Life can be so stressful.
Between our jobs, friendships, relationships, and financial responsibilities we have a ton of stuff on our minds and hearts. And we do a terrific job of adding more stress. Material desires, sports, and a plethora of other things pile up the list of worries on our minds.
No wonder it can be so hard to feel happy or relaxed.
For most people, the natural reaction is to medicate for the stress, whether with a prescription or some other form. It would be great if there was a way to change all that without having to take something.
There is. It just takes some work.
Our minds are perhaps the most powerful thing on the planet. But we allow them to be occupied by a whole bunch of things as if there is nothing we can do to stop it. That simply is not the case.
One of the biggest things I have noticed people struggling with is worry. They worry about things that have yet to come to pass, but feel as if they already have. These premonitions of failure, things falling apart, and disappointment only help to create the reality we wish to avoid.
I read a great quote a few months back that said worrying is like experiencing failure before it happens. Seems hardly rational that we would put our minds and bodies through that.
So, why do we still do it?
Part of me wonders if there is a sick side of us that enjoys the suffering. Or maybe we are just lazy. The comment regarding medication certainly implies that.
What can we do, though? There are so many things driving us to near madness. How can we get a grip on it all? It can be so overwhelming!
Here’s what I have started doing. Maybe it will help you too.
When I get a negative thought or worry that comes into my mind, I acknowledge it. I own it. I literally nod my head and say, “this is what I’m thinking and why I’m thinking it.”
Then I choose to think about something else. The worry in my head gets replaced by something from which I derive joy or happiness. It can be almost anything. Love the taste of warm chocolate chip cookies? Think about that instead of what will happen if your presentation goes badly. Enjoy the smell of the rain on a warm summer evening? Fill your thoughts with that instead of the notion you may not make a vital quota for the month. Worried about your children and their future? Instead, think of all the things you CAN do for them along with the good possibilities that exist.
Since I started doing this over a year ago, my stress levels have continued to drop. Sometimes people ask me about how I stay so calm all the time. It really is pretty simple. Sure, there are a lot of other things I do to try to maintain a healthy balance and keep stress at bay. But when it comes down to worries in the moment, I have found that this technique helps more than anything.
It eases my mind and brings me instant, momentary happiness. And while that joy is temporary, it is far more likely to lead to more of the same than to the negative feelings.
Being mindful of one’s thoughts is an idea that has been taught by some of the greatest teachers in the history of the world. Could it be that those teachings had a scientific foundation as well? A ton of new research certainly suggests exactly that.
Why then, wouldn’t being mindful of your thoughts help to create a more long lasting positive experience?
I realize that it can be extremely difficult sometimes. Some have experienced a loss greater than I can imagine. Others may be facing a health crisis that could be fatal. And there are certainly those who have lost their jobs or are going through the toughest times of their lives.
During these moments, there is only one thing you can control: your thoughts. You can fight the worry. Fight the negative thoughts. Fight the premonitions of sadness or failure. You can choose to think about something else.
And choose to let those better thoughts make you smile, even if it’s for just a second.