Look at this picture. What do you see? (an exercise)

The following exercise is the first coping mechanism I was taught by my therapist when I began CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). This particular routine is designed to help the brain re-learn basic mindfulness and awareness of the present moment. Whenever I feel myself becoming overwhelmed or when I catch myself daydreaming, I refocus myself with this exercise.

*Full disclosure, this is a modified and shortened version of the exercise I was taught by my licensed and trained psychotherapist.

Look at the following picture. Take 10-15 seconds and really try to comprehend the picture as a whole.

Pathway in Monet’s Garden at Giverny – 1920


Now that you’ve taken some time to look at the image, can you tell me what predominant colors you see?

Potential answer: Green, purple, red, perhaps some orange and tan as well.

Now look at the picture again – do you see the red and white flowers? Focus in on this portion of the painting. Describe the shape of the flowers. Do you think they are the same type of flowers as the purple ones below? What type of flowers do you think they could be?

Now look at the picture a third time. What time of day do you imagine it is? Do you think the sunlight is coming from the east or the west? Where do you think the door leads to? A house? A museum? A business? Whatever your answer is, why do you think that?

While the above questions may seem arbitrary, the exercise is meant to retrain your brain to notice the little details of the present moment.

First, you begin by taking in the picture as a whole image. Then you break it down by the specifics of the image (colors of the flowers, the door at the end of the pathway). For a frenetic brain like mine, my mind has effectively forgotten how to recognize the smaller details within the greater chaos. The above exercise works to rewrite the pathways in my brain that are responsible for the “little details”. In the every day practical sense, the fact that I am unable to recognize the “little details” makes it so that my job administering payroll, verifying hours worked by 20+ employees, and copious amounts of numerical data entry is nearly impossible without the aid of AD/HD specific medications. My brain is not trained to retain short-term information in a way that I can easily reference should I need to.

The way I visualize this exercise is as an upside-down pyramid. I start from the top (the image representing one idea) and work my way down to the individual details. By practicing this routine, I am helping my subconscious mind rewrite its neural pathways so that I am able to comprehend the parts that make up a whole, rather than just one jumbled image.

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Let me know your thoughts on this! Did you try this exercise? Did it make sense to you or help you in some way?

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