Happy thoughts, happy life

Smiling yellow ball amid blue sulking ballsThings are very rarely as frightening once you start to tackle them as they seem before you get started.  Join us for ten minute drop-in relaxation sessions tomorrow and every Thursday afternoon during term-time in the Library Meeting Room at 2.10pm, 2.30pm or 2.50pm.  No need to book, just turn up, sit down and relax!

Feelings lead thoughts, thoughts lead feelings

The most primitive part of our minds developed before the part that can think and reason.  It was designed to keep us alive by reacting fearfully to threats, which until recently used to often be potentially deadly.  We tell ourselves stories about how bad things might become, put plans in place and schemes to mitigate the disaster we imagine heading towards us.  We can neither fight nor escape most of the things that frighten us.  Our primordial worry centres are working overtime!  A worried state of mind then encourages the thinking parts of our brain to come up with creative ways of anticipating and solving problems that do not really exist before we know the full facts.  We end up exhausting ourselves tackling phantoms of our own creation.

Breaking the circle of worry

One trick is to practice relaxing and noticing physical signs that you have become anxious and consciously calm yourself down regularly throughout the day.  Practice makes perfect and you will eventually learn to notice when you are starting to become worried about something.  You can then look at what worries you clearly and decide what to do about it.  The sooner you act, the better you will feel.  Procrastination is exhausting because it gives your mind time to think up ways that the problem might be more difficult than it really is and worry about it.  Starting straight away makes you feel much better.

Start as you mean to go on

Tackle problems head on.  Procrastination and avoiding conflict when things are wrong only leads to anxiety and resentment.  Starting something makes it feel much more achievable.  Asking politely and assertively for something to be done makes life more achievable.

You can be relaxed all the time

Relaxation is easy, you just have to remember how.  Let your thoughts go once a day and let your mind very gently come to a near halt.  Notice how much better life seems.  Breathe gently, sink into your senses of what you are touching, tasting, feeling right now.  Visualise something that makes you happy and serene.  Notice tension, thirst, thoughts: the signs of stress that have come from nowhere and seek to do something to fight or escape it.  Let them go.

The methods of mindfulness are many but they all seek the same end: to be present in the moment and not lost amid endless worrying possibilities none of which are real outside your head.  The sooner you catch your imagination running away with your thoughts and suggesting how things might go badly, the better you will feel and the more energy you will have.

Further reading

Books about mindfulness

Books about procrastination

Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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