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.



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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.



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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.

 

P.S. If this post was helpful, leave a comment below and consider signing up for free updates.

Thanks friend, and take care.




I'm excited to share that I'll soon launch Escaping the Rat Race, a course on leaving the world of traditional work to live a radically free life that aligns with your bliss. To learn more and be first to know when the course is live, join the Insider List.

About Jordan Bates

Jordan Bates is the Creator of Refine The Mind and The Amor Fati Course. He loves you. In 2013, he moved to South Korea to teach English, embarking on a nomadic journey that would lead him to 32 countries. In the process he became a writer, rapper, entrepreneur, and student of Nature. For ~9 years he's been on a quest to understand how we can heal and liberate ourselves to promote the flourishing of all sentient life in the Cosmos. Befriend him and/or get his free eBook on how to exit the world of traditional work and live a radically free life.

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Avantika
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Avantika

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

Jordan Bates
Guest

Avantika,

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

david byer
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david byer

How long does it take to work properly? I have GAD and while I have managed to improve a lot thanks to mindfulness I still feel too close to the edge and very often succumbing again to anxiety. DO i get to a point where I can be just a normal relaxed person round the clock like i used to be?

Nînäd Pätìl
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Nînäd Pätìl

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

Jordan Bates
Guest

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… Read more »

kellie@writingmoment
Guest

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 🙂

Jordan Bates
Guest

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
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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

Jordan Bates
Guest

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
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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 🙂

Jordan Bates
Guest

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

noguile
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noguile

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

Derek
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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!

Jordan Bates
Guest

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
Guest
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.

Jordan Bates
Guest

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… Read more »

Jasmine
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Jasmine

I found this post quite a while after it’s been posted. I have never tried mindfulness before but I do get severe anxiety in my relationships. I’ve come a long way psychologically and in my current relationship with a really good, straightforward guy we’ve had a couple of bad weeks where he’s been busy with work and then come home and drinks a fair bit and plays video games to relax and I get irrational anxiety over the future and us not working out. He’s trying to show some love to me when we can’t be around but I still… Read more »

Jordan Bates
Guest

Jasmine,

Really sorry to hear that. I think occasional anxiety can be a necessary and healthy response to the amount of uncertainty in our lives and the enormous universe surrounding us. Yes, mindfulness continues to be of service to me. Also meditation, exercise, and simply trying not to resist whatever is happening to me. Maybe these other articles of mine can help you in some way:

http://www.refinethemind.com/reduce-suffering-the-taoist-attitude-of-radical-non-resistance/

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

http://www.refinethemind.com/the-crucial-paradigm-shift-to-love-exercise-17-unorthodox-tips/

Hope this finds you feeling better.

Best,
Jordan

Negan
Guest
Negan

I suffer from severe social anxiety. I am a female in construction and sometimes find it difficult to communicate my feelings at work. This “need” to taken seriously led to a crippling anxiety when I found I couldn’t pass my trade exam on the first try. Depression eventually ensued.

I fear I will have this mental illness until I die. However, everyday is a new day and a chance to continue my path to mental stability.

I started my “mindfulness” training the second I read this article. I will keep y’all posted on my recovery.

Jordan Bates
Guest

Negan, I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Please do keep us updated on your progress with mindfulness. In my experience, social anxiety/depression of the kind you’re describing can be quite difficult to overcome. It sounds like you have a sense of insecurity/inadequacy due to the typical gender expectations associated with your profession. My general advice would be to concentrate on the fact that you are not what you do for a living. That’s just one aspect of your identity; it doesn’t define you, and I’m sure you’re excellent at what you do. All any of us can do is… Read more »

HHP
Guest
HHP

Hi, thanks for this concise article on mindfulness and anxiety. I have tried mindfulness before and it was useful. But over time, the silly mind was overwhelmed again by too much little bits of anxiety and stress and wham, i found myself back to familiar grounds. So I’m reading up again on mindfulness and slowly getting my mind back.

Jordan Bates
Guest

HHP,

yes, that tends to happen to me too. i’ve found that i stop practicing mindfulness when i’m feeling well, but then when darker times creep up i lack the mental toolkit to cope as well as i’d like to. i think the solution is to always be practicing here and there, even when feeling well. easier said than done, but i’m grateful that we have such a powerful approach in our repertoire as Homo sapiens. peace

kahina
Guest
kahina

Thank you Jordan ! It is profound!

a j marr
Guest
a j marr

I hope you do not mind this new interpretation of anxiety and mindfulness that is ironically not new at all. And of course, your opinions are spot on. As you know, mindfulness, or present moment or ‘choice less’ awareness is associated with a radical reduction in somatic arousal, or a state or relaxation or resting. The logical inference follows that having a lifestyle full of choices is associated with a state of tension or anxiety. The problem is that such stressful reactions are commonly attributed to ‘demand’ or ‘threat’, not choice. The only model in psychology that links choice to… Read more »

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