Do you worry a lot? It’s easy to do. There are so many unknowns in life and so many ways you could potentially be harmed, rejected, or lose your resources. Sickness, job loss, betrayal, rejection, academic failure, ending up alone, aging, poverty, crime, and terrorism are some of the most common themes of worrying thoughts. Constant, ongoing worry is the cardinal symptom of a mental health condition known as generalized anxiety disorder, but some worrying is just part of being human. Our brains are wired to worry. In fact, research shows that our brains generate scenarios of possible future events in order to prepare our brains and bodies to deal with them. When our ancestors lived in the jungle, those who best predicted where the predators were lurking were more likely to live and pass on their genes to future generations. That being said, worry can kill your joy, take you out of the present, and become a self-sabotaging habit that drains your energy. But research keeps finding new, proven ways to help you worry less. Read on to find out what these are.
1. Learn acceptance-based mindfulness meditation.
While the traditional view of mindfulness meditation is that it involves sitting quietly and watching the breath, this is only one of many ways of practicing mindfulness. Watching the breath is a way of training your attention, but there is another form of mindfulness meditation that focuses on calmly accepting your ongoing inner experience, thereby taking away some of its sting. A 2017 study compared the effects of attention-based versus acceptance-based mindfulness to a control condition (progressive muscle relaxation) in reducing short-term worry. The attention-based meditation group focused on watching the breath and bringing their attention back to the breath when their minds wandered. By contrast, the acceptance-based meditation group focused on just noticing and allowing, perhaps labeling, whatever inner experiences naturally emerged for them, including thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations.