How to Train Your Thoughts So That You Never Feel Anxious Again
Imagine that your breath is shallow, your heart is beating, you feel slightly uneasy, your palms are sweaty and you’ve got too much adrenaline to sit still.
What is this feeling called?
Excitement? Anxiety? Both, actually. These two feelings are so similar, that the only differentiation between the two is how we view them, and the feeling we add to this emotional response.
The root of anxiety is extremely similar to excitement. If we remove the feeling from both emotions and simply acknowledge the reaction in our body, it’s the same emotion. The difference is just how we respond to them and how we choose to frame them.
How we perceive anxiety
What a lot of people don’t realise is that anxiety and excitement are pretty much interchangeable. How we choose to frame these emotions depends on what situation we’re in and how we will perceive them.
For example, if we’re about to walk into an interview, we will probably feel anxious. But if we’re about to jump out of a plane or ride a rollercoaster, we feel the same way, but in that scenario, we would call it excitement.
We usually use the word ‘excitement’ when describing a situation we willingly put ourselves in, or when we’re in a situation because we want to feel the corresponding emotion. The reason we ride a rollercoaster is that we want to feel the thrill and the buzz of adrenaline we get from the ride.
By analysing how our body reacts to a certain emotion, we will understand that many emotions feel the same way if we remove the feelings aspect — the thoughts — that are associated with those emotions.
Just like learning how to paint, knit, play an instrument or cook; this is also a skill that requires time, patience and practice to be able to learn.
“The only real difference between Anxiety and Excitement was my willingness to let go of Fear.”
— Barbara Brown Taylor
There is a state of being that we can learn to receive, where we simply acknowledge anxiety as an uncomfortable sensation without reading it with any type of feeling.
This, too, is a skill that needs to be learned and understood to control our feelings, but it’s no secret, and anyone can do it.
By meditating and putting some time aside to simply be aware of our mind, it allows us to practise the skill of evaluating our emotions and understanding how they are connected.
Once we know this, we can begin to apply what we’ve learned to our every-day life, and in scenarios where we often will feel anxious. That is when we can view our emotions as an observer and simply acknowledge the sensations of anxiety.
Turning negativity around
No matter how hard we try to avoid feeling sad, angry or anxious, we will stumble across negative feelings now and again.
If we apply this skill to any of these emotions and understand that we influence how we identify them, then all negative emotion — especially anxiety — lose their significance and that is when we can live freely, without any uneasiness or burdening thoughts holding us back.
It’s easier than we think to disconnect from the sensation of emotion and simply assess how we’re feeling without any negative influence from our thoughts.
Sometimes we have to get behind ourselves and push for us to get out of a negative headspace. We may have to do things that we typically might not feel like doing, because they might be what helps us realise that we can break out of our negative thought patterns.
Interrupting our thoughts
When we feel stuck in a negative mindset, it’s easy for us to slip away into thoughts that say “I’m not good enough”, or “my life sucks”, but all we’re doing then is thinking. Ultimately, thinking is the same as telling ourselves a story; we’re all storytellers of our minds.
When we’re repeating the same thoughts over and over in our heads, we begin to believe them, and we end up feeling stuck in these self-deceiving patterns.
This is when we can become aware of our thoughts, and use mindfulness to acknowledge when we’re thinking this way and break out of the story we’re telling ourselves.
Once we analyse our thoughts and interrupt them with “what am I experiencing right now?”, we can work towards telling ourselves a better story. We can work towards changing our negative thoughts into positive ones, and we can understand how deeply our thoughts can affect us.
Gratitude leads to more positivity
The way we change our thoughts can very easily be done with gratitude. We need to discontinue our negative thoughts and feel grateful for anything and everything we can think of.
Gratitude is a powerful tool that is often used to get out of a negative mindset. It’s tricky to continue thinking about all the bad things that will probably never even happen to us when instead we could choose to feel grateful.
There is so much we can feel grateful for in any given moment as long as we consciously decide to do so. Eventually, with practice, these thoughts will become more frequent and we wouldn’t have to purposely look for reasons to feel thankful.
Feeling grateful for negative emotion
The moment that we’re experiencing right now, even if we feel anxious, frustrated or sad, there will still be something for which we can feel grateful. Anxiety often stems from unrealistic expectations, where we think about all the bad things that could happen to us.
Those thoughts can so easily be changed to feeling grateful for all the things that have happened to us. We don’t feel so good, but we’re not dying, and we know that there is no actual harm in what we’re feeling.
Our situation could be so much worse than it is when we’re experiencing negative emotion.
If we find ourselves in a dangerous situation — we would wish to be back in a previous situation where we felt anxious. Even though it’s an uncomfortable feeling, it’s not dangerous.
Letting the light in
By using this technique and feeling grateful, we can change and reframe the way we think into something positive. We don’t have to feel stuck in the darkness; we can let the light in by reevaluating our thoughts.
We must listen to the conversation we‘re having with ourselves and interrupt them with gratitude. We can’t feel grateful and also feel negative towards something, because we’re verbalising and explaining and thinking about everything we feel good about at this moment.
Ultimately, we decide how we interpret any situation, and if we feel anxious about something, we have to remember that we can use the powerful connection between our thoughts and emotions to shift our focus into a more positive place.
We can learn to change our anxiety and the thoughts that come with it into excitement and gratitude.
“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” — Dorothy M. Neddermeyer