Research shows that happier, more content people are less caught up in their thoughts and more focused on the present moment. The bottom line? Worry increases anxiety: rumination increases depression. So how do we tackle such destructive, yet often unconscious thinking patterns?
Here’s an empowering focus I try to build in my clients. Picture an old fashioned scale. If one side of the scale is the amount of time you spend focused on your present life and the other side of the scale is the amount of time you spend caught up in your thoughts, then you can easily picture what the scale looks like on days when you are caught up in worry or rumination. It’s tipped up, out of balance in the wrong direction. Having an anxiety disorder is like having a tipped scale nearly all the time.
Ultimately, this is a game of percentages. We are trying to increase the percentage of time you spend present and attending to your actual life and decrease the percentage of time you spend distracted with your thoughts. Success then, is won in every moment we can capture and claim for the being present side of the scale. If you have a bad day, but have increased your present percentage most of the other days, then over the course of a week, you have gained ground.
This image also gives us an alternative thought action when we notice we are worrying or ruminating, because simply berating ourselves with “stop worrying!” is pretty useless. Rather, try these steps: (1) notice you are worrying (or ruminating), (2) thank your mind for the sentiment, and (3) return with all of your attention to whatever you are doing. This exercise trains your brain to stay attentive and ultimately, with time and repetition, creates a new neural pathway, the pathway of the present moment!
Go for the percentages. Success is won in each and every moment that you can actually BE in your life.