, 2012 at 7:07 am

Suggestions we have had are,
Using those worry dolls
An exercise book next to the bed to write or draw worries in when they happen. That way they are out of their head.
Write draw the worries on paper and fold up small and put in a box.

We are currently doing a new exercise before bed naming something nice that happened that day and naming something nice about the next day.

That’s all I can come up with right this minute.
Goodluck

Marita February 14, 2012 at 9:20 am

Hmmm we talk about the ‘Best part of our day’ at dinner, I might be able to extend that into a bedtime discussion :) Thank you.

pip February 10, 2012 at 7:28 am

oh your spiders reminded me of my childhood. i had the same, and i fixated on bad thoughts and thought that meant i was a bad person. My mum and dad used to say, think happy thoughts. I found it really hard, so i read books that were very “fluffy” before i went to sleep so i could think about that.

Marita February 14, 2012 at 9:24 am

Not a bad idea, I do that too by playing fluffy / happy games on my iphone (less disturbing to hubby than turning light on to read).

Might find some books to go beside Annies bed.

Nathalie Brown February 10, 2012 at 9:02 am

I make pet rocks with the kids I work with and we also make them a small home. You tell your pet rock your worries and it sleeps under your pillow or your bedside table. If you wake up at night you hold your pet rock in your hand and it takes away the bad thoughts. Most kids will fall asleep holding their pet rock. I do this during the day and we don;t go over the bad thoughts just before bed as it will be the last thing on their mind as they go to sleep.

Marita February 14, 2012 at 9:29 am

Oooh I love this idea, thank you.

Linnibea February 10, 2012 at 9:11 am

I used to get the kids to think of three things or times they liked and then write a story in their head. If she cant “picture” the story then she can maybe “see” the words to the story as if she was writing them down. Then in the morning I would ask what the story was. 9 times out of 10 they were asleep to quick to remember it. They had plenty of scary bad thought nights too.

Marita February 14, 2012 at 9:30 am

That could work, we use to tell made up stories for bedtime stories, could do an extension of that for when she wakes up in the middle of the night.

Veronica February 10, 2012 at 9:14 am

I start thinking about my toes. I wiggle them, and then relax them. Then my feet and my ankles, all the way up to my shoulders and head. Think about each part part, wiggle it a bit, relax it and move on.

I wonder if that would work better because there is something concrete to feel and relax?

Marita February 14, 2012 at 9:31 am

That is a great idea, Annie stores lots of tension in her body so I can see wiggling each body part really helping.

Deb February 10, 2012 at 10:42 am

Big girl has a ‘night iPad’ and she chooses a movie to watch at bedtime. She has an entire elaborate game about the magic iPads and how you get more movies on to them. She ‘watches the movie on her eyelids’ which would be a problem, but perhaps Annie could tell herself stories.

We’ve found several talking book apps that the girls like, maybe something like that for before bed?

Marita February 14, 2012 at 9:32 am

Annie talks about her dreams as movies she watches at night. I like the story telling idea. Can really see it working.

Louisa February 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Wish I had some thoughts, but very glad you’ve got a few clever chicks here who know more about this than I do!

Marita February 14, 2012 at 9:33 am

Internet is such a wonderful help for times like these, worried mamas can ask for help and receive lots of great advice.

katepickle February 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm

We’ve used the worry dolls with my worry wart…. she would talk to the doll then put it under her pillow and try to go back to sleep. Limited success on the sleep front but I think it made her feel more in control having something she could actually do.

At the moment we use spoken stories on the MP3 player, or I let her read… something to really help her think about something else entirely.

Marita February 14, 2012 at 9:34 am

Annie made her own worry doll, which is stashed under her pillow. I like the idea of stories, they could work so very well.

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