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Powerful Minds
  • Christine Andrew founded CoSozo out of a desire to help people become more empowered to live happier...

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Wed, April 1, 2015
A Little Worry, A Dash of Dinosaur, and The Power of Your Mind
I don't personally believe that anything is wasted in life. Having said that, I do find that some aspects of life and what it means to be human in our world definitely veer toward the border of wastefulness such as the practice of worrying. I mean, really what's the point?

Few of us really like to worry. In fact, worrying is stressful. Even when we know we don't need to worry, or when we shouldn't worry, often we find ourselves doing it anyway. So why do we do it? What's the deal?

If nothing is wasted in life and everything has purpose (in my belief system) what's the point of worrying? I thought perhaps it was an evolutionary remnant carried forward from the days when the cavemen had REAL, BIG things to worry about in the form of the dinosaurs roaming the land. Then I discovered there was a 65 million year gap between the two groups that gets in the way of that great little conclusion being valid. Darn it, I really liked the visual and the conclusion. Oh well.

I suspect worrying is simply one of the ways that we tell ourselves that we have control. If we worry, perhaps then we can prepare ourselves for the worst possible scenario. It's lunacy of course, but ultimately it does provide us with a misguided sense of direction.

If you've ever paid attention to your mind, you know it carves a path all its own. You direct it to one thought and without your conscious decision or even permission, suddenly it's travelled down the rabbit hole from one semi-thought to another until you land in another very different thought than where you had started. Worrying is like that too. Even when we tell ourselves "There's no sense in this, I'm not going to worry", before too long, without conscious action to the contrary, we're embroiled in another bout of worrying. Are we really just at the mercy of wherever our minds what to go?

The real key to getting out of the worry trap is to provide your mind with something to focus on. As we know from all of the studies in quantum physics, brain studies, and all the rest, what we focus on expands. So to engage in the practice of worrying allows your mind to clench its mental teeth into an activity that is counter-productive. At best, all of your worrying is just time wasted on things that never actually transpire and the most you're out is your ability to have that time spent in a manner that feels uplifting, positive, and fulfilling. Sounds like a big loss to me! And that's just the scenario where your worrying doesn't really amount to anything.

I know a woman who spends so much time worrying and catastrophizing that she's very rarely in the present at all. That creates a huge barrier to being able to enjoy the other people who show up in your life. Loss of quality, fulfilling, happy time plus loss of the ability to enjoy really great relationships. Yuck. Time to strategize a way around this practice of worrying to create a more productive and meaningful action.

So what to do? If you find yourself in the worry lane of life, what can you do to get out of it and change the course of your mental direction, or rather, distraction? Give your brain something to do! Life has a certain flow and there are a lot of things we just can't control. We can't predict the future, we can't control other people, we often don't know what's coming or what we'll do about what will show up, but... we absolutely do know what makes us feel most alive, engaged, and fulfilled in our lives.

Perhaps you love to write or ride horses or spend time in your garden. You may love to travel or plan parties or write computer code. Whatever those things are that you love most to do, create them as a project - something with a beginning, a middle, and an end with some glorious verbs sprinkled throughout. Whenever you find yourself worrying, redirect your mind to that project instead. You may not always be physically in a place where you can do whatever that project is, but you can absolutely redirect your mind to construct the details of what remains to be done, relive what you've already completed, etc.

The brain is a remarkable tool. Erin Shackell and Lionel Standing did a research study at Bishop University that focused on whether the brain alone could create physical strength. That's right - using the brain to create the kind of results we only usually hear in association with the standard "No pain, no gain" slogan. What did they find? Three groups were studied: a control group who did nothing, a group who visualized hip flexions and increasing strength consistently during that activity, and a third group who actually performed those hip flexions throughout the study. Among the three groups studied, the group that only visualized rather than physically performed hip flexions increased strength almost as much as the group who had actually physically performed the strengthening exercises (24% increase in strength in comparison to 28% for the physical group).

What we believe has a remarkable impact on our reality as we perceive it, and even more. One Harvard researcher, Ellen Langer, became curious by none other than housekeepers. While housekeepers spend their days in a veritable flurry of activity, lugging equipment, dusting, moving furniture, etc. Langer noted that many of the women she spoke with reported they got no exercise at all. How perplexing!

As Langer and her team began to investigate for the study, they found that the housekeepers' physical characteristics seemed to reflect their perceived exercise rather than their actual exercise. Their bodies were not receiving the actual benefit of their physical activity. Langer and her team then split the study group into two. One group, the control group, consisted of housekeepers from three hotels. They were told nothing. The second group consisted of housekeepers from four other hotels. These housekeepers were informed about their daily exercise, how those activities broke down into calories spent and how each of those individual tasks met and exceeded the requirements of a healthy, active lifestyle.

Four weeks later the research team took another look at the physical measurements of the two groups. The informed group had not only lost weight, but also reduced their body-fat percentage, lowered their blood pressure, among other measurable benefits like waist-to-hip ratio, etc. It's possible that simply changing their mindset allowed the women to enjoy the physical benefits of the exercise they had been undertaking all along!

How we feel and what we tell ourselves is not only important to our emotional landscape and what occurs within us, but it is so powerful that it can alter our physical reality as well. The next time you find yourself worrying about what might happen or what you might do or what someone else might say, set your teeth around a project that fills you with passion and use that power within your mind to create the remarkable! Before you know it, not only will you feel more powerful in your life, but your brain will have learned an important new skill that within short order will become a habit!

Using your mind as your most powerful tool, you can create within yourself the reality that you are fleeing from very large, very scary dinosaurs... OR you can get to work on creating the life of your dreams!

And just to entertain the minds of those who may be currently in the practice of worrying, these images are sure to make you feel a little better:

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