It seems to be part of our human nature to worry. In my opinion, it’s largely a waste of time and energy. If we’re creating more of what we focus on, then why manifest these unpleasant thoughts in our experience? However, “don’t worry, be happy” is much easier said than done.
This Samhain I decided to release my worries. How? When those thoughts arise, as they inevitably seem to do, I stop and notice that I’m worrying. That’s perhaps the most important step. Then, instead of allowing the thought to spin off into further upsetting thoughts and scary scenarios, I use mindfulness to let it go. The practice of mindfulness meditation, as I understand it, involves being fully present in the “now” and releasing any attachment to our transitory thoughts and feelings. If I’m truly present in this moment, then there is no space for “what will happen if…” daydreams. Not that I’m disparaging daydreaming in general, but most of us don’t enjoy the ones that leave our teeth clenched and brows furrowed.
One of my yoga teachers, when instructing her class in meditation, asked us to picture our thoughts as clouds floating by. When you notice one of them, she told us, simply tell it “thanks for sharing!” (which she said in an upbeat, pleasant voice) and then return to a focus on the breath.
These techniques will help you worry less, especially if you practice them when you’re already in a fairly relaxed state, like after exercising or before you go to sleep. That way, when something in your life triggers a worried state, you’ll have new tools in place to help you quickly emerge from it.
Even if you’re normally pretty calm, sometimes you’ll find yourself, for whatever reason (too much caffeine or sugar, PMS, lack of sleep), in a particularly worried mode. Worry can build up over time if you let it, and when these thoughts start to prevail, worrying becomes a habit. That’s why I decided to “kick the habit.”
What’s helped me most is realizing that there is a difference between the worried thought and my true self. I am not my thoughts, and I have no need to be attached to them. In fact, deliberately putting space between “me” and “a thought” has been quite freeing. That seemingly simple moment of recognizing the separation is key. A feeling of pressure lifts away, and I release a big sigh. Then I’m able to move on to more positive thoughts, to take joy in what I’m doing in that moment, and perhaps even to find a proactive solution to the perceived problem.