Last updated October, 2018.
note: we link to our free guide to mindfulness and meditation at the bottom of the page (no email required).
Worrying is exhausting.
Have you considered how much time and energy you spend doing it? If you are like the rest of us, the answer is a lot. From small, mundane things to large, life-changing events, our worrying spans across all aspects of existence.
As discussed in previous articles, we have a limited amount of time and energy every day. If we use it worrying, we can't use it being creative, solving problems, working effectively, or enjoying life. This is akin to "decision fatigue," where the quality of your decisions deteriorates as you make more of them throughout your day.
The message is simple - we don't have an unlimited amount of anything, so we need to use what we do have wisely.
Which brings us back to worry. Eckhart Tolle says:
Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.
Intellectually most of us know this is true. And, it's easy to say that worry gets you nowhere, so stop doing it.
But, it's hard to implement those instructions.
One strategy I often see repeated is "imagine the worst-case scenario." The hypothesis is if you think about the absolute worst thing that might happen in any given situation, you can let go of worry easier.
Here's the problem with that hypothesis: you are giving your mind free rein to run amok, inventing terrible scenarios that might happen (but, most likely won't) and causing you to dwell on negative outcomes.
Is this really going to lessen your fear, stress, and anxiety? Probably not. In fact, it will most likely multiply them exponentially.
And, the odds are slim that you can look at the worst-case scenario, accept it, and move on about your day without more thought on the subject. Our minds simply don't work that way.
To the contrary, our minds are compulsive - they keep dragging us out of the present moment to ruminate on "maybes, mights, and what ifs." Left to their own accord, our minds tend to paint bleak pictures of how the future will be, and worry usually dominates the stories that play in our heads.
Again, it's exhausting.
There is an alternate and more skillful solution: instead of following your mind wherever it leads, you can choose not to participate in the thoughts, emotions, and stories it constantly produces. This is the essence of mindfulness and meditation.
You can see the folly of spending your limited time and energy caught up in "mental drama" about imaginary circumstances. And, you can reallocate it to the present moment and what you are doing here and now. This, too, is the essence of mindfulness and meditation.
As Guy Finley says:
The only reason your mind won't stop its endless chattering is because you won't stop listening to it.
Address the root cause.
Your struggles and suffering - whether it's stress, feelings of anxiety or depression, low self-confidence, extreme emotions...or anything else - are caused by the difference between the way things are and the way the mind thinks they should be.
Does it make sense to continue trying to control everything "out there" to conform to the mind's expectations? Or, is a more skillful use of your time and energy changing the way you deal with the thoughts and stories the mind constantly churns out?
If you believe it's the second option, continue reading...