Worrying is an unnecessary evil when it comes to your mental health. Some consider it simply a bad habit that can be unlearned with practice. Some think worrying serves a purpose for the brain, such as helping us to learn from past experiences and prepare for new ones. Whether good or bad, worrying occupies our brain as we focus on a future we can’t control.
It is said that depression is focusing on past events you wish you could change, and worrying is focusing on future events you have no control over. Importantly, instead of worrying you can choose to take action by preparing for whatever it is that has you worried. In this article, we will look at active ways you can train your brain to stop worrying.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO STOP WORRYING
1. STOP YOUR BRAIN FROM WORRYING BY WRITING IT DOWN.
When you are training your brain to stop worrying, this technique might be the most valuable. If your brain is keeping you up at night by thinking about something, put it down on paper. (Electronic formats also work.) This action lets your brain breathe a mental sigh of relief by no longer having to spend energy trying to remember these details. If you’re worrying about what to serve for a gathering of friends, write down “What to serve?”
Writing it down also is a way for you to put your brain on notice. In other words, you basically tell your brain, “This is important enough to write down.” Your brain has now been alerted to put resources toward solving this problem rather than being worried.
Why write it down? Researchers now have evidence that chronic worriers may be chronic problem-avoiders too. Scientists in the journal Anxiety, Stress & Coping gave worriers an opportunity to write down three possible outcomes for worrisome situations. Then they analyzed their answers for practical solutions. The scientists say, “When participants’ problem elaborations were rated for concreteness, both studies showed an inverse relationship between degree of worry and concreteness. The more participants worried about a given topic, the less concrete was the content of their elaboration. The results challenge the view that worry may promote better problem analyses. Instead, they conform to the view that worry is a cognitive avoidance response.”
2. MEDITATE FOR A WORRY-FREE BRAIN.
Meditation can help train your brain to stop worrying. Researchers in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine studied the effects of meditation and found that meditation is particularly good for reducing cognitive anxiety. Although some people believe they do not have time to meditate, meditation is as easy as choosing to close your eyes right now for 30 seconds or longer. The act of tuning out other sources of stress actively trains your brain to stop worrying.
When you take a few moments to consciously avoid any non-natural noise in your life, you center around what is most important to you. Worrisome thoughts may come to you while you meditate, yet this is normal. Those who have mastered the art of brain-training recommend observing worrisome thoughts as they enter the mind and simply watching them pass like clouds on a breezy day.
3. EXERCISE TO TRAIN YOUR BODY AND BRAIN TO STOP WORRYING.
Worry is how your brain learns to survive by deciding whether or not to activate the fight-or-flight system. If a cougar jumps out at you, you instantly feel a rush of adrenaline. This fear response is the same thing happening to your body when you worry, just at a much lower level over a longer period of time.
The same study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that exercise, on the other hand, is good for you, especially when your body feels symptoms of anxiety. If your body feels fewer physical symptoms of stress, your mind will interpret that there must be less to worry about because the body is not in a state of heightened arousal.
Exercise gives the body a secondary reason for the rapid heart rate and perspiration that we may feel when we worry. Exercise can help lower blood pressure, which is another physical symptom of stress in the body. If you identify that you are worrying, go for a 5-10 minute walk, outside if possible. Appreciate the sights and sounds of nature while focusing on the motion of your limbs and the breaths that you take.