How much time in your day do you spend worrying and fearing the worst? Can you count how many times you worry within an hour? How many worries can you cram into a minute?
On average, we have about 16 waking hours per day. How we choose to spend this time has a remarkable way of determining our level of happiness and overall sense that all is well.
Believe me when I say, I’m not a stranger to worrying. Just ask my husband – apparently I’m the world’s worst back seat driver, passenger and worrywart on the road. I’m also a mom to two active boys. It’s hard to fathom how my heart could possibly contain the amount of unconditional love I have for them. I understand all too well the crippling sense of fear that bubbles up at the thought of any kind of harm crossing their path.
These worries can very quickly take on a life of their own. I’ve learned that fear and worry breed more of the same, without missing a beat. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to count myself out of my own abundant game in life because I’m riddled with worries that likely won’t ever come to pass.
But how do we shut off the worry faucet when we’ve allowed it to run wild and free?
I don’t believe we will eliminate all of our worries and fears for good. But here are some of the practices that help me worry less and intentionally enjoy the moments before me.
1. Don’t Feed Your Worries
It’s perfectly normal to have worries in life. A healthy amount of fear is necessary for human survival. But let’s be honest – if you’re still reading, it’s because like me, you realize the worry train can very quickly take on a path of its own.
I invite you to try out the simplest tool I’ve come across: STOP FEEDING WORRIES. Just stop. Say it to yourself: enough, no more, it ends here, bye-bye, sayonara, au revoir. Say it in a word and a way that resonates with you.
However you express it, say it with intention and mean it with intention. We are imaginative and creative beings by design. But we don’t have to continue to embellish the story with more twists, turns and story plots. When we stop feeding the worry story, it has a way of coming to an end.
2. Focus On What You Do Want
After we get comfortable stopping our worries in their tracks, it’s a great idea to have something new to occupy our minds. We will always do ourselves right by focusing on what we do want. Ask yourself: How do I want to feel? What do I most want in life? Who am I being when I’m happiest? What is my definition of success and happiness? What am I grateful for right now? How can I grow that feeling of gratitude?
See where I’m going with this?
It’s all about tipping the scales toward more of what we do want. None of us want to feel uneasy, alone, worried or afraid. When we shelf our worries long enough to ask ourselves what we do want – chances are it’s always going to be about joy, love, peace, ease or some version of all of these emotions.
Focus on what you do want and give yourself permission to create new stories and details with your highest, happiest path in mind.
3. Get Busy Doing Other Things
Despite our best efforts, sometimes our storms and patterns are too abstruse to simply shut off or shelf. Thankfully, this is where having 16 waking hours to play with can become our best ally. When we get busy doing something that requires our time and attention, our worries and fears have a way of taking a back seat.
Over the years, my mom has shared age-old wisdom with me. Wisdom that her mom gave to her when she wound up in rough storms. Storms like when my dad passed away unexpectedly, leaving my then 24 year old mom with a 2 year old and 6 month old to raise on her own. I’m pretty certain that hand dealt my mom a heaping serving of worry and fear.
In the aftermath of that storm, my grandma would say to my mom: Just busy yourself dear and try not to think about it too much. While some may argue, it’s good to work through our troubles, to talk about them and move through them. And I would 100% agree with that. It’s important to have a space to talk and to feel supported to move through hard times.
I also think there comes a point when what we need most is a healthy reprieve from our worries and fears. Sometimes what we need is to get outside in the fresh air and run like the wind. Other times what we need is to turn up the tunes full blast and get in our bodies and dance with reckless abandon. Sometimes we need to escape into a good novel, or get lost in a puzzle or painting, or bake something delicious. The idea is to get busy doing anything that awakens our creativity and senses in a new healthy way. Fear and worry don’t live in those spaces. So go there any time you need to.
My wise grandma is now 90 years old and she still lives in her own home. When I stop by to visit, she is more often than not working on a puzzle, painting something beautiful or laser focused on her crossword puzzle. With each passing day, her body fails her a little more, yet she doesn’t allow worry or fear to get in her way. She still follows her own advice of busying herself by enjoying her favorite pastimes. Pastimes I’m sure that take her to a place of contentment and joy.
What kind of things do you like doing? What is your definition of happiness and success? What might change if you were to do more things that brought you a sense of joy and ease?
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Originally published at emilymadill.com