It’s a question perhaps every human has asked. How do we stop our worrying thoughts?
Now the fact that I’m not a neuroscientist may shoot me in the foot with this one. But I do wish to give my personal experience to this question and also offer some degree of hope as well.
So. Our worrying thoughts.
The unfortunate truth is we really can’t stop them from happening. If we could, we’d all be walking around Earth with a smile on our face constantly.
We'll always be prone to worrying thoughts because it's human to worry!
Worrying thoughts will happen without us having any control until they appear.
Notice the bold there though. When they appear, we can take control.
I won’t mention any studies as such but I do believe there's been extensive research into the field of thought and no one (yet) has managed to stop worrying thoughts.
(If I'm wrong on this please do correct me by sending the relevant research papers!)
It’s hard enough to even grasp ‘what is a thought’? Let alone prevent them.
Worrying thoughts. It’s part and parcel of having the biological instinct to survive.
We forget how ‘biological’ we all are. How prone to the innate responses we have within us.
We live so much in our heads yet we still manage to carry on with our day, and sometimes we wonder how on earth it’s evening already?
This is because our body knows what to do. It can run on autopilot.
So those pesky worrying thoughts will always be there in some form.
But I’ve discovered through my own practise in healing from persistent anxiety that the frequency of worrying thoughts can change.
Meaning we can experience less worrying thoughts with time and practise.
When I was diagnosed last year my head was jam-packed full of worrying thoughts.
None stop horrendous, terrifying, heart-wrenching thoughts.
When I found out that it’s not possible to stop them I felt pretty deflated, but I went onto research how I can make them less gripping.
Perhaps I could figure out how to reduce the sensations in my body?
Or the emotions connected to the thoughts?
And this is where I became really obsessed with mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness is defined as *“moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment.”
That means simply sitting with your thoughts, not judging them or begging them to go away, but just being with them.
The day I decided to accept that I’ll always have worrying thoughts was the day the ball started rolling for me on my healing journey.
I no longer tried to force myself not to think those thoughts.
I just let them come.
But with mindfulness, I practised not paying judgement to them.
Put simply, I stopped believing in them.
So, to try and explain how it feels nowadays.
I still have worrying thoughts. Not that often I admit, but they do happen.
Yet I no longer attach any emotion or meaning to them.
I may sound a bit like a robot but it really has been a crucial part of overcoming persistent anxiety for me.
To simply accept that the worrying thoughts will come, but I don't need to listen to them.
I don’t need to attach to them.
I don’t need to react to them.
They are simply thoughts. They’re not my real life.
And with this approach, which I’ve been practising for over a year now, the frequency of worrying thoughts has now reduced dramatically.
I believe the more we try and force worrying thoughts away, or ignore them and try and battle through, the more un-happier we’ll become.
We’ve all heard the analogy “What you resist, persists…”
This is the case when trying to push away worrying thoughts, or trying to act like everything is normal while your mind is in chaos. You only add to the worry.
Why not try mindfulness for a moment now?
Simply sit and tune into the stream of thoughts in your head.
Undoubtedly, a few will thoughts may be worrying, scary, or anxious thoughts.
But just listen.
It’s for 20 seconds only.
You can do this.
Just notice what thoughts you have and that’s it. They’ll float out as quickly as they floated in.
Let me know how you get on with this exercise and whether you manage to simply observe your thoughts but not pay judgement to them?
Pop a comment below.