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The Slowed Down Thinking Exercise

Table of Contents

by Heidi Hanson

artist, writer, trauma survivor

The Slowed Down Thinking ExerciseComments:

It’s time to slow down that fear-based thinking! When we are hyped up or keyed up, we tend to think at a fast pace with a high level of urgency. We may feel as if our thoughts are racing out of control or going round and round in circles. Of course, this is not a natural speed or rhythm associated with a normal, relaxed thought process. To heal PTSD it may help us to invite ourselves to slow down the speed of our thinking; to invite the brain to fall into a lower gear and operate at a more natural pace.


The goal of this exercise is to help our brain remember its natural, relaxed speed of thought. This exercise tends to help simplify the thought process itself, aiding us in going from mental chaos to mental organization and helping with information processing.

The secondary gain is to slow down our overall feeling of anxiety and to settle more into our body, to discover if when we slow down our thought rhythm, it also slows down body rhythms.


  1. When you notice you are thinking in a crazy fast way, with racing thoughts or in a chaotic way with too many thoughts at once, pause and relax. Take a deep breath.
  2. Slow your thoughts to two syllables per in-breath and 2 syllables per out-breath. Example: “I-want” on the in-breath, “to go” on the out-breath, “out-side” on the in-breath. Or: You can think “I-am” “slow-ing” “my-mind.” Or: “I-am” ”safe-now.” That is a good mantra to use for this exercise. You can think ongoing thoughts or just think one thought repeatedly like a mantra or chant.
  3. Enunciate each word clearly and carefully. You may even try over-enunciating to help stay focused. Also, stretch the syllables so they fill the entire breath to the very end.
  4. Focus on the words you are thinking. Be careful not to let some other stream of thought start running in the background.
  5. Pay attention to how your breath is slowing, bringing the brain, the nervous system and the entire body all into a slower more peaceful tempo.

It’s like taking a turbo jet airplane that is at-the-ready for high stress flight and putting it into a small fishing boat in a secluded lake and coaxing it to fish for an entire day. In this exercise you are taking your mind fishing for an entire day, no matter if it is all set to ride the turbo jet.

Jet Fishing

Variation – Ultra Slowed Down Thinking Exercise

When I am really stressed I always use this one.

This is exactly the same as Slowed Down Thinking except you think ONE syllable per in-breath and ONE syllable per out-breath (not two).

Breathing In: “Iiiiiiiii”
Breathing Out: “Aaaaaammmmm”
Breathing In: “Sloooooooooow-”
Breathing Out “iiiiiiiinnnnnggggg”
Breathing In: “Myyyyyyyyy”
Breathing Out: “Thouuuuugggtttsss”

The Slowed Down Thinking Exercise

Note that The Slowed Down Thinking Exercise can be used at the same time as most other exercises to enhance the calming effect.

Source: Heidi Hanson


Heidi Hanson is an artist and writer in Asheville, North Carolina currently working on an illustrated book chronicling her journey healing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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