“Only man clogs his happiness with care, destroying what is with thoughts of what may be.”
~John Dryden, influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright (August 9, 1631 – May 1, 1700)
Worries are usually about the future, the “what ifs“ that can ruin the present. Most experts suggest that instead of “what if” we focus on “what is” in the present moment.
Chad LeJeune, a professor of psychology and a founding fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, in his book The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, CA., 2007 introduces principles that stress acceptance and commitment therapy.
Label “anxious thoughts”
We have already discussed the need to learn to acknowledge and observe
our anxious thoughts and feelings. If our thinking is distorted it has to be challenged and become more realistic. However, LeJeune’s first principles begin with accepting and identifying your thoughts as just “mere thoughts”. Look at them as an outsider, without judging or reacting too quickly. Don’t try to ignore, fight, or control them like you usually would. Instead, simply observe them.
Let go of control
Take control of time by turning the urgency button off. Stay in the present moment. Notice that each moment passes by and a new one begins. If you don’t try to control the anxious thought of the moment, often it just passes away. It’s only when you engage your worries that you project yourself into an uncertain future and get bogged down. Shake it off and become more mindful of the present.
Accept and observe thoughts and feelings
Appreciate each moment. Pay attention to the way your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your ever-changing emotions, and the thoughts that drift across your mind. If you find yourself getting stuck on a particular thought, bring your attention back to the present moment. This mindfulness of the present moment frees you from denial or fantasizing.
Remain mindful of the present moment
Mindfulness meditation help you to stay focused on the present. It is a simple concept, but it takes practice to reap the benefits. At first, you’ll probably find that your mind keeps wandering back to your worries. Try not to get frustrated. Draw your focus back to the present. Keep reinforcing a new mental habit that will help you break free of the negative worry cycle.
Proceed in the right direction
Being grounded in the reality of the moment is the start to determining what needs to be done. Worries about the future can distract us from problems in the present that may be more mundane but still are real. Refocus on your actual problems in the present by asking:
What is really bothering me?
What can I do today to make things better?
What should I be doing right now?
Remember “First things first.”
“The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty.”
~Seneca, Roman orator and writer (54 BC–39 AD)