Do you know the one thing you could let go of in your life to immediately experience more inner calm and peace of mind?
Yep. The habit of worrying.
You already know how annoying, destructive and a waste of time it can be, right? Yet, most of us spend a huge amount of time being worried!
Did you know that studies show that about 85 percent of what we worry about never happens? Think of all the great things you could do with the time that's being wasted!
If you want to learn how to stop worrying for good, read on.
We've outlined some super helpful tools that you can use to break free of the worry habit, starting right now.
Why do we do it?
Worry is imagining what we don't want to happen, happening. The belief that worrying actually helps to prevent bad things from occurring is more common than one might think.
There's a part of us that thinks that if we worry long enough we'll fix the problem. Truth is, worrying is generally a futile exercise of wasted energy.
A British study suggests that 86% of people describe themselves as worriers, spending, on average, five years of their life on being worried.
So, what are we to do when all of that worrying creates problems in our lives — psychologically, emotionally and physically?
Productive and Unproductive Worrying
Motivational speaker, Mel Robbins says that there's a difference between productive worrying and unproductive worrying. Productive worrying leads to solutions, problem solving, taking action and creating a plan for how to move forward in our lives.
Unproductive worrying causes us to become anxious, to overspend, pick up a drink or a drug, lose sleep, damage relationships, and lash out at loved ones.
Once you're aware of your thoughts (see below) you can become more deliberate in your thinking and train your mind to shift from unproductive to productive worrying, and eventually let go of worrying altogether. (Yes, it is possible!)
Wouldn't it be great to find a way to stop the worrying habit sooner than later?
Below are a few tools that you can begin using today and immediately start creating more peace of mind in your daily life.
1. Observe your thoughts, without judgement.
Because worrying can be so ingrained in our life, we often do it without even noticing, and before we know it several minutes, hours, days (years?) go by.
So it's important to notice your monkey-mind (the annoying voices in your head) and pay attention to what you're thinking.
Here's a tip to free yourself from judging your thoughts: use the phrase "Hmm, that's interesting." When you notice your worrisome thoughts and what-if thinking, instead of "You shouldn't be thinking that" or "I can't believe you're still worried about that" simply respond with a neutral "Hmm, that's interesting."
This simple tool removes the charge of what you noticed, and lessens the judgement of it.
2. Be aware of triggers.
Maybe you tend worry more at bedtime, or dusk, or while driving, or when you find yourself alone.
Once you know what triggers you, it'll be easier to come up with a plan to lessen the worry. Have more worry when the sun goes down? Maybe you could incorporate a meditation practice during that time of day, or start a gratitude practice, listing everything you're grateful for.
Maybe that's the perfect time to pick up the pen and get some journaling done to slow down the thoughts and get them out of your head and onto the page.
Or to do this next step.
3. Set the clock!
This tool has been really helpful with Joseph's hypnotherapy clients who want to create less worry in their lives.
If you're suffering from worrisome thoughts throughout the day, set aside 5-15 minutes dedicated to worrying. Literally, set a timer!
Fully dive into the worry big time knowing that A) when the time is up, you'll stop worrying for that day and B) if you find yourself worrying outside of those dedicated minutes, you can gently remind yourself that you already worried about it that day, and have a plan to worry about this tomorrow, during the next "worry session," but not before.
This is a great technique because it allows you to focus the worry time you can really indulge in, while leaving the rest of your day filled with calm!
You'll likely discover that, the next day, the charge will have dissipated and you saved yourself hours of wasted angst.
4. Pick up the pen.
Journaling is a super effective way to lessen worry. Shifting the energy from your mind (where worry lives) passing through the heart (where it can be soothed with compassion) down your arm, past your fingers and onto the page is helpful in so many different ways, especially with stream-of-consciousness writing (such as the popular morning pages used in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.)
And, here's a hint when doing stream-of-consciousness writing: keep your hand moving, no matter what. When the pen stops, we tend to look up from the page, our mind wonders and BAM! Several minutes go by while we're 'lost in thought', allowing worry to seep back in. Just keep the pen moving across the page.
Don't think about spelling or grammar, or that you or anyone else will read this. Just get it all out. All the what-if-this or that's, your fears, your voices of doom. Get it all out until a sense of calm takes over.
5. Stay present.
Most of us tend to worry about something that happened in the past, or that we fear may happen in the future. So we're robbing ourselves of something really precious: the present moment.
When you're worried bring yourself back to the present moment and notice that, in this moment, everything is OK. And trust that it will continue to be so.
When Eli was going through chemo (Love Juice) a few years ago, whenever the what-ifs started rearing their ugly head, it was helpful to just remind ourselves "right now, we're just two guys sitting on this bench watching the sunset" or whatever it was that we were doing.
It brought us back to the present moment, every time. And typically, at that moment, things were manageable. Most discomfort is temporary, so even if not ideal, it soon will pass.
So, do your best to bring yourself to this very moment, which in reality, is all you've got that's real.
6. Kindness matters.
When we worry, we tend to beat ourselves up for worrying, which creates a further cycle of worrying. It might be something like: worrying> feeling badly > worrying > feeling badly...
So from now on, create a new cycle that looks like this: worry > just observe... worry > be gentle with yourself... worry > hmm, that's interesting... worry > be kind to yourself... worry a little less > love yourself more... worry a little less > worry a little less > worry a little less> wait, what was I worried about? :)
Be kind to yourself. You deserve to be treated with love, respect and kindness. By others, and especially your Self!
7. What are you focusing on?
There's a Law of the Universe that states: What you focus on grows stronger in your life.
That means that whatever you're worried about, if you keep focusing on it, will likely grow (at least in your mind.) Conversely, if you focus on what is right in your world, what is working, what is true, THAT will get your attention and grow.
So, if you had a choice, which you do, where would you rather focus? The intangible fear of unproductive worrying (which we've already learned that 85% of worries don't come to pass) or perhaps on productive mode, where you can actually take some action to discover solutions?
You're always at choice.
We know that this is a huge topic that can't adequately be covered in one short blog post. In addition to the tools above, there are tons of books, podcasts, meditation recordings and other resources for you to gather and put into your toolbox to help you minimize your worry.
If this habit is preventing you from living your life to the fullest, we encourage you to start using any and all tools to break the habit.
Life is short. Do your best to free yourself from anything that keeps you from being the full, wonderful YOU you came here to be!
WE'D LOVE TO KNOW...
What have you discovered that helps YOU live a more worry-free life? PLEASE SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW to help us and others learn how to live a worry-free life.
Thanks for reading!
Eli and Joseph
P.S. If you're suffering from anxiety or anything else that's affecting your mental health, get help sooner than later, OK?