Sunday, December 04, 2016

How Not to be Anxious and Fearful

So you’ve heard about the power of living in the moment, haven’t you? That if you can live in the present moment without worrying about what might happen in the future and what things you regret in the past, you’ll be calmer and happier. 

You know, like if you’re folding the laundry you should focus on folding the laundry and not on whatever else you may need or want to do or wish you’d done. And this will “make” you happier, less anxious and fearful.

It sounds like new age hippie shit, but really it’s science.

Are you scoffing out loud right now? 

Here’s the deal: if you let yourself ruminate about the past or the future while folding the laundry, you are in essence time traveling and reliving whatever worry or regret you’re thinking about.

The mind produces the mental equivalent of reliving the event and the body responds with the same hormones and chemical reactions that occurred during the event or in the case of worrying about the future, as if the imagined event is happening.

Do the research. It’s out there. PTSD flashback episodes are exactly this. 

So, by focusing on folding the laundry or whatever you’re doing in the present moment, you don’t ignite emotions and physical sensations from the past or the imagined future.

And you’re not afraid or feeling guilty.

*Your brain sees black T-shirts and pink underwear being organized into regular, folding patterns, feels the rhythm of your arms and hands doing the work, senses the cotton and rayon fabrics sliding between your fingers, smells the lavender and Tide, and, holy shite! relaxes. 

Science, my friends.

So how does one stay focused on the present moment? I mean, come on, thoughts are uncontrollable monkeys screeching and throwing feces around, right? 

Practice. 

You’re never going to be able to stop thoughts with effort. For example, try not to think about my pink underwear. 

BUT you can practice distancing yourself from your thoughts, one at a time. Next time you’re folding your laundry, imagine your thoughts come from a mouse hole in the floor of your mind. Sit vigil over that mouse hole like a cat waiting for the mouse to poke it’s head out. 

Eventually, a thought will dart out and your job is NOT to shove it back in the hole, but to let it go. Watch it, but don’t engage with it. Let it run away, out of sight. Then turn your attention back to your folding (see *description of what your brain sees, feels, smells, etc) and wait for the next.

Repeat.

Over time, this practice will produce amazing results: a calmer, happier you.

Do you doubt me?

Prove me wrong. 

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