It is reassuring that research from Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy shows about 85% of the things we worry about result in positive or fair conclusions. Despite these facts, some people don’t seem able to rid the torment of excessive worry. Almost 80% of the time, when there is a negative outcome, the researched revealed that worriers handle the situation better than they thought they would.
Like a well-worn path in a meadow, worry will eventually erode any refreshing and hopeful approach you may have once experienced. Here are two powerful techniques I have used to keep my pathways open to more positive thoughts and opportunities:
Reframe the Scenery
For years a gift on my office wall kept me inspired and smiling during rough times. It was a cartoon plaque that read “If you are up the creek without a paddle, just enjoy the scenery.” By quickly reframing my thoughts about the situation or location I find myself in, automatically a path of opportunity (rest, read a book, listen to music, walk, people watch, or surf the net on my phone) opens. It’s a good window of time to call a friend, get other work done, or be creative. Laugh and enjoy the adventure of another exciting trail—away from the deepening rut of worry.
Tony Robbins talks about going to a party with a camera. What is it you focus on? Visualize yourself in a far corner of the party and you aim the camera at a small group of people arguing. If you snapped that picture, you’d think it was not a good party. But aiming the camera and all the other people who were laughing, dancing, dining and enjoying the party can reframe your entire perspective of the event. Reframe the scenery.
On what was supposed to be a few hours on a dining and fun on a ship with a couple of friends in the near Galveston, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico some years ago, we found ourselves in an extremely dangerous storm. All power went off and the lights were out. The situation worsened as some of the crew members rebelled against the ship’s captain and staff after the vessel’s power and generator failed. Passengers were seriously injured as the ship was tossed about throughout the night.
Some of us tied our legs together with our belts to a common pole on the top deck to remain secure. As people around me where crying and screaming, I simply prayed. I found peace in the turmoil as I placed myself in a trance. Thank goodness for a good college mentor and psychology professor of my youth, I was able to refocus. I visualized being in my grandparent’s house when I was a kid. I walked through the front door and pictured the details of each room.
By concentrating on the sounds, smells, textures (of their hardwood floor, especially) I could see the brand names of the food (Carnation Pet Milk, Hi-C Orange Juice, Nabisco) in the refrigerator and on the cabinet shelves. I could even envision picking out a certain type of glass to get a drink of water as I looked at their back yard through the kitchen window. The kitchen table had Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs I could turn the pages of and revere their offerings.
Eventually, the Coast Guard came to the rescue, took over the ship, and guided us back to safety the next morning. These two tools helped me through the ordeal.
When you find yourself in digging a hole of worry that you think you can’t get out of, throw down the shovel and start visualizing about something else. The prime goal is to be disciplined about it each time a negative or worrisome thought starts creeping in.