On living an anxiety-free life
We all don’t want pain and fear. Majority of us live our lives in a constant avoidance of the negative. But this doesn’t lead to a fulfilling and happy life. Instead of asking yourself “What do you not want”, try to ask yourself “What do you want?”.
Our minds are hardwired to focus on the negative. Studies estimate that 80% of our day-to-day thoughts are negative. To live a happier life, we need to have more positive thoughts.
Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings and positive actions. Positive actions lead to positive outcomes. The more positive outcomes you get, the more positively you view life.
In essence, when you decide to become a positive person, you become happier. It means that all of us have a choice. Your life will be less externally affected - by events, other people, and things that you cannot control. Instead, you control your life from within.
However, we are all prone to feeling sad, anxious and depressed. Here are some tips to overcome the negative thoughts.
1. Accept your thoughts and feelings
Assure yourself that it is okay to feel anxious, that it is normal and whilst they are not desirable, thoughts are just thoughts. Accept the thoughts as your own, and do not reject them. It is a normal reflex to push unpleasant thoughts away, but this actually leads to more anxiety. Your feelings and thoughts are valid. Accepting means to acknowledge and feel the sensation of whatever feeling that you have.
Remind yourself: “I notice that I am having these thoughts and feelings. I accept them and I will not fight against them.”
2. Do not fight back
Many times, we rationalise and we reject our thoughts because it evokes unpleasant emotions from us. However, fighting the thoughts back will only breed more of those thoughts. The thoughts that stay with us the longest are the ones that evoke emotions out of us, and the more you fight it, the more emotions you evoke. Think back to your childhood experiences; the clearest memories you have are the ones where you experienced the greatest emotions in. The less bothered you are by a certain thought, the less you will have it.
Remind yourself: “I will not fight against the thoughts. I am okay with having these thoughts.”
3. Do not beat yourself up for them
Anxiety limits us in many ways. We cannot function well and we feel less happy. We may feel like it is our fault that we were unable to manage ourselves well enough to perform as well as we expect ourselves to. However, as long as we let go of the expectation that life should always go smoothly for us, we become more open to facing adversity. Understand that it is completely normal for us to face setbacks.
Ask yourself what you can gain out of this experience. Pain teaches us lessons, and a period of anxiety teaches you how to manage it better the next time round. You may face poor outcomes in life, but we should never tie our value to our results. We are worth more than that.
4. Writing your thoughts down and reflecting
For many of us, our heads might get muddled up and we lose track of what is even causing us fear. Sometimes, we feel fear without knowing the trigger or cause. In a calm and compassionate manner, write down your thoughts anywhere to gain a better perspective of it. Understand how one belief leads to another thought and which thoughts evoke unpleasant feelings from you.
Use the Socratic Questioning Process to understand that your fears do not make sense most of the time. Once you understand that there should be nothing to worry about, it will give you relief. Studies show that 85% of things we worry about never happen in reality.
5. Stay active and try not to remain idle
Maintaining control over your mind is very important. It is not a good idea to be in an idle state such as your bed or in an environment where you are alone for a prolonged period of time. As humans, we only have that much control over our minds. When we are not engaged in anything, our mind is prone to overthinking.
Set new goals, find new interests and remember to surround yourself with people. Useful distractions can go a long way. According to the National Science Foundation, 95% of our thoughts today are the same repetitive thoughts from yesterday. Thus, change is important and always seek new challenges.
6. Remove yourself from the trigger
None of the above methods can be very effective if your trigger is right under your nose. It is near impossible for someone to regulate her thoughts when her parents are screaming directly at her face all the time.
Have courage and take a step back. Remember that you deserve to speak up for yourself and that you are responsible for the outcomes you get in life. Bring yourself to an environment where you can be at greater peace and be comfortable enough to carry out anything to help yourself, such as finding time and space to meditate and do some yoga if it helps.
We have all heard of the quote “Treat others how you want to be treated.”
But how many of us treat ourselves the way we would treat a good friend?
Would we still be willing to invalidate his/her feelings and fight against his/her thoughts?
“Remember, you have been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving yourself and see what happens.” - Louise L. Hay