An Effective Way to Banish Your Worries

sun in sea

We all have negative and worrisome thoughts. Often we don’t know how to overcome them. Here is a proven way to banish your negative thoughts and worries.

The tool that I recommend you is simple and powerful. All you need are papers and a pen.

Before I explain you how to go about it, let’s see its benefits. Several studies have shown that writing down your thoughts and negative emotions has many health benefits.

A study conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Broadbent, professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, found that writing down emotionally distressing events help you reduce your anxiety.

In another study Dr. Anne Mangen and her team at the University of Stavanger in Norway discovered that when writing by hand, there is a greater a connection between what you feel with your body and what you understand. Therefore writing down your worrisome thoughts or negative emotions will help you make sense of your emotionally charged experience.

Write by hand

Computers dominate our lives. We prefer tying at the keyboard because we are used to it. However, when it comes to expressing your emotions, the pen is mightier than the keyboard.

Writing by hand stimulates the brain in a different way than using a keyboard. Your brain receives feedback from your arm muscles and fingertips, which makes the experience more physical. It helps you rearrange your memories and emotional experiences.

When you write by hand, you exert more physical and mental effort. This stimulates different regions of your brain. Moreover, as writing by hand is slower than typing, your unconscious mind has more time to filter out undesirable thoughts.

Moreover, your subconscious mind works best with symbols and metaphors. Writing by hand becomes a symbolic act to pour down on the paper all your worries and thoughts. This way you build an emotional distance from the distressful events.

How to do it

If you have worrisome thoughts or some emotionally charged issue that causes you anxiety, here is an assignment that you can perform for two weeks:

Commit to do the following assignment for two weeks in order to notice the benefits. It is important that you follow the instructions to the letter.

Set aside 30 minutes to one hour a day to do this task. Make sure you are alone. Avoid listening to music so you can concentrate on the task.

Set an alarm clock for the allotted time. Take several white papers and start writing by hand.

Write all your thoughts and feelings. Let your mind wander freely and write anything that worries you. Just write any emotional issue, any negative memory or even traumatic experiences that have not been healed yet. It could be a fight you had with your sister or brother or even a death of someone you loved.

As you write, let go of your analytical and judgmental mind. Just write down all your thoughts and emotions without censuring them. Any word or expression is valid. Therefore you can write whatever thoughts that pops up in your mind, even if they are nasty words.

No need to write in an orderly fashion. You can jump from one issue to another, or from the present to the past and to the future. Any issue is ok: yourself, partner, friends, parents, relatives, etc.

You can l go of any emotion. If you feel like crying, cry! If you get angry and feel like shouting, shout! As you write let go of your emotions and express them.

Since you will be writing every day you can repeat certain topics or issues. You can write about the same issues or experiences over again, or write about different topics each day.

Remember you are not writing an essay. It is an emotional, expressive and intuitive writing. So you are allowed to make spelling and grammar mistakes.

Start writing and when the alarm goes off, stop writing!

After the alarm goes off, avoid reading what you wrote. Tear up the papers and throw them out. This way your writing is confidential.

Some people may fear that concentrating on negative thoughts would make them worse. This will not happen because you dedicate a very specific time to it that has a beginning and an end. In this way your mind learns to start and stop negative thought by will. This will give you more control over your worrisome thoughts. Even though the assignment is counterintuitive, the results are positive and beneficial.

As Lao Tse put it: “To reduce something, one must deliberately expand it; to weaken something, one must deliberately strengthen it; to eliminate something, one must let it flourish.”

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Can Mindfulness Meditation Treat Anxiety Disorder?

Buda

Meditation, which was once a practice for few people who were attracted to oriental philosophy to find spiritual enlightenment, in recent years, has become a worldwide trend as a universal panacea for many ills. School and university students, business people, NFL players, Oprah, US marines and even prison inmates have practiced it as a way to ease stress and anxiety.

Mindfulness meditation is a way to focus one’s mind on the present moment without emitting any judgment. Here is a simple mindfulness exercise called the 3-minute breathing space (TMBS):

  • You spend one minute focusing on your body in a wide sense. The totality of your physical being. (Wide)
  • In the second minute you focus on your breathing in a more specific and concentrated fashion. Focusing on your lungs, mouth or nostrils. (Narrow)
  • During the third minute you observe your experience of your body and your breathing like in the first step, in a wider fashion. (Wide)

Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard J Davidson are two of the most well known promoters of meditation and mindfulness. Kabat-Zinn is a professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He has created a program based on meditation to help people cope with stress, anxiety and pain. Davidson, an American psychologist, and his and his colleagues have led studies at the University of Wisconsin with several Buddhists monks who were master mediators. Both Kabat-Zinn and Davidson advocate that mindfulness can help lower people’s anxiety.

Mindfulness has become a hot trend and for some a fad to reap benefits from. Every year there is a new title published on mindfulness. Among these titles there are those claiming that this practice can help people with anxiety. Some publishers take advantage of the popularity of the terms “mindfulness” and “mindful” adding them to their book titles: Mindful work, Mindful Universe, Mindful Eating, Mindful Parenting, Mindful Teaching, Mindful Politics, etc.

Among all these titles, two in particular show you how a worthy topic, when pushed to its extreme, can become absurd: Mindfulness for Dogs, and Mindfulness for Cats. The book promises that you can “Learn from your canine” (or feline) “how to live in the present and approach every day with a calm and positive attitude.”

It is true that meditation is beneficial to your health. It helps you relax your body and calm your thoughts. Meditation and mindfulness are useful to improve your state of mind and maintain a serene attitude toward life. However, when you are suffering from anxiety disorder, meditation and mindfulness are not the right solutions.

The promoters of mindfulness are biased because they have become too fond of oriental wisdom and practices and have attributed an excessive beneficial power to what meditation can do. It is true that studies suggest that regular meditation has helped lowering anxiety among some individuals. However, mindfulness cannot stop an anxiety attack nor can it prevent or cure it as some suggest.

The confusion is the result of an error at the logical level. Paul Watzlawick, John Weakland and Richard Fisch explain this epistemological error in their book, Change: Principles of Problem Formulation and Problem Resolution (1974), pp. 38-39. The authors make a distinction between the terms “difficulties” and “problems”. According to them, a difficulty is an “undesirable state of affairs” that can be solved with common sense and “no special problem solving skills are necessary”. However, they “…talk about problems when referring to impasses, deadlocks, knots…” In other words, a problem is a state of affairs that have resisted change despite all the efforts of people involved.

Meditation and mindfulness can be helpful with a difficulty. For example stress is a difficulty. You may have a tough day at work and come home stress out and angry. You can sit down, deep breathe and meditate to calm your thoughts and ease your emotions. The solution to this difficulty is common sense.

However, anxiety is not a difficulty that can be solved with common sense meditation and mindfulness. Anxiety is a major problem that requires problem-solving skills that are not necessarily common sense. On the contrary, the solution for anxiety must be counterintuitive!

It is possible for some individuals suffering from anxiety disorder to ease their symptoms with mindfulness practice over a long period of time. However, what if there is a more effective and efficient way to overcome anxiety that takes less efforts and less time? There is an efficacious method for anxiety disorder!

Pokémon Go & Social Anxiety

Pokemon Go

Pokémon Go is the new game from Nintendo and Niantic. This location-based augmented reality game, designed for cell phones, allows the players to capture, train and battle the virtual Pokémon characters that appear in real world. Players must walk around in their cities to move their avatar in the game and interact with other players in real world.

Since its release in the first week of July 2016, it has been reported that Pokémon Go motivated few individuals who suffer from social anxiety to get out of their homes and interact with other players in the real world. Social anxiety is the fear of being judged by others for mistakes you might make in public or the fear of being scrutinized for your flaws. This causes them extreme anxiety. In order to protect themselves socially anxious people avoid social situations.

However with the help of Pokémon Go, these people have been able to expose themselves to social situations despite of their fear. Avid players of this game who suffer social anxiety say that they get distracted by the game and feel less anxiety. However, as one girl explained, she dreads the idea of interacting with another player in the real world. Staring at the screen of their smartphone and following an avatar is something most anxious people can do. What may become a real challenge is when they have to meet another human being and talk with them.

Although this game has helped some anxious individuals to get out, it is not the solution. The main reason is that people with social anxiety need effective resources to face and overcome the real causes of their anxiety.

Elizabeth’s Social Anxiety Disorder

An attractive woman in her forties walked into my office and sat down. Her expression was serious and nervous. Her sister was with her offering her support and encouragement. After her sister left, Elisabeth introduced herself and began speaking.

“About ten years ago I started feeling anxious for no good reason.”

“What precisely does anxiety mean to you?” I asked.

“I get nervous in front of strangers. My hands shake when I’m doing normal and routine task, like writing the address on an envelope at the post office. I don’t dare have a cup of coffee on my own because I get too anxious.”

She explained that once she had had an anxiety attack in a bank. To feel less embarrassed about it, she had pretended that she was feeling dizzy and asked for a chair to sit down. Recently her anxiety had increased to the point that she had stopped going to work. By profession she was a dental hygienist but her trembling hands made it impossible to carry out her work.
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My Own Experience With Social Anxiety Disorder

social anxiety disorder pencil

When I was 15 I moved from Iran to Italy. I was living with one of my brothers in Rome, but felt anxious. A year later, my anxiety level rose to the point that I couldn’t concentrate on my studies and suffered from a host of symptoms: I was excessively self-conscious, worried about others judging me and avoided social situations. Whenever I could, I would stay quiet or try to disappear into the background.

In 1979 when I was suffering these symptoms, there wasn’t so any information about anxiety. Most family and friends interpret these symptoms as shyness or insecurity. Needless to say, this interpretation didn’t help me since I thought that something was seriously wrong with me as a person. I didn’t know that I was suffering from anxiety.

Among my symptoms of anxiety was a throbbing headache. I tried many treatments to alleviate the pain. I began with a doctor and then a specialist, an acupuncturist and finally a psychologist. I took prescription drugs for pain, anxiety and depression. Only the psychologist got past the symptoms that caused the pain. After all, I was far from family; I was worried because the Islamic Revolution had erupted in my native land. The revolution meant persecution for my family and other Iranian Baha’is. Soon I began to receive news of Baha’is being imprisoned, tortured and executed for their beliefs.

After telling all this to the psychologist, he diagnosed my condition as “stress”. I became interested in personal growth and psychology. After many years of personal struggle and studying psychology at the University of Western Ontario and University of Waterloo, I learned many coping skills which served as foundation for my first book, “Stress: An Owner’s Manual”.

However, now, 34 years later, I know that it was neither stress nor shyness. My extreme feeling of self-consciousness in everyday social situations was nothing but anxiety or what psychiatrists call it “social anxiety”. Since then I helped people in Canada, Sweden, Czech Republic and Spain overcome their problems.

While I was living in Europe, I did three post graduate studies, furthering my knowledge of psychology. Gradually, after many years of private practice, and after seeing numerous cases of anxiety, phobias and obsessions, I became known as a specialist for complicated cases.