This is part 1 of a 5-part series of posts about the top 5 reasons most people are unhappy and what you can do about them. We discussed the series in Post 1, HERE. And we begin right with worry, because worry is the number-one reason most people manage to keep themselves unhappy. So let’s start with a definition.
Worry: The act of creating the very things you do not want.
Okay, that might not be the way Webster defines it, but it’s accurate.
What you focus on is what you create. Your worry is helping you to tune your radio dial to the station that is playing that thing you’re worrying about. You are attuning to it, making yourself into the perfect receiver to pull it into your life. Now I know that’s not what you want.
Worry: The act of being ungrateful in advance.
Yes, that’s right too. Because when you constantly worry about what could go wrong, and feel terrible about it going wrong, you are leaving out entirely the notion that things might just go right. You are mentally anguishing over something that has not happened as if it already has. You’re mentally complaining, moaning, and suffering over it ahead of time. Over something that does not even exist.
Complaining has the same attractive affect on bad stuff that gratitude has on good stuff. So every worry, which is complaining in advance, is bringing you more bad stuff.
Worry: signaling your body that it should go directly into survival mode
When you worry, your breathing becomes shallower, your heart rate speeds up a little. Your BP too. Your brain signals your body “Danger! Danger! Danger!” And your body responds by pouring all its resources into surviving the imminent disaster you’ve convinced it is coming. You might need to run, so it pours epinephrine into your system. You might have to go hungry, so it stores all the calories it can find as fat. You might need to fight off a disease, so cortisol floods you, so your immune system can fight off all comers.
Auto-immune disorders result when your body decides to fight invaders that aren’t really there. I’m convinced we’re the ones sending them into battle, every time we worry and experience stress.
Worry: voluntarily aging your body, inviting inflammation, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, ulcers, high blood pressure, weight gain and more.
It’s all true. Worry is the new smoking. Worry was the old smoking. I know people who diet and exercise and only eat whole foods and are worrying themselves straight into an early grave.
Okay, I Get It! Worry is Bad. How Do I Stop?
It’s a habit. That’s all it is, a habit you’ve fallen into. And habits can be broken. But it’s far easier to replace them with other habits. Healthier ones.
Look, a habit is just something you do over and over again. So start doing something else over and over again instead, and let it gradually become your new habit of thought. Your new default setting. Inch your radio dial over to the station that’s playing “Everything always works out for me!”
Here are some steps to help you do that.
- Be Grateful in Advance: Each time you catch yourself worrying about some future event, stop, and instead, quietly envision the best possible way that particular event could turn out. See it. Feel it. Write it down in your journal. Imagine it thoroughly. And give thanks in advance for the wonderful gift soon coming your way. And then each time that particular worry returns, shift your mind back to that vision, and imagine the ideal outcome instead. This will be tough at first, but it will get a little easier each time you do it. Be patient, be persistent. Your default setting will change.
- Practice Gratitude in the Present: Spend some time each day noticing everything that has worked out beautifully in your life up to now. Celebrate those things. Relish them, and feel good about them. You need to ritualize this. Give thanks every night before bed, every morning before you face the day and in every blissful moment when something good happens throughout your day.
- Keep it to Yourself: The more you speak your worries, the more you reinforce them. Saying things out loud is powerful magic. Speaking things empowers them. So don’t pepper your casual conversations with all the stuff you’re worried about. You might even give voice to your hopes instead of your fears. Empower the right things instead of the wrong ones. Again, it takes time to replace the old habits, but it does work.
- When you begin to worry, stop whatever you’re doing, and take three deep, full, nasal breaths, all your lungs can hold. then blow out every bit of it until they’re empty. Then blow a little more. Repeat three times. Relax your mind. Signal your body that all is well. RELAX.
- Practice Presence: We here people talk about being present. All it means is pulling yourself into the very moment you are living now. Now what happened yesterday, not what might happen tomorrow, but just being fully focused on this moment right now.
Try it Out! What've You Got To Lose?
I hope you’ll give these things a try and report back on how they worked.
Next time we’ll talk about the big bad happiness buster named GUILT.
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