Count to 10: Six Reasons Why You Should Try This

In one of the first episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (see previous post about this new Netflix series), trauma survivor Kimmy explains her 10-second-at-a-time method for getting through difficult tasks or times. You count to 10—often repeatedly, in fact. That is, you count to 10 however many times you need in order to make it to the end of the ordeal.

5 reasons in addition to surviving difficult experiences and/or trauma to count to 10:

To be able to make better decisions.

Or as Ran Zilca, Psychology Today, calls it, “reclaiming your autonomy from your limbic brain”:

Heaps of words have been written about the ‘fight or flight’ stress response and about how irrational and inadequate it could be to the safe modern environments in which most of us live today. The one important factor that is often overlooked is that these responses are faster than any conscious thoughts over which you have control. To nurture your well-being and reclaim your autonomy from your limbic brain you have to allow more time for the slower neural processing of conscious thoughts to kick in. And to do that you may need to utilize the oldest intervention in the toolbox of the science of psychology:

Count to ten.

To tolerate a difficult thought.

Therapist Eric R. Maisel, PhD, elaborates in a Psychology Today post:

Tolerating a difficult thought is much harder than people realize. Not being able to tolerate one’s own thoughts is the key dynamic to the defense called ‘denial’…Tolerating a difficult thought is the key to recovery, growth, healing, and change…

Pick a thought that you do not want to think, think that thought, and then very slowly count to ten internally. That’s all you need to do. Just ‘be with the thought’ for ten seconds. Don’t worry about ‘doing anything’ with the thoughts and feelings that may flood you as you try to stay with that difficult thought. You don’t have to dispute them, answer them, handle them, accept them, or anything. You just have to survive them. You just have to tolerate them. Your goal is to learn how to not race away from difficult thoughts and how to remain in their presence for a full ten seconds.

♦ To stop procrastinating.

Per “Dr. Procrastination,” Timothy Pychyl (Psychology Today):

When you feel that ‘freaking out’ feeling around a task because it’s too difficult, overwhelming, frustrating, boring and just generally aversive, then it’s time to breathe. Yes, just breathe.

Breathe in deeply and mentally count ‘one.’ Breathe out slowly and mentally count ‘two.’ Breathe in deeply and mentally count ‘three.’ Breathe out slowly and…you see the pattern. Continue to ten. You’re still in your seat. Most likely the panic, fear, overwhelming feelings are lessened so your rational mind has a chance to take over again.

Now, just get started on some part of the task at hand. Be prepared to breathe and count again. You never really know when those ugly feelings will surface, but you’re prepared.

To manage your anger.

Mental health experts and Thomas Jefferson alike have famously proposed this method for anger management. It was Jefferson who once said, “When angry count to ten before you speak.” He then added, “If very angry, count to one hundred.” The gist of contemporary thought: when riled, breathe deeply and then count to 10 before speaking or acting.

To more fully believe the positive feeling or experience you’re having is real.

As in singer Dusty Springfield‘s “I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten”:

I close my eyes and count to ten
And when I open them you’re still here
I close my eyes and count again
I can’t believe it but you’re still here

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