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The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management, a program of the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management – teaching you the skills you need to keep the weight off forever!


Self-soothing is a fundamental skill that is critical for both emotional and physical wellness. When we feel overwhelmed by our emotions, we may turn to food or other substances to help us calm down. For successful long-term weight loss maintenance, it’s critical that we find other ways of soothing ourselves when we feel stressed or overwhelmed.

Self-soothing involves purposefully engaging in comforting experiences that engage one or more of our five senses.

As Ruth Baer, Ph.D. explains in her book “The Practicing Happiness Workbook: How Mindfulness Can Free You From 4 Psychological Traps that Keep You Stressed”, when we engage in self-soothing we are not trying to avoid or suppress our emotions. This is not about denying the problem or avoiding the process of problem solving. Rather, it’s about acting with compassion towards ourselves when we find ourselves dealing with a situation that we are unable to resolve right away. Self-soothing strategies are effective ways of “short circuiting” overwhelming feelings.

Self-soothing helps us connect with the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, and without impulsively doing something that we may later regret. As a kind of metaphor, I think of self-soothing as a way of “calming the raging storm inside” – once the rain and wind die down, we are able to venture out and move forward into problem solving.

Here are some examples of self-soothing strategies:

Focus on being able to see beauty, peaceful scenes, and attractive art. Organize your living and work spaces to reduce clutter and chaos.

– Surround yourself with colors that calm you, or look at photography books
– Look at the ocean or watch a sunrise or sunset
– Take a moment to notice the colors of the sky
– Look at art that soothes you

Find sounds that relax, calm, or reassure you.

– Listen to soothing instrumental music
– Listen to relaxation or meditation CDs or apps (try the free App Breathe2Relax)
– Buy a “sound” machine that plays nature sounds
– Listen to the birds chirping

If possible, bring delicious or beautiful scents into your living and work spaces – if not, take yourself somewhere that allows you to experience delightful and soothing scents.

– Smell flowers or notice the smell of freshly mown grass, or use shampoos with pleasant scents
– Sample perfumes and colognes at a department store, or use scented plug-ins
– Light a candle that has your favorite scent
– Enjoy the aroma of your cup of tea or coffee

All humans need touch. Touch is nurturing and also triggers endorphins, which give us a feeling of well-being.

– Walk barefoot through sand or grass, or notice how the wind feels on your face
– Rub your own temples and forehead, or take a long relaxing bath
– Give yourself a hug, or ask someone for a hug
– Wear soft clothing and notice how it feels against your skin
– Feel the sun against your skin

Pay attention to tastes that will soothe and comfort you.

– Slowly and mindfully drink a warm drink (or a cold drink), feeling the warmth or chill inside
– Chew your favorite gum
– Eat your favorite food and be sure to savor every bite

Self-soothing will not solve whatever problem we’re dealing with, but it helps reduce the intensity of the emotion, in the moment, so that our minds can clear and become calm, and we can then engage in effective coping and problem solving.

Which self-soothing strategies work best for you? Share your experience with me and with other readers by commenting on this blog.

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Free Teleseminar Sunday September 14th at 12 noon Central Standard Time: “The Top 7 Mistakes that Smart People make when trying to Lose Weight and Keep it Off Forever – and how YOU can Avoid Them!” For details, call-in information, and to register, email me:

With your continued health in mind,
Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.
Director, The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management
Creator, The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management

The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh™ is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.