‘What if my relationship falls apart?’… ‘What if I cannot pay off this debt?’… ‘What if my business fails?’ The reasons to worry can seem endless. Social media does not help here as we are constantly bombarded with information about negative things that are happening across the globe. Information travels at the speed of light and somehow everything that’s going on in the world can become a source for concern.
On top of that, if something negative happens in our direct environment, we are very much inclined to believe it may happen again. This is also one of the reasons why many people tend to harbour positive beliefs about worry. They think they need to worry as it will prepare them for a potentially negative experience. It’s almost like choosing to be pessimistic about the situation as otherwise life may catch them unprepared.
How does worrying affect the brain?
The thing is, as our brain cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality – it responds the same way to both. So if we tend to focus on worst case scenarios just for the sake of feeling safe, our negative thoughts eventually become part of our belief system. This all means we start to respond automatically to similar situations without actually noticing. Eventually, it all starts to reflect on our performance at work, relationships and general well-being.
How does worrying affect the body?
At the same time, excessive worry encourages the body to produce more cortisol and adrenaline, which may result in feeling overwhelmed about daily life. When we are focused on problems, it may feel like we are being proactive. What you may not know is that negative thinking actually turns off motivation centres in your brain. So instead of doing something about changing our situation, we just get more of the same – the same feelings, the same scenarios and the same chemical responses in our body. It’s almost like a vicious circle, isn’t it? So how do we change this? What should we do instead of worrying? What is the actual benefit of a more positive mindset?
“The wise man guards his vigour as his highest possession”, said Buddha.
1. Focus on how you’d like things to be
So if we want to break the cycle of worry and negative thinking, we need to focus our thoughts on how we want things to be, instead of how we don’t want them to be. Ironically, very often a clear idea of how we’d like to be and feel instead is the last thing on our mind! But how do we create the life we want if we do not take the time to focus on creating it in the first place?
2. Set a timer to observe your thoughts
The more time in a day we devote to focusing on how we’d like things to be, we’ll notice that our energy starts to change. An interesting task is to set a timer for five minutes and observe the type of thoughts that come to your mind. Notice if they are helpful, empowering thoughts, thoughts of gratitude and appreciation or thoughts that are keeping you in the loop of past experiences. The more you can keep your focus on the positive the more you’ll start to feel better your body, and the overwhelming sensation will subside.
3. Break the problem down into smaller goals
Once the clarity of thought is there, your problem solving mind will naturally look into solutions. You may be amazed at how many ideas can come to your mind once the feeling of being overwhelmed is gone. Breaking the problem down into smaller goals can be very helpful, too. Please remember, you don’t need to have all the answers today. Nobody does. Staying positive about the future, however, will help you to reach your goals and to persevere even at the most difficult of times.
Want to know more? Try this – Is your future paying for your past?