There’s no time like the present and anymore it feels like no time to lose. I’ve had this story on the backburner, collecting words for too long, and today is the day to share.
The last couple years, few months, several weeks, a day or two ago; have had me really thinking that sometimes (OK - more than sometimes) we’re going to hell in a handbasket.
I’m freaking out! This keeps happening!
Breathe in deeply.
Cutting to the chase, I will stop rambling on for now and share this nugget of helpfulness. It’s from a great little personal development book, The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks and it’s a gem.
I’m just gonna give it to you and continue my blabbering after so you can jump in and give it a try. Give it a few tries really. You may be pleasantly surprised combined with mildly frustrated (because it works so well you might be mad you haven’t learned of it before now) with the results. Keep reading for more on that! If it comes to mind, please let me know how it worked for you. Either in the comments or direct message.
Here it is direct from Gay Hendricks via The Big Leap: Conquer Your Fear and Take Life to the Next Level*:
I notice myself worrying about something.
I let go of the worry-thoughts, shifting my focus away from them.
I wonder: what positive new thing is trying to come into being?
I usually get a body feeling (not a thought or idea) of where that positive new thing is trying to come through.
I open my focus to feel that body feeling deeply.
I let myself feel it deeply for as long as I possibly can.
Later, I often get an idea of the positive thing that was trying to come through.
I started by following these instructions and then writing them down because I can’t remember anything without writing it down a few times. Taking the steps with me, pulling out my little piece of paper with directions, following them when I would forget a step.
The cool thing was, trying to remember if I was doing the exercise right helped me get past whatever worry thought I might be having at the time.
Now is probably a good time to come clean here. I started by using this exercise for worry thoughts but once I tried it for my anger and frustration was when the real magic happened for me. And by magic, I mean the great relief and great horror that I have more control over my thoughts and feelings than I had ever thought before. Or maybe just believed.
The worry or anger thoughts love the strong hold they have over our perfectly good day, or our perfectly good night’s sleep. The only good place for a legit worry is; did I leave the stove on? If that’s the case, get your butt up and go check that one out because that is the definition of true worry.
I saw the downward spiral reflected in my emotional, visceral feelings in response to whatever might be happening around me. Whether it be the bulldozer working on the property next door wile I'm on a coaching call or trying to paint, an interaction with someone (I was living on the couch in a two bedroom apartment with my mom and my ex) so it was pretty much always a someone issue, social media, or a news blip. Unfortunately these triggers can go on forever and be devastating. No matter how heartbreaking or anger inducing the situation is, it seems like just a blip before the next bombshell drops.
The external onslaught seems just a reflection of the internal birage of worrisome scenarios that would play out on repeat in my head.
The good news!
Immediate action can be taken against harmful thought patterns.
Again, for me it’s usually something that’s making me raging mad (mostly at myself) and I’m getting angry and replaying the event that got me all worked up over and over in my head repeatedly.
Gay Hendricks an example of his walk through of this exercise as well that is way more chill and quite sweet in The Big Leap. I think I drink more black coffee than he does. This is my take on the exercise to give some insight into my interpretation.
I notice a runaway worry or situation that made me angry playing on repeat. Stop! I say it outloud if I have to and exhale audibly letting the thought ride out with it.
I let go of the thought and take a deep breath in through my nose. Only thinking of my inhale. Then I let my breath go fully exhaling through my nose or mouth.
Then I either ask myself out loud or quietly to myself that Gay Hendricks directs: "what positive new thing is trying to come into existence?" This is the shifting point. I have to make myself available and open to new possibilities.
I take another deep breath in, feeling where this positive new thing is trying to come through. My thoughts are completely on my body and the question I am asking as I breath in deeply and exhale fully. When I first tried this exercise I often was feeling sensation in my throat because the thing I was so angry about was stifling my voice. My task was to speak my truth and compassionately ask for the things I needed instead of deflecting anger to an unrelated issue.
I breathe deeply into the part of my body where I am feeling sensation. For me, when I was angry, I’d be off on a walk. When I worry, I have often been in bed or sitting outside with a glass of wine thinking I should be enjoying rest and relaxation but there is some disconcerting scenario repeating that I can’t let go of. It’s a game of stopping the downward spiral and lifting myself up instead of emotionally pummeling myself.
I bask in the feeling of breathing in deeply into the body sensation I’m feeling. Opening up the sensation to engulf my whole body with each deep breath in and full breath out. I try to do this for as long as I can ride the pleasant feeling of my breath, combined with my body sensation. I'm now as much a junky for feeling good as I used to be for feeling bad.
Now this is where the magic often happens. Some new thought or idea pops in my head. It may not be in the least related. Like, I want to make chicken soup, go to a movie, or unleash some creativity. I love being outside, walking in nature and by concentrating on my breath and the body sensations that accompany it, make my outdoor time so much better. One thought that has happened during this past week is that I want to take positive action to support families that get separated at our borders so I donated to one of the many supporting groups and posted that on my Facebook wall instead of a rant. I admit I had done a little ranting too. I also thought to make strawberry shortcake for breakfast the next day and smiled at how tasty delicious it was going to be (with bacon).
Discovering how to create positive new thoughts and alternative actions to stewing in worry helped me see how uplifting thoughts can be just as recurring as anger, stress and worry had been for me. The positive thought only needs a little wiggle room to ignite within us. It’s really only a few clearing breaths away.
I will add, that when I first started this I would have to do it again, and again, and again. Mainly because I had to address the things that were, as I like to say, driving me batshit crazy. Through practicing this exercise, I found really rewarding and creative solutions to help break my negative thought patterns. Like everything worth doing, it takes practice.
What my practice is now: Letting go of harmful thoughts taking over my brain, mood, general well being in order to let a new positive thing come forth into being. That’s the important part. I can control the thoughts that I energize in existence.
The frustratingly aggravating thought that came up for me and I address using the same exercise is; why didn’t I learn this exercise sooner?!? I wish I would have known I could change my thought pattern before. What the hell? Giving myself a good dose of my now pretty outdated negative self talk.
This is the magic of having some solid tools to navigate our amazing brains. I use the exercise on those thoughts too! I do thank my very unique and individual brain for doing great work at worry and anger. It did so well for so long! Then I breathe in deeply, exhale fully and let it go so positive new thoughts, followed by actions can emerge.
One of my new takes on going to hell in a handbasket is the joy in weaving a basket of my choosing.
Give it a try on your next worry thought!
Best of luck! Hope it works for you! Great thanks to Gay Hendricks and his most awesome personal growth book The Big Leap:Conquer Your Fear and Take Life to the Next Level.
Please leave a message in the comments if you try this exercise or have tried this exercise and how it works for you. Same goes if you have any questions, please feel free to ask, either in the comments or in a direct message
*Credit, reference, and recommendation for this exercise goes to Gay Hendricks, The Big Leap: Conquer Your Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, New York, Harper Collins, 2009, Print.