“Now I don’t have to worry.”
I heard that quote in an ad for a prescription discount card. Really? We’ve got far better reasons than that to stop worrying. The best reason of all? God says “fret not” over and over in his Word. Need even more convincing? Here’s the short version of a great article by Don Joseph Goewey.[i]
Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.” Now there’s a study that proves it. In this study, subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did not actually happen. Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened. As for the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning.
Most of what we worry over is little more than a fearful mind punishing us with exaggerations and misperceptions. And worry is no joke. The stress hormones worry dumps into our brains have been linked to serious physical, mental, and relational problems. Get rid of worry, and we have a better shot at living longer, happier, and more successful lives. We can rewire our brains to stop worrying. Here are three tools to get you started.
1. Decide not to believe the misfortune that your worried thoughts see in your future. Make the decision to stop worrying, and don’t waste another moment on it. Think of all the energy we can gain by deciding not to worry. Think of all the anxiety we’ll spare ourselves, all the needless stress we’ll avoid.
2. Rewire your brain to quiet the worry circuit. A tool as simple as The Clear Button can get you started. Here’s how it works.
Imagine a button at the center of your palm.
Press it and count to three, thinking of each number as a color.
• Breathe in, count 1, think red.
• Breathe in, count 2, think blue.
• Breathe in, count 3, think green.
• On the exhale, completely let go of thinking anything for a moment.
Here’s the neurological reason why the Clear Button works. The part of the brain that causes stress reactions literally has the intelligence of a toddler. And every parent knows you don’t stop a tantrum by appealing to a child’s logic. You distract the child. This tool distracts the terrible two-year-old in your brain before worry can take over. This takes practice, but the more you bust stressful thinking during the day, the more your brain will strengthen synapses that end worry.
3. Another simple approach to dissolving worry is called “Finish Each Day and Be Done with It.” Let go of the day’s problems so you don’t take them home. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders, losses, and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; let today go so you can begin tomorrow well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. Each new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”
I believe the Lord covers our mistakes. He wants to give us peace, and happiness, and a good night’s sleep. Perhaps tonight he will use Emerson’s words, and those of Don Joseph Goewey, to do just that.
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