In this week of giving thanks, we can all stipulate that gratitude is good for you.* We are bombarded with those messages, especially now.
Here’s a new way to look at an overused word and put it to work. When a worry pops in, send your gratitude to take care of it like Tony Soprano.
I’ll tell you what I mean.
My three teenagers, like young people everywhere, live in perpetual uncertainty. This one is sending out applications, that one is procrastinating, the other one is running her own life until we get a late night call. As their mom, I could work myself up into a lather.
Because I have spent so much time allowing worry to dominate my thoughts, that is my default setting. The good news is that I have found a way to stop the cycle: notice when it’s happening and then mindfully choose something that feels better.**
Now when a scary “what if” slides in, I project it on the IMAX screen in my head, visualize the scene unfolding perfectly, in great detail, concluding with smiling faces. I actually feel the excitement and gratitude of everything working out.
Sidebar for the skeptics. You might wonder how it’s possible to flip a legit worry into an imaginary good outcome. First, worry isn’t right about how things will turn out. In fact, worry is A LIAR. It believes everything will go badly when it has just as good a chance to go well.**
Also. Worry makes us feel like we are doing something about the problem. Like if we just devote X amount of time to hand-wringing, we are giving that important thing attention. It is a false sense of productivity. Don’t fall for it. Worry just makes life miserable because we are choosing to live in the feelings of an undesirable future.
Plus, fretting over loved ones DOES NOT HELP THEM. You are actually making it so they cannot come to you for support because you have snatched up their experience and thrown it into your own worry furnace. They need untroubled space. Your bad vibes are not that.
Choosing to imagine the best case scenario is actually easier than you might think. If your thoughts are causing you to feel terrible, you CAN choose another thought. It’s simple brain science. When you choose differently, neuroplasticity allows your brain to reorganize to anticipate positive experiences. You reinforce new neural pathways that will eventually become automatic processes. Playing the reel of best possible results pumps dopamine into the brain’s chemical pathways. It creates the feeling state of everything working out just as we would like.
To stop defaulting to the worry loop, you have to practice. I have a calendar reminder every day at 3:30 pm. Whatever worries I have, I take a few minutes to visualize a good result and to feel happy and grateful for it. I don’t do it all the time, but when I do practice, it feels like a full energy cleanse.
I have proof the practice is working. Our family traveled for the holiday this week. Unlike our usual, we arrived at the airport behind schedule. The backup of cars to the parking lot announced you will miss this flight if you don’t find another solution. I visualized all of us, happy and peaceful, boarding the plane with smiles. The thought calmed my nervous system. Then the VALET sign caught my attention. I googled Ft. Lauderdale airport Valet, called them up and found out that the price we would pay for parking versus valet was negligible. We tossed the attendant the keys and arrived at the gate with plenty of time.
This method works for emergencies, for worries about others, and for my own future as well. Not too far in the distance, my kids will all be off in their own lives. Instead of handwringing about the empty nest, I see this happening:
It is early morning. I tiptoe out to the deck of a beautiful mountain home with my journal and a mug of peppermint tea. The cool air chills my face, carrying with it the sharp scent of juniper berries and sage. Under a soft blanket, I settle in to write and enjoy the sun peeking over the Sangre de Cristo mountains. A day of coaching, writing and learning are the only items on my schedule. I relax into the certainty that everyone I love is safe and happy.
Living in the feelings of this moment gives me a dopamine hit that lasts for hours. And I already own a temperature controlled tea mug that will stay hot in the brisk mountain climate.
So, the choice is yours: waiting and worrying or treasuring your amazing future? I choose to be grateful for all the beautiful things I have coming.
Remember, where focus goes, energy flows. Your brain will get busy sorting all the information for your beautiful life, as long as you are doing the work to get there.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week!
WRITING PROMPT: What are you manifesting? Can you convert worry to treasuring the future? What does it look like?
*Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance. As if that wasn’t enough, a gratitude practice reduces cortisol, makes you more resilient to emotional setbacks and negative experiences. Feeling grateful releases oxytocin, reducing inflammation and lowers blood pressure. It literally rewires the brain to deal with the present with more awareness.
**Caveat: worry is one thing, an anxiety disorder is another. You can tell the difference because changing your thoughts, as I am suggesting here, will not work for that. The only way to know is to practice it and see what happens. If anxiety persists, it might be time to check in with a licensed mental health professional.
***This assumes the work has been done to make a good outcome possible. There is no sitting on your duff and relying on magical thinking.
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