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Letting Your Worries Go

This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 19: Letting Your Worries Go

“I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance.  Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal – and soon they’ll forget my number.”

 – Edith Armstrong

Letting Your Worries Go

Worry is unfortunately a very real part of most of our minds. This pattern of thinking has perhaps increased in the last 300 years as well. As humans, our worries are no longer simple or basic; that is, surviving. We’re now worried about the mortgage, college, how we look, the home we have, how others perceive us, are our children popular, or did I marry the right person? Am I in the right career? Should I have gone on vacation? Do I have enough saved? Are my parents proud of me? The list can go on forever and ever; I’m not going to bother.

Despite the plethora of things we have to worry about these days, it is possible to get back to basics; -at least cut the list dramatically! Before we get into the how, I want to share a little story with you.

“THE TROUBLE TREE”

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start.

While I drove him home, he sat in stone silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet the family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

After opening the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His face was wreathed in smiles, and he hugged his two small children and then gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward, he walked me to my car. We passed the tree, and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

“Oh, that’s my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing for sure, troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning, I pick them up again.”

“Funny thing is,” he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick them up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”

Author Unknown

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You see, worrying and having troubles can only get you so far, and trust me, they will not get you far ahead. If you let them, they will pull you under the surface, and suffocate you. You have a choice to let your troubles go each day. That doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the problems you may have. It means you’re choosing, consciously, to be in control of your thoughts and actions. It means you’re aware enough to know that things you cannot change in the present moment do not deserve your undivided attention. There is no use in worrying about things you have no control over.

You might be saying, “but if I don’t think about right now, and figure it out, and find a solution, it will just get worse. I need to fix this, NOW!” I promise you, you do not. You do not need to think about it NOW. You do not need to worry about it now. The truth of the matter is, if you cannot do anything in the present moment to fix it, you’re wasting your time thinking about the “what if’s”. In fact, research shows that ruminating over your negative thoughts, and worries only exacerbates them and makes it harder for you to cope. This pattern of thinking long term can have serious implications as well. Remember, you are what you think.

“Worry, doubt, fear and despair are the enemies which slowly bring us down to the ground and turn us to dust before we die.”  

~Douglas MacArthur

Erika Krull, of Psychology Today, write in her article “Depression and Letting Go of Negative Thoughts

When negative thoughts hit your brain, it’s tempting to struggle with them and try to shove a more positive thought in there. In the day-to-day reality of someone’s thinking, this doesn’t really work. Your emotions have a tough grip on these negative thoughts, so you’ll have the best results if you imagine yourself emotionally “letting go” of them. The letting go approach is used in yoga and meditation to help a person stay focused on the present moment.

Let’s say you have financial trouble. You are stressed and worried about your spouse losing his or her job, and your greatest concern stems from your loss of control. The constant stream of negative thoughts in your mind has prevented you from doing any creative problem-solving. Since you’ve now identified your worries about not being in control, however, you are now in the position to take the power out of your negativity.

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Pushing your negative thoughts away will not help you. Ignoring them, will not help you. What will help you however, is letting them go. Let them go if they cannot be fix. Let them go until they can be fixed if there is a solution. Like you read in “The Trouble Tree”, we often cannot fix things immediately, but if we give them power, they can wreak havoc in our hearts, minds, and those around us. Why bring others down with you? And when you do revisit the worries, you’ll likely find, just as the carpenter did, that the troubles or far fewer, and far lighter than they were the night before.

More and more research is supporting the reality that imagining doing something, increases your odds of actually doing it. This is something often used in sports psychology where athletes are told to practice visualizing scoring, or visualizing completing a drill properly.  But this technique is often use in meditation, yoga, and cognitive and mindfulness based psychology/therapy. When you image yourself putting your troubles on a tree, or visualize your worries floating out of your head, you’re more likely to actually release them.

Below are two techniques that people often find helpful when first starting this type of cognitive process changes. Go ahead and try them. Remember to be patient with yourself and to practice these consciously. It will take time before this because an automatic process. You will need to work at it. When negative thoughts creep back in, let them go, or replace them with a more positive option. In time, your mind will change, your heart will become lighter and more open, and your world will be happier and more full of positivity : )

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Mental Rehearsal Meditation 

  • Find a time and place where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Recline or lie down, and close your eyes.
  • Relax, concentrate, and focus.  Take deep breaths and exhale slowly.  As you exhale, imagine that stress and worry (or whatever negative thoughts you’re suffering from) are leaving your body.  Start at your feet … feel all the stress leave your feet … then your legs …  then your chest … all the way to the top of your head … feel all the stress and worry leave your body.  Free your mind of distractions and allow your mind to focus on the relaxation process.
  • Once relaxed, focus on the specific challenging task (i.e. letting things go, putting your thoughts on a tree, talking to your boss, whatever is causing the negative emotions and thoughts).
  • Mentally tell yourself that you are confident and that you have the ability to perform this task successfully.  Repeatedly tell yourself, with confidence, that you will be successful.
  • Imagine what you will see just before you begin the task.  Visualize yourself as an active participant, not as a passive observer.  For example, to mentally rehearse putting a golf ball, imagine that you are standing on the green rather than watching yourself from the gallery.
  • Remaining relaxed and focused, mentally rehearse successful performance of this task.  Imagine going through the process and seeing successful results.
  • Repeat step 7 several times.
  • Finally, open your eyes and smile.  You have successfully performed in your mind, which is great preparation for actual performance.  You should now be confident that you will perform successfully in the real situation.  Remember to praise yourself for being successful.  Self-reinforcement is another a key to self-motivation.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

 ~Leo Buscaglia

Reflection:

  • Spend time practicing letting things go
  • Practice visualizing letting things go
  • Reflect on the ideas presented in this post. Do you agree with them? Disagree?
  • How can changing how you think about thing change your life?

Did you find this post inspiring / Thought provoking / Worth reading? Share it with your friends!

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The Awakened Heart Project 

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