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How can you replace self-harm with another activity?

33 Answers
Last Updated: 06/08/2021 at 3:46am
1 Tip to Feel Better
Moderated by

Johanna Liasides, MSc


I work with youth and young adults to help them improve depressive symptoms and self-esteem as well as effectively address family, relationship and peer conflicts.

Top Rated Answers
May 8th, 2015 12:47pm
Try taking a nice hot (or cool if you prefer) shower or bath. It relaxes muscles and might take your mind off things. Also, try and delay the action. Tell yourself, "I'll self harm in 30 minutes if I still want to," then everytime you go thirty minutes, say it again and reset the time. Try finger painting, try reading, try cooking, try watching your favorite movie. Do all that you can to avoid and distraction yourself from the self-harming behavior.
May 24th, 2015 1:57am
Get into some kind of physical activity to indulge in while you feel this way. For most people, the thing you DON'T need to do is THINK. That is the main reason why people feel they need to cause harm to themselves.
August 4th, 2015 4:56am
If you feel like your self-harm is a massive problem, you could attempt running. Running alleviates the negative thoughts in your mind, causing you to forget about wanting to self harm. Walking also does this.
April 12th, 2015 6:00pm
This is a great question to ask as it is clear that you want to change your destructive coping strategy. There are many things that you can do. Can you tell me more about yourself and what you like to do in your spare time?
- Expert in Self-Harm
May 3rd, 2015 9:11pm
It can help to write a list of 3-5 activities you would like to try next time instead of harming. Keep the list with you or in a place you will see it when you are triggered. Try to use the skill BEFORE you are significantly triggered. Once you use the skill, evaluate how you feel. Did it help a bit? a lot? none? in what way did or didn't it help? Keep track of various skills you try over time and look for patterns. What skills help for what feelings? (what helps when you are sad, anxious, overwhelmed, angry, numb...?) It is very hard to use distractions at the beginning, but only by continually trying will you see any progress. Know you will probably still harm sometimes - that's ok. Ask yourself - why didn't I use a distraction this time? Looking back, was there an earlier time I might've used a coping skill and prevented, delayed, or reduced my harm? Forgive yourself for the times you harm, and keep working on recovery. It's along journey sometimes, but it is 100% possible to start using coping skills more frequently and easily.
May 29th, 2015 6:43pm
listen to music or you can draw. do something to distract yourself from what you are feeling. blocking out the urges helps.
July 6th, 2015 9:28am
You can try painting on your arms or legs instead, or writing down your thoughts. Listening to your favorite songs or bands and doing yoga can also help!
August 4th, 2015 8:20pm
You should find a hobby that you enjoy doing, something that relaxes you or cheers you up and when you get the urge to self-harm you can remind yourself to do that activity instead.
December 7th, 2015 7:42pm
There are many things you can do, such as put your emotions into art or music, write down your emotions in a journal, do things with a trusted friend/mentor, the possibilities are endless! You don't have to share anything you do (such as art or writing) as emotions that made you go into that may trigger you again. Be sure to be safe and have fun!! -anon
December 8th, 2015 10:23pm
Journaling or drawing about what self harm you inflict upon yourself can be a great substitute than actually the act.
December 9th, 2015 1:55pm
Do something that takes the urge away or something you like to do. I am a large sports fanatic so I would go pick up a ball or something and just go play or even watch it on t.v.
December 12th, 2015 9:31pm
Do something calming or something you love. Listen to music to upbeat music, listen to sad music, write down what you are feeling, write down all of the things you love in your life, draw, color in a coloring book, go for a run, read a book, watch your favorite TV show, eat some chocolate, call your friend, play with your pet, play a game on your phone, do some easy homework, drink tea, look through fun pictures, laugh at memes, go for a drive, take a nap, cuddle up with stuffed animals, bake something, write a story, make a bracelet, or whatever else makes you feel calm or distracts you for a little while.
December 14th, 2015 1:13pm
Try to skip the cutting and just out band aids on the places you would normally self harm and if that doesn't work try taking a red marker and drawing.
December 14th, 2015 3:43pm
Instead of harming yourself try exercising. It gives you something to do that will push you and help you blow off some steam.
December 22nd, 2015 7:41pm
Busy yourself with your escapes and if you still fill the urge to do it try to talk yourself out of this. No one is a better friend than you and no one will understand the drive to self-harm better than you. SO if you want to stop it you can do it all by yourself. You just gotta believe in yourself sometimes.
December 28th, 2015 12:23am
get involved, what would you like to get involved in, sports? art ? music ? whatever it is. look it up online and become motivated everyday to do it. make it your priority
January 18th, 2016 3:18pm
Try to direct your urge to doing something that can be beneficial to you. For example, playing games
February 2nd, 2016 11:32pm
When I was depressed my counselor told me to draw with marker everywhere I wanted to hurt myself. Try that. It might actually help. I know it did for me because I was focused on something else.
July 11th, 2016 5:29pm
Where you are applying the self harm why not draw something artistic in that area. You are taking away the pain and reading it with something creative and expressive.
October 4th, 2016 3:08pm
I think Over Eating is quite better idea. Or maybe Exercising is even better. Like, Harm your body by Working out hard. Good for health and brain as well.
October 18th, 2016 9:46am
Depending on the person. It can be going for a walk, write in a diary/even video diary. Something to distract you from the thought and to express your feelings in other ways. Talk to a friend or seek professional help if you can't cope alone
October 22nd, 2016 8:37pm
Well first of all, you gotta remove all of his/her essence from your life, cupboards, phones, galleries etc. second, say no to romantic kind of movies/songs/bookd n etc and start watching cartoons/action movies or start playing action games third, and most effective, get a puppy/kitten
October 23rd, 2016 10:30pm
Finding an activity or hobby to replace self-harm with can be quite hard as the urges can sometimes be uncontrollable. However, having dedication to try and replace it with another activity is important. It's vital to tell yourself you need to do this. It's all about self motivation. A good replacement could be drawing, painting.... something that you enjoy and that will completely distract you from the self-harm urges.
May 8th, 2017 8:30pm
Light a candle, take a bath and read a good book and/or listen to some music which calms you. Distraction is key. An icecold shower is also an option, it triggers chemical reaction in your body which allow you to relax. But we should ak as keep in ming that different things work for different persons.
May 15th, 2017 11:31am
It really depends on your interests. But the healthier coping mechanisms are exercise, talking it out, punching a pillow or a bag, blasting some music on or even rubbing ice on your skin (-:
November 7th, 2017 11:20am
Instead of actually self harming you could put an elastic band around your wrist and when you get the urge to self harm you could twang the elastic band replacing the need to self harm
January 30th, 2018 10:28am
Self harm is one of societies' biggest taboos. Often than not, it is not uncommon. buried deep within a pile of more issues societies are facing, self harm to put in summary is ignored. A professional is far from what I am but I think that everyone going through the contemplation of self harm deserves to be heard along with their stories. A simple chat with a stranger with no identifications given gives them the confidence of reaching out without being judged nor mocked.
January 30th, 2018 6:43pm
Hi there, it's great to hear that you are looking to replace your self-harm with something else. Could a hobby be an option for you? For example you could start a new club or take up something new for example art or reading - something you think you would like. It is up to you what you decide to do though I believe in you, you can do this! You could try something like a self-care box where you write ideas down to do activities and each time you feel the urge to self-harm then you could take an activity out of your self-care box and attempt it. I hope this helps. Remember you are amazing and we are here for you!
March 20th, 2018 4:14am
The first step is noticing that you are harming yourself. Next, realize it as self harm rather than an escape. Next, find a song that you like (love), play it when you feel like you're going to harm yourself. Play it loud, and the entire song, breathe in... and out... deeply with your fists clenched. Let all your pain, temptation, emotion into them. If this doesn't work, a bike ride (or run), coloring, a nap, meditation, or other activities you partake in that aren't harming yourself can be done.
January 15th, 2019 5:47pm
When you feel the urge to self-harm, try to distract yourself. Maybe you want to go meet up with friends, maybe you'd rather be alone. Do something you would enjoy if you weren't feeling the way you are when you want to harm yourself. For example, I like to play my ukulele or call a friend when I feel that way. It depends on what you like to do in your spare time, or what you think works best for you. It might also be good to physically distance yourself from the things you use to self-harm, as the urge might not be as great when you're not able to reach for them.