23 Jun Worry too much? Check out these 7 mindfulness secrets…
It’s hard to be happy if you’re always worrying.
Happiness tends not to come to those who’re anxious and stressed.
But anxiety and worry can be controlled; and happiness, therefore, can be yours…
via Eric Barker
We all worry. At one point or another, almost one-third of people have dealt with a level of anxiety that would qualify as a disorder.
…a survey of almost ten thousand people across the United States found that with the exception of substance-use disorders, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health diagnosis. In fact, almost one-third of people surveyed had experienced at least one anxiety disorder at some point in their lives (Kessler et al. 2005).
Now anxiety and fear are different. Fear is what you feel, in the moment, when someone comes at you with a knife. Fear makes a lot of sense.
But anxiety is about the anticipation of an event. Your brain starts asking “what if” too many times, and comes up with a lot of answers it doesn’t like. But you don’t know the future. That “what if” may not even happen. And even if you have a solution, you can’t be sure it will work because your crystal ball is on the fritz. So anxiety is often problem solving — but without the solving part.
And in the meantime, you’re lost in thoughts — negative ones — and missing out on the world around you. Chronic worrying is like being on your phone all the time but the screen is showing you a horror movie where you’re the main character. And even if your worries aren’t that bad, if you’re focused on them, you’re not focused on your life. You’re missing out on a lot of potentially fun moments and giving the people you care about only a fraction of your attention. Real life becomes background noise because you’re focused on the endless horror film.
So, inevitably, you try and push the worries out of you head, which is inherently problematic because to be vigilant about not thinking about something, your brain needs to keep it in mind. So the pushing away game is like weightlifting for worries; they come back at you with bulging biceps and striated delts. The thoughts just get stickier. So what can you do?
Rather than passing through our minds, coming in and then slipping back out, worry thoughts are “sticky.” In fact, that’s why we attach to them. It’s kind of like we get stuck to them as they enter our minds and then have difficulty separating ourselves from them. Therefore, one of the most useful skills for dealing with worrisome thoughts is the DBT mindfulness skill of noticing thoughts without attaching to, reacting to, or acting on them (Linehan 1993b).
If you wanted little stop-worrying tips like, “Oh, think happy thoughts and have some soothing chamomile tea” you have come to the wrong place. If you’re a chronic worrier, that’s like taking aspirin to treat cancer. Instead, we’re gonna nuke this thing from orbit and watch the ashes dance.
Our weapon of choice? A few concepts from Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Originally created by Dr. Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington, it has shown fantastic results in treating everything from anxiety to depression and is the first line treatment for problems as serious as Borderline Personality Disorder — which had previously been regarded as untreatable.
It hits your worries with the one-two punch of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness. If the ancient Stoics and Buddhists had gang signs, I’d be throwing them up right now — once again, those guys were ahead of their time.
This is not an overnight solution but it’s one that actually works. Those troubling thoughts may be sticky — but with a little work we can give you a teflon mind.
Roll up your sleeves. We have work to do…
Build Your Mindfulness Muscles
If you want to be more mindful, you need to remember three words: acceptance, attention, and labeling.
Push back against your worries and they get stronger. So accept their presence. You don’t need to accept their speculative doom-and-gloom scenarios as inevitable; you just need to accept that the worries are here and stop trying to serve them mental-eviction-notices that they’ll ignore.
By “accept,” we don’t mean surrender, give up, or even like or enjoy your experiences; we simply mean stopping the constant struggle to run away or escape from your experiences and allowing them to be what they are. You can accept something and still work to change it. In fact, to successfully change something in your life, you may need to accept it first…
Next is attention. Where is yours? Laser focused inward on those awful future possibilities that may not even occur. Where is your attention not? Here. “Here” being the world around you. You’re ignoring life and lost in thought. (You might think you have a terrible attention span but you’re wrong. You have a near-infinite attention span… when it comes considering horrible things that probably won’t even happen.)
So get out of your thoughts and focus on the world around you. Those “what-ifs” aren’t real. The people around you are. Granted, when you’ve had little practice at it, consistently shifting your attention like this is really hard to do. And that’s where labeling comes in.
Always remember: you are not your thoughts. You think all kinds of crazy stuff and dismiss most of it. But with emotional stuff we tend to undergo “cognitive fusion” — we think that we are the thoughts and feelings. If you broke your arm, you’d say “my arm is broken” not “I am broken.” And so the correct response to worrying thoughts is “there are worries” not “I am worried.”
When a worry pops up, label it as “a worrying thought.” It’s not you. Do not identify with it and let it overtake you.
One of the reasons human beings tend to get so attached to and caught up in worrisome thoughts is that we “buy into” these thoughts as literally true. Rather than recognizing that these worries are simply thoughts our minds generated that may or may not be true or accurate, we believe our thoughts and take them to be the truth. Therefore, labeling a thought as just a thought is one way to keep yourself from buying into your thoughts or responding as if they were true.
So every day, spend a few minutes being mindful. Your worries are like a passenger next to you on the bus. You can’t shove them out of the vehicle. You accept that they are there. But you don’t have to give them your attention either. Redirect your focus from your internal thoughts to the world around you. Notice the seat beneath you. Notice the sounds you hear. Pretend you’re experiencing everything for the first time. Give the world your full attention.
And when those worried thoughts rear their ugly heads again, label them as thoughts. They’re not you, they’re just thoughts. Then, once again, redirect your attention to the world. With practice, your mindfulness powers will grow.
(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my bestselling book here.)
Okay, building mindfulness muscles allows you to keep worries at bay and prevent them from emotionally hijacking your mind. But what if the worries sneak past your defenses?
Well, you need to know what the enemy looks like if you’re going to see’em coming…
Find The Canaries In Your Coal Mine
Recognizing that thoughts are just thoughts takes practice but you can develop the skill relatively quickly. Dealing with emotions is trickier. And the two tend to gang up on you; negative thoughts producing negative emotions and vice versa — creating a self-reinforcing loop of awfulness.
When we get lost in thought we tend to forget our bodies. You need to start noticing the physical sensations that accompany your emotions. Muscle tightening. Shallow breaths. Sweating. Whatever you do when the worrying heats up. These are the canaries in the coal mine.
So make yourself a list. Write down the common thoughts you have when getting worried, the physical sensations that accompany the emotions, and also note what actions you feel driven to take (procrastination, playing video games, record-breaking bourbon consumption, etc.)
Get familiar with the list. This is like the supercool planning montage in the heist film, setting up all the protagonist’s tricks before they pay off in the third act.
(To learn the two-word morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here.)
This might sound like a lot of planning and preparing. It would be better if your brain had an “off” switch but sadly that’s not available in Sapien OS7. Sorry. So it might seem much easier and more effective to simply avoid things that make you worried.
But that’s actually the worst thing you can do…
…keep reading the full & original article HERE