We spend so much of our lives captured by the thoughts that whirl around in our heads. We begin to believe that this whirl of thought is actually our life. Have you ever noticed that?
Thought is not your life. It is your response to life. Thought contributes to your life. It guides life – sometimes. Sometimes thought hinders life.
Thought is rarely original. About 95% of the thoughts whirling around in your head are based on pre-programmed patterns established when you were a young child. 95%!
This brings us to the added power of thoughts that carry an emotional charge. Worry stems from fear.
Worry is triggered by a part of your brain called the amygdala. This tiny structure’s job is to keep you safe. It does its job well if you need a boost of energy to run from an angry dog or to swerve your car to avoid a crash.
The amygdala responds to emergencies faster than you can think. You don’t have time to think about swerving your car. You just do it. Fear triggers the amygdala into immediate response, including cutting off access to your thinking brain.
If the fear is prolonged, like fear from worry thoughts, the amygdala continues to try to keep you safe. It relies on its library of memories and pre-programmed responses, keeping you locked into the emotional part of your brain and locked into an unending hamster wheel of patterned response.
The amygdala doesn’t know that worries are just thoughts. These thoughts aren’t even real. Most of them are based on some imagined future that is highly unlikely.
Here are two questions for you. Your answers to these questions will give you some insight.
- What percentage of your daily thoughts would you attribute to worry?
- What percentage of your daily thoughts would you attribute to gratitude? Or to positive thoughts?
These days there are multitudes of reasons and ways to worry. There are also multitudes of reasons and ways to be grateful.
Gratitude feeds health. Numerous studies have reported how even a simple five minutes per day gratitude practice can provide long term benefits to health and wellbeing.
There is a saying: ‘What you focus on expands.’
I invite you to think of your focus as the light on a helmet that guides a miner through the darkness of the earth. The light represents what you focus on. In order to change that focus, turn your head and shine your light on something else.
Before you begin to explore these tips, create the intention that you wish to become more aware of your thoughts. Especially the negative thought patterns, that do not serve you. Remember, worry is a habit. It will take some consistency and time to change the habit.
Here are five tips to get you started.
- Give your mind a job.
Ask your mind to send a signal when you are sidetracked in worry patterns. When you become aware of being captured in a worry pattern ask the question: “Is this TRUE?” You might also consider asking your mind to come up with a list of ways to distract you from worry patterns.
Set your timer on your phone to beep once every hour to remind you to bring your awareness to your breath. Take 3 to 5 mindful breaths as you focus on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body. This can be a simple and quick reset for the mind.
- Repeat an affirmation or a mantra.
This gives the mind something else to focus on. Choose an affirmation or mantra that has intentional positive focus. Find something that helps you return to feeling heart centred and calm.
- Move your focus to your heart.
When it comes to your awareness that you have been running on the worry hamster wheel for a while, SMILE. Forgive your forgetfulness. Then consciously bring your focus from your brain down into your heart. One of the most effective ways to break the stranglehold pattern of worry on the brain and health is your heart. When you arrive there, think of something you are grateful for and focus on that until you feel your heart fill with gratitude.
- Know that you always have a choice.
When we get locked into worry patterns, we forget that we always have a choice to change our focus. SMILE AGAIN. Forgive your forgetfulness. And choose any one of numbers 1 to 4 or add to the list.
Sound tools are wonderfully effective ways to help you shift out of worry. Here is a link to a playlist on our YouTube channel called Meditations with the Ancients. As you listen to the tracks you will receive a relaxing chakra balance and reset into a quiet mind.
Check it out here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTbkVex2kOGJz6eZozwNo5WB0Ak_S2ay1