‘When it rains it pours!’ has never felt truer. My circle of friends and family have been experiencing a rainfall of sickness, tragedy and loss. The national news of Kobe Bryant’s death felt like the cherry on top of my doom and gloom Sundae.
I was talking with my Mom about all the bad news and we started spit balling ideas to lift our spirits. I came up with this brilliant advice – we can’t live in fear! Ok, that sounds good and all but how do we do that? As someone who struggles with anxiety, fear feels like my normal state. Fear of not getting enough done, fear of the unknown, fear of something bad happening. What would a life with less fear and anxiety even look like?
Imagine this with me. Waking up feeling hopeful and excited to start another day. Smiling as you drive to work listening to your favorite podcast. Feeling thankful for the human connections you make throughout your days’ journey. Nighttime comes and you feel accomplished and grateful.
Now, I know that even a dream day will likely include some unexpected stressors or upsetting news. My hope is that, in spite of fear, those days can also be filled with gratitude, calm, and happiness!
Hear me loud and clear my fellow fearful humans: We can change our fear-based brains and it’s not as difficult at you may think!
Changing the Fear-Based Brain
1. Find your motivation to change. I can give you the secret to living with less fear, but there is no point if you do not know why you want to change. So, think about it… Maybe you want to be more positive around your kids. Perhaps you know an optimistic person and wish you had their outlook on life. Maybe you have a lot to be grateful for but lose sight of those things. Pick one and stick to it.
2. Filter your content. Friends with a chronic complainer on social media? Watching documentaries on serial killers? Of course, that’s going to affect your mood! For each post you see on social media or show you watch on Netflix, ask yourself, “Does this make me feel happy, hopeful or calm?” If the answer is no, unfollow or switch to a different show.
3. Start each day with gratitude. As soon as you hit snooze, fight the urge to check social media or email. Lay back down and name 10 things you are grateful for. Get creative here – appreciate how smooth your sheets feel, your first sip of coffee or how soft your doggo’s fur is. Bonus: individuals who practice gratitude report better mental health!
4. Be present. If you are thinking about what needs to happen in the next hour, day or week, you are probably triggering your stress response. If you are thinking about past pain or loss, realize you are welcoming the doom and gloom feeling. To get back into the present, take a deep breath, say your name, the day/time, and what you are doing. “My name is Sam, it’s Friday at 6pm and I am typing on my laptop.”
! I tried Laughing Yoga recently and loved it! Everyone in the class was instructed to start laughing while throwing their hands up and down. It felt so silly that by the end we were smiling naturally, and moods were lifted! You can practice Laughing Yoga with this short Ted Talk, ‘Happier in 5 Minutes’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HJG63EXCmw
6. Remember it is all temporary. Life, feelings, thoughts, happy and sad moments, they are all temporary. The sadness, pain or grief that comes with bad news will subside. In difficult moments remind yourself, ‘This too shall pass’ and head on up to tips 1-5 if you want to shift your mood.
You do not have to be a victim to our culture of fear. You have an opportunity every day to create moments of gratitude, calm and happiness!