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  • hornickcoaching

Shake the Etch A Sketch!

My mind is a lot like an Etch A Sketch.

I turn the knobs trying to get a good picture and sometimes it winds up a big mess.

The same solution can work for the big mess in my mind as I use for the big mess on the Etch A Sketch pad.


When you shake an Etch A Sketch the messy picture disappears. When I shake my mind it usually has the same effect, the messy picture disappears. Don’t get this wrong, I don’t physically shake my head like I shake the Etch A Sketch. It’s a metaphorical shaking. It’s something that shakes my thinking so it’s no longer fixated on the big mess.

Here are two good ways to shake the mental Etch A Sketch when you notice you are in a low mood.

  1. Start being aware of everything. Our attention can fill up with our thinking, our bodily feelings, or our awareness of the world around us. Low moods happen when all our attention is stuck in our thinking (and it’s not very high quality thinking. High quality thinking doesn’t land us in a low mood). 

So, you can start paying attention to what you sense. Look at that tree or the dishes in the sink or smell the air. Start paying attention to your body. Notice your breathing (classic), feel the sensation of your butt on the chair or the relative position of your feet. An attorney I once coached said, in a state of mild euphoria, “Paying attention to what’s around you is pretty f**king amazing.”

  1. Change your activity in a way that moves your attention. Unlike the first mental Etch A Sketch shake which is a mental shift, this is a physical switch. Move. Go for a swim or a run or–better–play basketball. Other not-so-athletic activity shifts can also do the trick. Engaging with other people about anything other than what was sketched on your mental Etch A Sketch will do the trick. Call a friend and talk about Venetian pottery or the last episode of anything or what were your favorite childhood movies. You get the idea. Just shake that mind into thinking about anything else.

These may sound like avoidance techniques. That’s because they are. There is something to be said for the adage, “The best way out is through,” but sometimes the best way to drop a hot potato is to take hold of something else and the best way to erase a mental mess is to give it a good Etch A Sketch shake.

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