Today I am going to talk about a simple yet very beneficial exercise that I call, Details in the Room.
Sometimes when we’re feeling anxious or depressed, negative thoughts are all we can think about. We zero in on these shadows of our lives. We might find ourselves focusing on events from our past or dreading the future. Our mind spins out of control, and the only thing we can do is feel anxious, afraid or hopeless.
This exercise stops a spinning, ruminating mind and brings us back to the here and now. This exercise can be done anywhere and at any time. You don’t need to go into a special room or acquire any special equipment. All you need is your spinning brain and a clear decision to make it stop.
You will learn how to train your mind to stop worrying about the past. It will help you stop dreading the future. You will find focus and peace in the moment. Just follow these simple steps and, before you know it, you’ll become more calm and more relaxed.
The first few times you practice this exercise, you might want to find a quiet room free from distractions (despite what I said earlier). When you’ve done it a few times, you’ll be able to practice anywhere.
Are you ready?
Good. Here we go…
When your mind is spinning and racing out of control, I want you to take a mental step back and realize that this is happening. You don’t need to do anything just yet. Simply observe your thoughts, and notice that they are fixating on something in the past or worrying about something in the future. Don’t think anything about these thoughts or even try to stop them. Just observe them without judgment. Good.
Now that you’ve noticed what your thoughts are doing, I want you to firmly tap your feet on the ground. Put some roots down. Feel the wood, carpet, tile, grass or dirt under your feet. If you’re wearing shoes, feel the texture of the shoe and how the sole of the shoe feels against the ground.
Listen to the sounds your feet make as they tap against the floor.
This feet-tapping brings you back to the here and now.
Now look around the room and notice, one by one, small details. Imagine you’re Sherlock Holmes looking for clues and you need to notice the tiniest of details. For example…
I notice the worn corner on a book.
Then I focus on the color green of a bowl.
Next, I notice a scratch on the wood of the bookcase.
Move around the room, noticing details. Once you’ve fully noticed a detail, move on to another detail. Really focus and observe the detail, without judgment.
It’s important to observe without judgment. For example, if I notice the scratch on the bookcase and then I wonder how it got there or if it’s worth repairing or if it ruins the entire bookcase, my mind has stopped focusing on the details of the scratch.
It’s natural to judge and critique when we begin to observe details because in our “normal” life, the only time we pay attention to the details is when something has gone wrong or needs to be fixed or we’re striving for perfection.
With this exercise you’re simply observing the details around you, then moving on to a different detail, always feeling rooted and strong in your connection to your body, your feet and your breath.
That’s it. That’s the entire exercise. Just keep noticing details in the room.
Tap your feet if you feel your attention drifting and your mind spinning. You may have to start and stop a few times. That’s OK. This exercise will bring you back to the present.
Take your time as you focus on the details in the room. There is no rush and no time limit. There is no way you can “screw this up.”
Observing details is a simple, yet powerful exercise. After you’ve noticed a few details you’ll feel your breath coming more easily. Your muscles around your face will relax. You’ll breathe deeper.
The great thing about this tool is you can take it with you anywhere—sitting in traffic, waiting in the doctor’s office, standing in line at the grocery store.
So this week, if you are feeling anxious or depressed, look around. Find details in the room. During this time you will be slowing down and controlling your spinning, racing mind. You will then program your brain to appreciate the here and now. With practice, this exercise will become soothing and comforting.
Kate Millett, an American author, wrote, “There are only moments. Live in this one. The happiness of these days.”
Start to notice the details in the room and add it to your mental health toolbox!