Name one person you know, including yourself, who is free from anxiety, sadness, or anger. Have you taken any time to recognize your thoughts, feelings, and actions? When was the last time you questioned any of them?
When we have distressing emotions, our bodies react in kind. No, night sweats do not count as a workout. But seriously, perhaps you noticed your heart racing, or suddenly feeling hot, sweaty, and extremely tense. Your chest or stomach feels tight or even upset, without warning. Think back, sweet friends. What thought or images went through your mind right before you started feeling these symptoms in your body?
Your body’s survival mechanism is actually trying to help you escape a threat. But is the threat real, imagined, or exaggerated? Does your anxiety give you anxiety? How did you react the last time you felt social anxiety? Did you just decide to stay home? Do you have a very active anti-social life? Last year I joined a support group for anti-social people. We haven’t met yet. So, did you attend the event you were invited to, but avoided eye contact and didn’t really make an effort to talk to anyone?
Perhaps the last time you felt unsettled or unhappy, you drank a bit too much or shouted at the nearest family member. Maybe you ate way more than you should. “I’m so full. I’m never eating again. Oh, wait: Are those brownies? I get it. We all know that an onion can make us cry. But there’s never been a vegetable that can make you laugh. Your dinner stomach may be full, but your dessert stomach still has plenty of room, eh? I think it’s adorable how they’re putting jokes on the side of snacks now. Like, listen to this one: “Serving size: three cookies.”
But truthfully, you may have drowned your sorrows in doughnuts or distracted yourself endlessly with social media. Well, you know what they say: Twitter is a great place to tell the world what you’re thinking before you’ve even had a chance to think about it. Then again, you know it’s about time to move on with your life when you type 50 messages to her and she replies to you with just “Lol.” Sheesh.
Once you dispassionately observe your line of thinking, my friends, you can now begin to make some practical and powerful changes. Sure, all of your 100,000 thoughts a day are trying to help you make sense of the world around you. But are you aware that you interpret and ascribe meaning to what happens to you? Yes, you do. Every minute, you are determining if something is dangerous or safe, good or bad, without you even realizing that you are doing so.
It is not the experience that caused your feeling or reaction, but what you thought about it, or the meaning you gave it. Have you noticed how you and your friend experienced the exact same thing, but due to her past, upbringing, or values, she had a totally different reaction?
The kind of thoughts you choose, my friends, will inevitably lead to certain feelings. If you “think” that you will not be able to handle an upcoming event, what is the likelihood that you will not feel fearful or anxious? Slim to none. If you “think” he treated you unjustly, you will most likely feel anger, and may even plan on retaliating in some way.
But before you go believing that thought, stop and question its reliability. Yeah, he cut you off on the highway, but are you sure it was intentional? Admit it: Have you not done the very same thing? Please do not believe all of your thoughts, sweet friends. When you’re starting to get wound up, always pause and ask yourself: Is this a “thought” or an opinion?
I know that some opinions seem to be on “Repeat,” but that does not make them any more credible or conceivable. Imagine yourself in a helicopter and take in the bigger picture of your situation. Could there be a different way of looking at this, perhaps? Ask yourself: What is the most helpful or uplifting thing to do for yourself and others right now?
Detach from your thoughts to limit their power and control over your moods. Remind yourself that not everything you think is a stone-cold fact. Want to truly get you mind off of what’s eating you? Do a kindness for a loved one, or even a stranger, today.
Please pay attention to how often you have negative reflections about yourself or the situation you find yourself in. Try to seek guidance from your higher self or intuitive mind. Your aim in life is whatever you choose it to be. Challenge those dark deliberations, and replace them with confident, calm thinking.
Focus on good things no matter how small or insignificant they seem to you. Please try to find some humor, even in trying circumstances. Your mood is contagious, so hang out with that happy, upbeat friend of yours more often. The pessimist said: “Oh, no. Things can’t get any worse!” The optimist said: “Yes, it can!” Maybe you’re just an optimistic pessimist. You see the glass as half empty, but there are free refills.
Please be mindful of that voice in your head, sweet friends, and give yourself some gentle reminders to stay lighthearted.
P.S. Do what brings you joy.