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Kiss your worries goodbye with these two quick exercises

These past 18 months have been unpredictable, chaotic, destabilizing… the list goes on. So, naturally, many of us are harboring a lot of worries right now. But what does worrying really do to change our situation? Nothing. Worrying simply makes us feel helpless by keeping us in a cycle of negativity and stress.

Even though pessimistic thoughts occur naturally as a part of our biology, you can adopt practices that help you resist them and remain resilient.

“People often think you need a mindset shift to deal with worry and anxiety,” says Matthew Ferry, author of Quiet Mind, Epic Life. “What you need is to shift the context to deal with the fear in another way. It’s recontextualization, which is the skill of describing a condition and circumstances in a way that gives you an empowering reality.”

He shares two three-minute exercises that you can try the next time you feel worried.

Define the worst-case scenario

Worry often shows up when you’re doing something new, and you feel like there’s a lot at stake. According to Ferry, this fear of the unknown is what stands in your way.

“Most of us have been taught the modern positivity movement,” says Ferry. “But positivity is unreliable. Instead, what to do is to implement an aspect of realism and deal with things sensibly. It’s more empowering and so simple.”

The negative voice in your head, which Ferry has dubbed your “drunk monkey,” believes that it can see into the future, but in reality, the drunk monkey “only predicts negative futures.”

Instead of silencing the drunk monkey, amplify that voice and write out the negative future you fear. Then, create a plan to address that worst-case scenario so that you can feel prepared to face it. “You’ll create a newfound neutrality and sense of peace, and if the worst happens, you’ll know what to do. This takes the drunk monkey out of consideration and opens your mental real estate.”

Identify and release your attachments

If the possibility of finding yourself in an unfamiliar worst-case scenario isn’t the source of your worry, then the chances are it stems from attachments, which Ferry says are exaggerated fears of losing imaginary benefits.

“We get addicted to futures that aren’t real,” he says. “It’s the opposite of the worst case. When we’re feeling attachment, we’re imagining a positive benefit in the future, and we’re afraid we’re going to lose it. Attachment makes you modify your behavior.”

If your attachments are holding you back, making you feel paralyzed, or unable to act, then what you need to do is, once again, define what it is you’re afraid of losing in the future. “Clarify how the fear of losing this benefit is an exaggeration. Then ask yourself how losing the benefit would actually impact you, this time without exaggeration. Then make peace with that loss,” adds Ferry.

Vocalizing what worries you will take your abstract fears and make them more tangible, and you’ll realize that you can, in fact, handle any imagined losses. If you do end up losing the benefit you’ve defined, then use it as an opportunity to better prepare yourself for similar situations in the future.

“This exercise is powerful and can be done on the fly,” says Ferry. “It’s a cornerstone practice in rapid enlightenment. Almost instantly you can practice total and complete acceptance of all situations. What it does is helps you get neutral, so you can decide what is the best way forward.”

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