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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques

How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques

Have you ever lost sleep worrying about something that has yet to happen?

Has worrying about the future interrupted your productivity? Your flow? Your day? Your mood?

If you answered “yes”, you are not alone.

Worry happens to all of us, particularly when it comes to events, people, and things that are important.

The trouble with worry is it is a complete and total waste of our valuable time and energy. We all know that on a logical level, and yet we still worry.

Here’s the good news:

While we may never learn how to stop worrying about the future completely, there are ways to help us better manage that worry, so we can save ourselves some time. In this article, we’ll go over exactly how to do just that.

How Worrying Wastes Time and Energy

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” –Leo F. Buscaglia

Part of managing worry is being aware of the costs. When we create awareness we are better able to create proactive solutions to minimize or eliminate that cost.

What does worrying about the future cost you?

  • Cost #1: Worrying about what has yet to happen uses up valuable mental real estate and time.
  • Cost #2: While worry may give you something to do, you most likely have better things to do with your time and your energy. For example, you could instead focus on your to-do list or notice the multitude of opportunities waiting for you. Focusing on worry not only makes it difficult to handle your to-do list, it also blocks you from seeing those opportunities or the steps that lead to them.
  • Cost #3: Worrying about the future is also an energy drain leaving you susceptible to more worry. Did you know that worry takes advantage of the times when your energy is low? That is when worry is at its most powerful.
  • Cost #4: It is a present moment joy crusher that can lower not just your energy but also your mood.
  • Cost #5: Speaking of mood; worry never gets you anywhere. Worry does not get you to a place where everything is OK. It does not make sure that everything is taken care of. Actually it does the opposite.
  • Cost #6: Worrying about the future creates a vicious loop of more worry about the future.

8 Tried and True Worry Busting Techniques

When I find myself worrying about the future, I use the following techniques to manage the worry.

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Just a little side note: I like to switch it up a bit. I use a different technique each time I find myself worried about the future, or worried about anything for that matter.

1. Practice Mindfulness

Since worrying about the future pulls us into the future, nothing busts worry faster than some good old fashion present moment mindfulness.

Take a look around and notice what is surrounding you. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you taste? What do you hear? What do you smell?

Taking note of your surroundings by using your senses is an awesome way to pull yourself into the present moment where future-related worry cannot bother you.

Here is a simple guide on mindfulness for beginners.

2. Do Deep Breathing

Have you ever noticed your breathing when you are worrying? If not, the next time you are worried about a future-related event check in with your breathing.

Worrying causes our breathing to become shallow. And deep breathing can help us to relax, decrease our anxiety levels and get us out of worry mode.

Here are two techniques to use to engage those deep breathes and cue the relaxation:

The 4,4,and 4 technique

Give it a try right now by taking a deep breath in through your nose to a count of four. Then let the breath out through your nose or mouth to a count of four. Do that four times.

Another side note: Be sure to do this technique slowly so you do not hyperventilate or make yourself dizzy.

Oxytocin Breathing

It actually releases the powerful hormone oxytocin into your brain. This is the same hormone that is released when you are hugging or kissing someone you love or after making love.

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Just a word of caution: you may not want to do this breathing technique in the middle of your busy office or a crowded street. It is best to do it some place private.

Here’s how to do Oxytocin Breathing:

Take a REALLY deep breath so that you are filling up your belly with air. Once you feel your belly expand to the point that you can no longer take in any more air, release it slowly by letting out an audible “Haaaaaaaaaaaahhh”.

Repeat this technique a few times until you feel yourself relaxing. Check out this video to see the technique in action:

By the way, worry hates deep breathing so this is one of the quickest and the easiest techniques to use.

3. Express Extra Gratitude

As you are probably already aware, worry creates negative thoughts and feelings. Gratitude does the exact opposite.

Since your brain cannot think positive and negative thoughts at the same time, gratitude is an awesome worry buster. Not to mention, it’s something you can do any where, any time, especially when you are short on time.

I actually use gratitude when worry wakes me up in the middle of the night. When this happens, I begin listing all the things I am grateful for until I fall back to sleep. It works like a charm.

Similar to the present moment exercise, take a look around.

Really quickly begin listing at least three things or more that you are grateful for. It could be the chair you are sitting in or the sleeping pet at your feet.

Just start listing and before you know it, the feeling of gratitude will replace the negative feeling that worry causes.

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You can get more ideas from this list of 40 simple ways to practice gratitude.

4. Lean Into “What Ifs”

It is all too common to want to shove worry aside or try and stuff it. Especially when you have a tight project deadline or a calendar full of obligations. Doing so, however, is just an invitation for the worry to stick around even longer.

Rather than try to ignore the worry, lean into by asking yourself the following question, “What if what I’m worrying about were to actually happen?”

Once you have your answer then ask yourself this follow-up question, “Then what would happen?” Keep asking the follow-up question until you have run out of “then what’s”.

I always find that doing this exercise takes the bite out of worry. I also walk away with a plan should what I’m worrying about actually happen. Which, by the way, usually does not happen.

5. Take Back Control

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” — The Dalai Lama

What do you have control over? What can you fix? What can you do to prevent whatever you are worrying about from happening?

For many of us, worry creates a feeling of being out of control and not safe. Doing things that are within our control helps us to regain those feelings of control and safety.

6. Tighten and Release

When you are worried, do you often feel a tightness in your stomach or your neck? Use that tightness to help you relax.

It sounds funny, but go ahead and tighten every muscle in your body.

Tighten your legs, suck in your stomach, clench your bottom, tighten your arms, and make fists. Hold your muscles in that tight position for just a moment, and then release all your muscles.

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This technique is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. It combats worry and even stress by creating awareness around what the body feels like when it is in a relaxed state. And when you are in a relaxed state you are not in a state of worry.

7. Use Worry as a Gauge

Worry serves as a great gauge to let us know what is important and what is not. When you are worrying about something, tune-in to the gauge.

How important is what you are worrying about on a scale of 1-10? If you gave it a 5 or less, ask yourself this question,”Since this thing I’m worried about isn’t super important, what is really driving the worry?”

If you gave it a 5 or higher, then it’s time to turn worry into a motivator to start taking action. To help, go back to #5 the Take Back Control technique and ask yourself those questions.

8. Write or Talk It Out

Getting worry out of your head diminishes it. It is like the old analogy that if you shine a light on bacteria it dies. But if you keep it in the dark, it grows.

If you do not feel comfortable talking your worry thoughts and emotions out with a friend, family member, coach, or another trusted professional, try writing about it. Get it all out on paper and then throw the paper away.

Writing about your future-related worry takes the charge out of it and creates more clarity and awareness.

Final Thoughts

Worrying has nothing on you. The next time you find yourself worrying about the future:

  • Create awareness around what the worry is costing you.
  • Use one or more of the worry busting techniques.
  • Remember that you are not alone when it comes to worrying (we all do it).

So, there you have it. By following the steps above you’ll be able to have a more worry-free life so that you can reclaim your precious time and get stuff done!

Featured photo credit: Freely via freelyphotos.com

More by this author

Pam Thomas

Chief Change Officer @What's Within U; Helping people dig out from the ruts that keep them stuck personally and professionally.

Why Developing a Lifelong Learning Habit Is Good for You (And How) How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques How to Talk to Strangers When You Feel Crippled With Social Anxiety Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

5 Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude

5 Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude

Cultivating a positive mental attitude starts with a realization — a realization that you’re not the only one who has struggled, who has survived, and who has started over again. You are not alone, and there is a way through the darkness. There is simple wisdom, which can be relied upon, to help.

Find support, but also learn self-care in how you treat yourself which is what positivity is all about. That self talk, that perception, that attitude you choose changes you and changes those around you.

According to New Stanford Study: A Positive Attitude Literally Makes Your Brain Better by Jessica Stillman,[1] Stanford researchers studies how the brain was impacted in achievement and learning when one felt or was positive about a subject. The result? Outcomes were much more favorable for that student.

We do well in areas we are positive about. But what if we can choose to be positive about, well, anything? That would change everything.

Positivity is not about just being happy, which is often the misconception. In fact, acknowledging a range of emotions is healthy. Positivity is persistence while using positive thinking strategies. It is sitting with your feelings; it is acceptance of what is; it is holding onto what makes you happy; it is purpose found in pain.

And the reasoning behind choosing to be positive — you get what you give. You receive what you believe.

Here’re 5 steps to cultivate a positive mental attitude. In part, they detail why it’s important to be positive as an understanding assists in the pursuit as much as the adoption of the mindset.

1. Attitude is What We Can Change

There’s a Maya Angelou quote that goes:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

When you choose positivity as your attitude, you select an attitude far more destined for resilient behavior than the alternative.

When you have a negative attitude, your brain gives itself permission to develop negative thinking patterns and in turn, difficult and dark emotions. You spend all your days ruminating, or worrying about the same thing over and over again, thinking that will solve it. Doing this will cause you to miss the answers rather than make the most of the moments in front of you.

In actuality, the first thing you need to do is calm yourself. It feels counterintuitive, but that means to release your troubled mentality. When you release what is bothering you, you choose a safer attitude. One that helps you to accept your emotions, accept what is happening and accept that you don’t have all the answers. You’re less afraid of that fact.

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Attitude is everything. It’s how we heal ourselves. It’s how we stay positive. It’s how we secure things. It’s how we overcome.

Without a positive attitude, we cannot persevere. Perseverance is the point of positivity.

A positive attitude is how we fuel willpower. Willpower is how we fuel positivity. It goes in a circle. They are interchangeable.

Positivity denotes willpower. You can be standing in a storm and feel completely calm when you use positivity. You stay grounded. You stand firm. You do not fall over. And you know what? Even if you do, you get back up again.

There is a Japanese proverb, “Nana korobi ya oki” which means fall seven times, get up eight. This means you do not stop; you keep going. You make it through the hard times to find the good.

A positive attitude is about understanding you have power over your problems. Once you understand that, you can change your attitude. You have to choose positive thinking first in order to reap its benefits. Once you’ve chosen to be positive, you can do anything.

2. Positivity Is Your Unique Power

When you have lost it all, a positive attitude can help you regain it or to regain your strength. It’s the best way to live. It’s the best way to learn from life and love. When you are positive, you have a power that circumstance nor others cannot take from you.

Recognizing the power you have to carry on, to make the best of things, to keep going when everything inside you wants to quit is worth everything.

You can’t always have it all, but you can always have a positive attitude. This in itself helps you stand out, helps you to shine. It’s enough to save yourself (and others potentially) with. That power keeps you grounded and safe.

For example, say you lost someone to a disease. Instead of just thinking about the loss and seeing it as the end, a positive person may decide to contribute to a cause dedicated to that disease. In doing so, the positive person becomes a beacon of hope. They become a voice for something which in turn gives them power over their hardship.

This is how people keep going: Meaning. Meaning creates a power over our emotions, over our loss so that they do not define us.

According to the Mayo Clinic, positivity affects one’s stress levels and overall health.[2] It is that powerful. When you are positive about a situation, you are less stressful and more calm and able to reason better to solve the very problem in front of you.

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Cultivating this power is about realizing a sense of meaning can be derived from all circumstances, even senseless tragedies. People often contribute to something greater than themselves when they are searching for meaning, for purpose, for positivity, for power.

You don’t always have to have a reason for why something happens, but you can use whatever happens for a greater cause. It’s subjective, changing from person to person. That’s why no matter how much you want to derive meaning from an event, there are no outright answers about how to do that.

So, what do you do? Meditate. Listen.

“Whatever purifies you is the right path, I will not try to define it. Let go of your mind then be mindful. Close your ears and listen.” — Rumi

3. Be Absolutely Present

In life, you have control over your ability to be present in the moment, even if not control over everything. You have the moment.

Positivity is telling yourself that this moment is what matters. You can’t regret the past or see the future. The only way to be positive is to be here. What do you have right in front of you? Suddenly, your life shifts to gratitude.

Gratitude serves us in letting go of what we do not need. Listing what makes us happy is one way to stay present. What do you have right now that you can use? You have the tools to be positive.

Some techniques to getting there are through meditations or mantras. For example, “Nothing bad is happening right now” is an easy one to incorporate. Your past traumas can’t trip you when you ground yourself in the present, and your ability to reason further develops to the point that even if you can’t see the future, you know it will play out like this– with you empowered and in the moment, using all your wisdom and tools and positivity to persevere. That’s all you need.

Focus on the moment. In a blog about Mindfulness, Courtney Ackerman writes that one such exercise is to live in the moment to reduce worrying.[3] Think about the past and future in small, manageable doses. But focus mostly on the present, what is happening right here and now. This will reduce worrying and therefore stress as well as other negative emotions significantly.

This will allow you to be positive.

4. Practice Self-Love

Self-talk is the core of self-love, the core of what positivity is all about. Positive self-talk leads to self-love. And when our own cup is empty, we can pour into another’s. We have to help ourselves first before we can help others.

What we say to ourselves is how we practice positivity or put it into action.

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For example, there’s a children’s book called The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper where the train thinks, “I think I can, I think I can” the whole way through its travels. The result? It could because it told itself that it can.

Such a simple concept for a complex world. And yet, it works.

This is also how self-love works. What you tell yourself is powerful and makes its mark. Here are examples of things you could tell yourself to practice positivity:

  • I am enough.
  • I am worthwhile.
  • I can do this, I just have to hold on.
  • I will make it through this.
  • I am powerful.
  • I am unstoppable.

Here’re more examples for you: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life. Add to this list with your own!

When you write these positive mantras, you start to feel them. If you write “I am positive about this situation” enough times, you will start to feel that positivity seep in.

Loving yourself is not going to be easy nor come overnight. There will be a mess of feelings, regrets, negative self talk and more that you will have to carefully tip toe through to hold your own heart. Your heart needs love, and often, we deny what it needs in pursuit of purposeless pleasures such as external rewards rather than internal motivation for a life well lived. We live for what others think of us, say about us, and sometimes, losing it all or going through hardship can teach us what we really need: ourselves.

Loving yourself needs to come from an authentic place, not a “fake it til you make it” mentality. It needs to be real. It needs to include those flaws and all. That’s all you can do to become positive about yourself. You have to start within and do the work necessary to heal and be healthy.

Take a look at these 30 Self Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit and try to practice them.

5. Avoid Toxic Positivity (Unhealthy Positivity)

Avoid the white knuckling type of positivity where you don’t acknowledge your struggles or pain (as they also serve you). You don’t just want to tell yourself to move on because that equates to repression.

Emotions are part of positivity. You want to sit with your feelings. You want to acknowledge them, give them a voice. Instead of telling yourself to move on, you let your emotions lead to a breakthrough that helps you cope with the changes of life.

The greatest misconceptions made about being positive is assuming one does not have to feel in order to change. Throwing away hurt, anger, grief, sadness, all those emotions we associate with being “negative” only thwart our growth and power. Positivity is USING these things to better yourself or the world around you because you’re not going to give in to them. They do not become you or your identity.

You don’t have to be the white knuckling soldier you’ve always been. You say your emotions, then follow up with a use or outlet for them. That makes your positivity profound.

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Positivity is not about wearing a mask; it is the opposite of a mask. It is freedom from negative thinking strategies such as jumping to conclusions, black or white thinking, worst case scenario assumptions and more. It’s acknowledging that there may be more strength or ability in you than previously assumed. And it’s worth it to find out.

Toxic positivity may suggest you simply put a smile on and act fine. That’s not real positivity. Healthy positivity is about showing up when you’re tired; loving when you are feeling loss; healing when you want to cling to your hurt. It’s realization that you are worth it, not worth writing off. And you care about the outcome, so you stay to sort it out. You don’t abandon or jump ship. You hold on. That’s healthy positivity.

So that one day you may say to others, “I see you. I feel you. I understand you,” because you have been where they are and got through it. It’s acknowledging the dark as much as the light.

It’s living so others may live; it’s all you need. It’s not an exact formula everyone can replicate, and no one can copy you either. Your story is important. You are meant to be here. You are meant to do well. It will be those thoughts that get you to the finish line. Thriving.

Final Thoughts

In every moment, you’re not going to want to be positive. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel. But even then, choosing your attitude, recognizing the power of positivity, being absolutely present, practicing self-love and avoiding toxic or unhealthy positivity will better your days and assist through your trials.

Being positive isn’t easy, but it’s worth it to see what is going to happen next. Just around the corner may be the change you need, but you’ll never know if you don’t hold on to find out.

Positivity is about being curious enough to stay for the outcome because you simply believe, hold onto and trust in yourself and some goodness in this world. That’s enough to keep one going, and enough to help them go from surviving to thriving which is where you want to be.

Everyone has low moments. There’s nothing to be ashamed of for that. You can feel negative emotions though without shaming yourself for them by practicing healthy positivity. These steps are how to cultivate a positive mental attitude.

That way you don’t live with regret. You live in the moment. You make the decision how.

You can start at anytime. Positivity can be like a switch of perception. Once you uplift yourself, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. And soon, you’ll be onto uplifting others which helps even more.

Positivity is contagious. It spreads like sunlight over the darkness. You can be the source of that sunlight. All you have to do is simple: Believe you can.

Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Court Prather via unsplash.com

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