When we worry about something, we are focusing all of our mental energy on something in life we don’t like (something we want to get away from). This can sometimes be helpful when there is something we can do to change things, but more often than not, worrying is a waste of time. And if we’re not careful, we can spend so much time thinking about the things in life we don’t like (what we want to get away from) that we forget to devote time to the things in life we do like (what we want to move towards).
Here are some signs you’re spending too much energy on trying to get away from things:
- Constantly avoiding situations that trigger uncomfortable emotions like guilt and anxiety
- Quitting things you really want to do because they make you feel an uncomfortable emotion
- Constantly distracting your mind with television and the internet
- Not leaving the house
- Getting stuck in your head, reviewing all the things you’re worried about
- Always thinking about the negative (thinking about the one thing that went wrong today rather than the 3 things that went well)
- Focusing on the people in your life who bring you pain rather than those who bring you joy
- Constantly scanning the world for danger and threats (scanning the front page of every newspaper you pass, obsessively checking internet news)
- Focusing on the parts of yourself (an aspect of your appearance or personality for example) that you don’t like
- Trying to control your thoughts and feelings (to ‘get rid of’ the thoughts and feelings you don’t like)
If you feel like you’re stuck in a pattern of running away, there is hope. You’ve probably noticed that focusing on the things you don’t like can make you lose sight of the things you do like. But it also works the other way around. Thinking about where you want to be going in life makes it easier to ignore the things in life you don’t like.
If you’re feeling ready to devote more time to the positive, here are some questions to help you get back into the habit…
1. Identify your values: the things in life that are important to you (nature, athletics, church, career, family, art, travel, reading, cooking, gardening, writing, music). Look for opportunities that help you get back in touch with these things. Seek out a group or club in the community. Find an online community. Figure out how to make time for these things in your life.
2. Identify the people most important to you. Family? Friends? What are the actions and activities that bring you closer to these people? How can you make an effort to make this more of a regular part of your life?
3. Who is your best self? When are you most happy with yourself? What are you doing and saying? How are you behaving? What can you do to be your best self more often?
4. Most importantly, don’t just read this, move on with your day, and forget to do anything. Make a commitment to make a change and figure out a plan to start working on it.
Give these tips a try and you may find yourself looking over your shoulder less, and you just might notice something on the horizon you want to move towards.