An Easy, Pleasant Exercise to Manage Thoughts and Feelings


Thoughts and feelings can be overwhelming at times. Forcing ourselves to let go of troublesome thoughts might help temporarily, but this method is not very effective.

Fortunately, there is a simple exercise that can help people manage thoughts and is pleasant to practice. It is called "Leaves on a Stream."

Leaves on a Stream Visualization

Sit comfortably in a chair, preferably somewhere free from distractions. Close your eyes, or let them remain open, resting on a fixed spot.

  1. Imagine yourself standing by the bank of stream, watching the water gently flow by. You can also imagine yourself standing or sitting in the middle of the stream, watching the water flow away from you.
  2. Listen to the water as it moves. Enjoy the light as it filters through leaves to dance on the stream’s surface.
  3. Observe that the leaves from a variety of trees are floating on the water, moving past you – or away from you – with the current. They may be the green foliage of summer, colorful fall leaves, or whatever your imagination serves up.
  4. Now notice any feelings, sensations or thoughts you are experiencing – positive, neutral or negative. One at a time, place each thought on a leaf. Watch the leaf float away from you, bobbing its way downstream.
  5. At times, you may discover yourself riding on a leaf with one of your thoughts or feelings. Allow this to happen; continue observing.
  6. Let the water flow at its own rate. If you experience urges to slow down or speed up the current, place that urge on a leaf as well.
  7. Should a leaf get hung up on a twig or stuck in a little eddy, just continue to watch its movements. There is no need to force any action.
  8. Continue watching the stream. If more thoughts or feelings arise, place them on a leaf.
  9. By watching thoughts and feelings float away, you may begin to realize that those thoughts and feelings are not you but are instead something you have.
  10. When you are ready, let the image of the stream dissolve. Bring your awareness back to your physical environment.

Visualization Variation

The "Leaves on a Stream" imagery can help even if you do not have time to relax in a comfy chair for several minutes.

Should you have a problematic thought or feeling while at work or school, take a brief break from what you are doing. Place the feeling or thought on an imaginary leaf floating down an imaginary stream. Watch it drift off for a few seconds and then go back to your task. Do this as often as necessary throughout the day.

Source: Online Library


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