Why do some people feel angst and worry all the time while others never worry and being happy is a natural state of mind? The answer lies in the way a person perceives his or her life, in other words how they think. When that thinking is not operating in a manner that will imbue happiness I term it “broken thinking.” But before we explore broken thinking, let’s talk about a plan to eliminate or reduce worry.
A Plan To Reduce Worrying
For people that worry chronically, which is a problem and not healthy, we need a tool to help. Below I am going to outline the one I like best. I need a better plan than simply stating to myself that I must stop worrying because that does not work. Even when I know it is worse for my health to worry about my health, I continue to worry. A better way that I have found is to accept the fact that I do worry and acknowledge that worry is a valuable survival tool and something helpful to the preservation of my quality of life and safety. But how much and how often is that worrying helpful? Well, if it is something I worry about all the time and for more than a month it is most likely habitual and problematic and not necessary to my quality of life or survival. More likely, it is detrimental to those things. So here is my plan –
- Determine whether I have worried about a particular situation for more than one month, If I have this goes into the category nonproductive worries.
- All nonproductive worries get thirty minutes per day. I choose to do this when I first wake up so that the day does not get disrupted later. I lie in bed and spend thirty minutes mulling over all my nonproductive worries, sincerely and thoughtfully. They are there, and my mind somehow believes they are important, so I give my mind that time. But here is the essential part of the deal I have with the worrying piece of my mind, no nonproductive worrying any other time of the day! If I begin to worry about nonproductive worries, then I tell my mind it must wait until the allotted time tomorrow morning. I view all this about the same as training a dog, it takes consistent effort to get better and better, but if you put in the effort, over time you will relegate all your nonproductive worrying to one time per day, and that feels a lot better than continually worrying throughout the day.
- I take one weekend day off from all nonproductive worrying, for me it is Sunday. On this day I skip my morning session and focus on being present and enjoying whatever I choose to do that day.
- Any new and valid things to worry about are exempt from the rules above, but only for one month. After all, worrying does have benefit for new and real situations that arise. I give all legitimately new items one month of free rein in my mind for worry. But I remain focused on finding solutions and creating action plans for dealing with whatever the issue is that I am worried about because there is a need to address it. Otherwise, it is unfair to ask your mind to let it go, so be responsible and address the concern within the thirty day grace period. After the grace period and your creation of a plan to deal with the situation, you must put the worry into the nonproductive worry bin and deal with it as stated above. The one month grace period applies to all worrying, including significant life or health concerns, but only provided you create realistic action plans for dealing with the issue.
The plan outlined above has simplicity, which I like, but takes effort and discipline which are more challenging. But this plan works, and if you use it, or any similar one, you will create better health and peace of mind. But why do we worry or feel the way we do?
The way in which we think and believe about things is one of the major causes of why we chronically worry in an unhealthy manner. So it is good to explore how we create the thoughts and beliefs we hold.
Our thinking is a result of the collection of beliefs and perceptions we hold, which I call a Belief Construct, and our Belief Construct determines the way in which we perceive reality. We develop our Belief Construct from all of our personal experiences along with what we have learned or been told and then accepted as real. Each time we acquire new beliefs and ideas, the entire Belief Construct is reorganized to incorporate this information. As we experience more and get older, we have an increasingly sophisticated structure that grows and changes with each new experience. Your Belief Construct is the basis for how you perceive things, whether things are right or wrong, important or unimportant, and so on. To illustrate how a Belief Construct operates let’s walk through how one gets built.
The broadest way in which humans view reality has to do with the question “Who Am I?,” and this includes things like God and all of the other items related to who we are as human beings, but where do our answers come from? Most have come from what we have learned or gotten told by others, and we have just accepted them. Because these views are widely accepted, most people do not see them as changeable, to most people these beliefs are absolute truth.
Next, come the ideas from the race of people we belong to, our societies, religions, countries, and so on. Most of the time these ideas are given to us when we are very young and are readily accepted, and since most people within our race, culture, and religion, have the same beliefs it is easy for this part of our Belief Construct to become absolute and rigid. These ideas form the morals, behavior, political views, religious beliefs, and social views that live within our Belief Construct, and everything that comes later must fit together with them or will be in conflict.
Then, we incorporate views and ideas into our Belief Construct from the educational, work, and social communities in which we live. The Belief Construct of an academician is much different than the Belief Construct of a blue-collar worker, just as the Belief Construct of a surfer is distinct from a military pilot. As we grow so does our Belief Construct, and it must include everything, all of the beliefs we have accepted about life, religion, society, the family we are born into and later the families we form. All of our personal experiences, all of the love and disappointments, all of the lessons from our life must be incorporated and fit into all of the other parts of our Belief Construct.
Many people are lucky, and their Belief Construct works well for them. Other people are not so fortunate and feel as though something is missing. Anxiety and depression and other forms of “broken thinking” persist. Often new events create conflict. There are many times throughout our lives when we must choose between our Belief Construct or something we want. One typical example would be to fall in love with someone outside of your faith and feel it would be wrong to get married, so you must find someone else to marry.
When a person’s Belief Construct is more important than what they want or the feeling that is happening inside of them, they are living a life dictated by beliefs. They are missing the most exciting parts of life and condemning themselves to conflict and dissatisfaction. You have the right to question and change any belief. By doing so, you choose how you perceive and live your life. You give yourself the freedom to overcome angst and conflict and open the door to greater peace and happiness. You give yourself the right to get what you want.
The Price of Control is Worry
Over the last years, I have been working diligently to deal with my fear of death and ill-health. This last week during a retreat I found a big piece for myself and want to share it with you. My focus had been on fear, and this is reasonable because I have lived in fear my entire life. But during the retreat, I realized the real issue is chronic worrying. With this information, I spoke to a friend that gave me a profound insight “The price of control is worry.” Wow! Worry was the key I needed to see because it gave me a clear choice, do I want to worry or not. That simple.
Well, I do not want to pay the price of chronically worrying in an attempt to gain control over my health, even if it were possible to do so, which I doubt. The cost is too high, and paradoxically, it is counterproductive to my objective of being healthy, which is interesting in itself since so many of our troublesome mindsets are stuck in this same type of illogical loop.
Anyway, now I can use my plan stated above and relegate all my health and dying worries to the nonproductive worry bin. I accept that change is a process, like giving up a bad habit, but it is comforting to have a plan, and I am committed to using that plan. Mindsets are harder to deal with than physical habits like smoking because you cannot always see what you need to stop doing, and it is not easy to catch yourself doing the thing you want to stop. What my friend gave me was that tangible thing I needed, and wanted to give up, the habit of worry. Priceless. Now the work begins.