The Mini-Mindfulness Challenge offers a simple prompt each week - for 4 weeks - to help you remember to be present in the moment and in so doing find better health and more ease. If you missed Week 1, here it is:
Now, onto worry. Did you know the average person has 10,000 to 50,000 thoughts a day? Most of them are unnecessary and many of them are unhelpful - like worry, anger, and self-recrimination.
The purpose of mindfulness isn’t to eliminate thoughts entirely. That would be impossible. But mindfulness will help you:
- Discover more calm, serenity, and peace
- Take charge of your mind so you're no longer a slave to your thoughts and emotions and suffering as a result
Mini-Mindfulness Challenge - Week 2: Dispel Worry
I promised the Mini-Mindfulness Challenge would be fun and relaxed. However, during the first week of the challenge, several people mentioned they need help with worry. So let's tackle that because each time you let go of worry life is more spacious and free.
Here's the Mini-Mindfulness Challenge for Week 2:
Just NOTICE as soon as you have a thought of worry. Don't suppress the thought. Simply be aware of it. Allow it to move pass without engaging in more worry thoughts.
The secret of mindfulness is just noticing, letting go, and returning to the present moment. You don't have to resist the thought or push it away. Just relax and stay in your awareness - the part that notices - and the thought will dissolve on its own.
This may not be easy at first, but it will get easier with practice.
At first, you might not catch yourself until you're embroiled in a flow of worry thoughts. That's okay. It's part of the process of learning to be mindful. As soon as you notice the worry, just be aware of it and allow it to dissolve on its own.
If worry's not your thing or feels overwhelming, you could use a different repetitive thought for the challenge this week, alternative focusing on smiling one day (from Week 1) and worry the next, or just use smiling again.
This ebb and flow of awareness and distraction is a natural part of learning to be more mindful. Every time you catch yourself distracted, it's a moment of awareness. So never be hard on yourself. Just return to the present moment. Through this process, you'll gradually become more and more mindful.
Helpful Antidotes to Worry
You could dispel worry with mindfulness alone. That would mean bringing your mind back to the present moment every time you notice a worry thought or even a flurry of worry. This needs to be done again and again - like training a muscle - because we've had the habit of worry for a long time.
At the same time, I know that worry is a tough nut to crack. So if you find it difficult to work on worry with mindfulness alone, you could compliment the practice with one of the antidotes below.
The first step, however, will always be mindfulness: awareness when a thought of worry arises.
1. This Isn't Happening Right Now
Worry usually means you're in a thought of the the past or future. So when a worry thought or feeling arises, remind yourself this isn't happening right now. It's just a thought moving through your mind.
Embrace Shantideva's advice: "If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good." In other words, if there's a solution, take action. If not, let go.
2. Change the Channel
When your mind drifts to worry, use your senses to help bring yourself into the present. Notice what you see, hear, feel (physical sensations), smell or taste right now. For example, "I see a yellow wall and hear birds chirping and a weed whacker in the background."
You don't need to announce it to yourself. Just be aware of what your senses are receiving, and rest there a bit without creating thoughts about it.
3. Use An Affirmation
Create an affirmation to replace the worry thought. Craft one that goes to the core of your fear. For example, "I feel safe." Or "I have everything I need in this moment." Then, whenever the worry thought comes, immediately apply the affirmation in its place.
4. Love Yourself, Worry and All
I love this phrase that is used in Tapping: "Even though I_______, I completely love and accept myself." When worry comes to your mind, fill the blank in with "worry" and repeat the phase to yourself.
"Even though I worry, I completely love and accept myself."
Using these antidotes goes beyond the practice of mindfulness. But that's okay if you find them helpful and mind-changing.
Whatever you do, don't go to war with worry! Feeling aversion for any emotion will just make it stronger. Instead, accept worry as another thought that sometimes arises in your mind. Realize that it comes from nowhere and disappears into nothingness. Worry only grows larger if you keep fueling it with more thoughts.
Mini-Mindfulness Challenge: Suggested Guidelines
- Practice the prompt for a full week if possible. If not, try it out for 4-5 days.
- Go at your own pace. Don't get tense about catching every worry thought.
- If you forget, that’s okay. Forgetting is a normal part of the process of learning to be mindful. Just start again as soon as you remember.
- Never reprimand yourself for forgetting. Be gentle and encouraging instead.
- Don’t get stressed! Approach the exercise with playful curiosity.
- Each day celebrate your accomplishment to reinforce it. Even if you caught worry just once that day, it's a good start.
- Keep track of your experience in a journal if you would like, but don't obsess about getting it "right" or collecting the largest number of worry thoughts.
- Return here the next Wednesday to receive a new prompt and share your experience with us.
Simple Tricks to Help You Remember Mindfulness
These simple tricks will help you to remember to be mindful:
- Write “mindfulness” on a post it-note, and place it in a prominent place where you'll see it often.
- Set a timer on your watch, computer, or SMART phone to beep once an hour (or however often you like) as a reminder.
- Collect a few quotes on worry and reflect on one each day. Here are a few to get you started:
"I vow to let go of all worries and anxiety in order to be light and free." - Thich Nhat Hanh
"Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow. It only saps today of its joy." - Leo Buscaglia
I used to be a major worrier. But, one day I woke up and realized that worry has no redeeming value. It doesn't help in the least. I haven't conquered worry entirely, but usually if it comes up, I'll return to the present moment or use one of the antidotes above.
If you would like to know more about what mindfulness is and what it is not, please read my article: You Can Beat Stress With Mindfulness.
How did Week 1 of the Mini-Mindfulness Challenge: Smile go for you? I would love to hear. And what do you think about worry as a prompt for mindfulness this week?
Wishing you a good week with more smiles and less worry! And here's Week 1 if you haven't seen it yet.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra