How to worry less and live more
As humans, we’re all prone to worry – I know I am. Our brains are wired to anticipate different scenarios in order to prepare us for any eventuality. This trait dates back to when our ancestors had to predict what predators might be lurking around the corner in order to survive.
Some worries, doubts and anxieties are a normal part of life. For example, it’s natural to worry about an unpaid bill, an upcoming job interview or the first day of school. But when worrying becomes excessive, it can interfere with our daily life and take a toll on our physical and mental health.
The fact is, excessive worrying is a self-sabotaging habit that drains our energy. Even if our worries are only about small things, being focused on the ‘what ifs’ and the worst-case scenarios means that real life becomes just background noise, so that we aren’t truly living in the present. But how can we stop ourselves spiralling into negative thought patterns?
Write it down
It sounds strange, but one of the best ways to deal with worries is to write them down. Putting the thoughts that are whirling around your head down onto paper will help you see them for what they really are, enabling you to distinguish what part of the worry is reality and what part is negative thought patterns. It helps to label each worry as either productive or unproductive. A productive worry is one that you can do something about right now, and so it’s worth thinking about it and tackling it. An unproductive worry is something that you can’t control, or something that hasn’t even happened yet, and therefore isn’t worth dwelling on.
Don’t play the guessing game
Natural born worriers tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the worst-case scenario. This can also involve assuming that they know what others are thinking or feeling – usually assuming the absolute worst. But the reality is that no matter how hard any of us try, we can never know what somebody else is thinking. Even if someone does voice their thoughts, we can never know if they’re being entirely honest with us. We can’t control other people’s thoughts, so don’t waste time and effort worrying about what you can’t control or change.
When you’re mired in worry, feeling thankful might be the farthest thing from your mind. But research has shown that gratitude is a strong tool for reducing anxiety. Focusing on something you’re grateful for reduces stress in the body and releases the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain. If you’re feeling worried and anxious, spend a few minutes writing down a list of things you’re grateful for. This will subconsciously help to trick your mind into thinking more positively. After all, if you constantly tell yourself that things are going wrong and you are unhappy, you will believe it, even if it’s not true. Similarly, if you tell yourself that things are great and you are thankful, you will start to believe it.
One of the best ways to treat an anxious mind is with exercise. It doesn’t have to be an intense gym session, even a 10-minute walk can help calm those racing thoughts. Moving your body releases serotonin, endorphins and other happy hormones, which interact with receptors in your brain, reducing your perception of pain and triggering a positive feeling in the body. Exercise can also help to occupy your mind, distracting you from any unhelpful negative thoughts.
Curbing an anxious mind takes time. At first, you’ll probably find your thoughts keep wandering back to your worries, but don’t give up. Repeat these tips daily to reinforce a new mental attitude and break free of the negative worry cycle.
Love Jane x