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Dear Candy Q & A: Curious Observer Exercise

The following exercise is intended to help you cultivate your curious observer while being more readily able to identify the thought patterns that trigger you or keep you stuck. Since we have to first become aware of the patterns before we can intervene and change them, cultivating awareness of where our mind get stuck is key to making progress. In my experience, even for those who are really good at observing themselves, there are different levels to the awareness we have about ourselves and our mind. Generally speaking, there is always room to go deeper and to learn more about ourselves in the process.

  1. Sit comfortably either in chair or on the floor, preferably with your back supported.

  2. Close your eyes, take in a few deep breaths, and with each exhale, relax your body.

  3. Spend the next 5 to 10 minutes observing your thoughts. Be aware of yourself as the one who is observing. Accept that the thoughts are there and allow them to come and go.

  4. Notice which thoughts take you out of being "the one who is observing" and into "the one who is thinking the thoughts". This will give you an indication of which thoughts or topics you more readily identify with, or are more invested in.

  5. When you catch yourself doing the thinking instead of the observing, gently move your awareness back to being the one who is observing. With the next few exhales, focus once again on relaxing your body.

  6. After you are have finished your 5 to 10 minutes, gently bring your awareness back into the room and open your eyes.

  7. Take a few moments to note which thoughts you got caught up in. Ask yourself if this is an automatic negative thought/POP, or if there is an underlying pattern of fear/worry to those thoughts. You can also ask if there is a theme to the thoughts you got invested in. If yes to any of these, you have just identified a pattern that is feeding the maladaptive pathways in your brain. It would be wise to do some retraining around those thoughts/feelings/themes for the next while.

  8. Continue this practice every day for one week. By the end not only will you have strengthened your ability to be the curious observer, but you will likely have identified at least a few areas in need of intervention to help you on your recovery journey.

Don't worry if you find yourself getting caught in your thoughts a lot. Every time you catch yourself and come back to observing you are strengthening the pathways that enable you to do so, making it easier for you over time. You are also strengthening the pathways that allow you to focus. And, you are getting some good information around the types of thoughts or themes that tend to carry you away in your mind. This is all very valuable in moving us to a deeper level of wellbeing.

Until next time!

If you have a question, please email me at


Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She has a background in nervous system regulation, trauma, grief & loss, mindfulness, somatic therapy, & positive psychology. She taught the DNRS in-person program for 5 years, has over a decade of experience coaching brain re-trainers & provides mentorship to other coaches. Candy works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. More information about Candy can be found at

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