Mindfulness: A Wonderful Anxiety Cure You Ought to Know

Last week, I was crippled by pointless worry. Little stresses here and there snowballed into serious anxiety.

I began imagining worst case scenarios about the future, my hectic schedule, and my relationship. I allowed myself to be consumed by needless fretting.

Instead of being swept up in these negative thoughts, I should’ve focused on being mindful.

Mindfulness is a practice that allows you to be content and alive in the present moment.

More on mindfulness in a second.

Wind Chimes

Photo Credit: bkRiverdog (Creative Commons)

Why Anxiety is a Waste of Time

Anxiety, when reduced to the basics, is an irrational form of fear.

Anxieties try to tell you that something bad might happen, that you might not be good enough, or that someone might be thinking poorly of you.

The world of anxiety is a world of fiction. Anxiety stems from the evolutionary by-product of exaggerated fear. For primitive human beings, constant fear was a necessity.

When only the strong survived, being ever-vigilant of danger was necessary to live. It kept you on your guard. It drove you to seek shelter, food, and water.

In our world today, basic amenities are covered. We don’t have to worry about threats lurking around every corner. Yet, certain prehistoric parts of our brain are still inclined to be afraid and anxious.

Seth Godin calls this irrational fear “the resistance” and believes we must constantly wage war against it. We must never allow our pointless anxieties to sabotage what we can achieve.

I’ve understood for years that anxiety is counterproductive, but knowing it is and actually stopping it from affecting me are two different things.

Anxiety inevitably finds us, but rather than allowing it to multiply, we should be quick to recognize it and seek a cure.

Enter Mindfulness

Although there are plenty of tactics you can use to relieve anxiety, I want to focus this post on a single, highly effective practice: mindfulness.

If used correctly, Mindfulness is nearly infallible for helping to alleviate stress and worry. So what is it?

Mindfulness is a conscientious activity. It is an effort to do the opposite of what our brains naturally do.

As we go about our days, our minds drift about, unchecked, and think about any number of things. When you’re being mindful, you actively work against this phenomenon.

Being mindful means focusing wholly and completely on the present task and present moment.

Mindfulness While Working

When performing a task, mindfulness means directing our entire focus to that one task. No multi-tasking. No daydreaming. Just an active effort to be absorbed in whatever we’re doing.

While washing dishes or sweeping, direct your attention to the rhythm of the action. Listen closely to the swishing or scratching noises, smell the soap suds, or concentrate on your contracting muscles.

The goal is for your mind to be transfixed on the action of the second.

Mindfulness While Idle

When you’re just relaxing, mindfulness means focusing entirely on your bodily sensations. We don’t often notice, but our senses of touch, smell, sight, and sound are constantly at work.

When we’re mindful, we focus entirely on these subtle sensations.

Feel the warm muscles of your legs supporting you. Smell the crisp air of the autumn morning. Look intently at the blue of the sky. Listen closely to the wind whistling and birds chirping.

And most importantly, quiet your mind. The goal of mindful practices is to force us to be present, so we don’t waste precious days worrying.

Why it Works

Needless anxiety and stress cannot burden us if the thoughts don’t enter our mind. And fortunately, we are only capable of focusing on one thing at a time.

When you’re aware of only what you’re working on and the sensations of your body, conscious worry is not possible.

The Necessity of Practice

The ability to be mindful is not something we’re born with. Like most skills, it must be developed and refined. However, mindfulness is awesome because you can practice it anytime you want.

At first, you’ll find that your mind wanders like crazy. It’s difficult to quiet your thoughts.

This is completely fine and expected. Try to quiet your mind and focus on your sensations for even 10 or 15 seconds at a time.

View anything as an opportunity to be mindful. Practice mindfulness while walking, cleaning, and showering. Once you begin to practice, it will become easier to keep your thoughts in check for longer amounts of time.

My Happy Ending

After a couple days of awful anxiety, I remembered the importance of being mindful.

After an invigorating workout, I was able to sit peacefully in the sauna, focusing entirely on the sweat cascading down my skin and the space my body was occupying.

As I rode my bike home, I felt my leg muscles working mechanically to turn the pedals. I noticed the brilliant green of the trees and the faces of people I passed. I smelled the succulence of a nearby grill out.

My anxieties became non-existent. I was once again at peace.

 

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Thanks friend, and take care.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordan Bates

In this Internet multiverse, Refine The Mind is a planet for the weirdos, doubters, and lovers. Jordan Bates is its chief daydreamer and an English teacher in South Korea. He earned a BA in English Literature with minors in Philosophy & Spanish at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Read the story of Refine The Mind and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Avantika

    Hey , very well put article. I hope I can follow it as sincerely as you’ve written it. :)

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Avantika,

      Thank you! I really appreciate it. Do what you can, and don’t be a stranger. Let me know how it’s going! :)

  • Nînäd Pätìl

    Jordan you are a great man, but I don’t see any point in being mindful~wasting time looking at the sky.

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Hahah, thanks Nînäd. If you don’t see a point in mindfulness, then maybe it isn’t something for you. However, mindfulness entails far more than simply “wasting time looking at the sky”. If you read this article, you know that mindfulness can be practiced at any time. For me, it can be a great way to get out of my head, to stop over-analyzing my life, and to just live it, not matter what I’m doing.

      This might be something that’s hard to understand if you’ve never tried to practice it. Maybe start trying to be mindful here and there. Challenge yourself. It’s not easy to be mindful, but it’s quite relaxing when you decide to do it. All the best.

  • kellie@writingmoment

    Thank you for a wonderful piece, I am new to mindfulness but have found so many benefits already, especially in helping anxiety.

    In contrast to the comment below, I love looking at the sky. It’s my own personal art gallery :)

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Kellie, you’re ever so welcome! The thing I love about mindfulness is that it’s available at any moment, and you certainly don’t have to use it all the time to make great use of it. I love the sky as well, particularly the night sky. I think if more people spent a few hours a week watching the stars with people they love, the world would be a better place. :) Thanks for the comment and don’t be a stranger!

  • Lauren1882

    Hi Jordan. Thx so much for writing this post. Sometimes my anxiety is very overwhelming. I have tried mindfulness and will keep practicing. It is an amazing tool. I came across your post on a particularly challenging morning and it was a great inspiration. Thx again! Lauren

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Lauren,

      You’re welcome. Anxiety is a terrible thing, truly. I deal with mine regularly as well. So glad to hear this post could give you a bit of inspiration. Mindfulness is great. I’ve also found that it works best in conjunction with meditation. I wrote another article on meditation if you want to read it here:

      http://www.refinethemind.com/guide-to-meditation/

      Best of luck managing your anxiety and take care. Hope to hear from you again. :)

  • phil

    Jordan , your article is very inspiring . It made me feel different when i read it . Anxiety is an awful thing when it takes time of your life. Thank you so much again and i hope we will all be free of anxiety :)

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Anxiety is certainly an awful thing, Phil. You’re very welcome. Stop back again some time!

    • noguile

      me too phil. I hope someday we (you, I and the other millions) will all be free of anxiety.

  • Derek

    Hi Jordan – This post is a beautifully simple way of approaching mindfulness. I love the part about how to be mindful while relaxing. Do you have any thoughts on how to be mindful while having a conversation? Thanks again for the great post!

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Derek, thank you. So glad the post could help you in some way.

      I often struggle to be mindful in conversation, but I think really trying to visualize what the person is saying and trying to think of questions to ask are two great ways to be mindful.

      All the best.

  • noguile

    thanks very much for the article Jordan. I could not really get what mindfulness meant but your post cleared up some aspects. its seems difficult to master let alone use against anxiety but this article inspired me to start practicing. I live in a country where anxiety sufferers are seen as weak and sometimes ridiculed so its heartening to read posts such as yours showing me that there are those out there who understand.

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      noguile,

      Thanks for the comment. Suffering from anxiety is certainly not a weakness or something to be ashamed of. It’s quite common in this world. I’m glad my article could help you in some way and thanks for the generous praise. It might seem strange at first to think of mindfulness as a cure for anxiety, but it’s at the very least a great coping mechanism.

      If my brain is fraught with worry and shooting from one thing to the next, I can just focus on my breath, on presence, and I can just let it all slip away, or watch the worries from a place of detachment and see that they’re pointless and that they’re nothing more than silly thoughts. Usually this helps me to simply not take my own mind too seriously.
      My article on conscious breathing might help you as well: http://www.refinethemind.com/breathe-consciously-kill-anxiety/

      All the best to you.