Tag Archives: meditation

Lifehack for Anxiety: Invite Brad Pitt to Dinner

Some anxiety – I like to call it catastrophizing, is basically like entering into a very vivid daydream about every worst-case scenario possible and it’s nice to have a worst-case-scenario lifehack.  What if my partner dies in a car crash?  What if they’re disabled?  What if my daughter isn’t careful and someone abuses her?  What if we go bankrupt and end up homeless? Not realistic fears, not things that are likely to happen – typically it’s the worst possible things that could happen. Happily, there is a great way to fix it.

This isn’t daydreaming about things that are likely to happen, it’s really the worst that could possibly happen, ever, to anyone.  The absolute worst. By worrying about these what-if questions your life becomes similar to navigating a mine-field of potential disasters.  It starts to seem like doom is lurking around every corner and like you’re struggling just to stay alive, and who doesn’t need a lifehack for doom?

Here is a great anti-catastrophizing lifehack from DIY Health: For Women. It’s simple, portable, free and gives you a great reason to have fun for 30 seconds.

Pay attention to your mind – every time you catch yourself thinking what-if-a-piano-falls-out-of-the-sky thoughts – activate your lifehack.  Instead of a negative fantasy, switch to a positive one. Start thinking about the best case scenarios – the ones where Brad Pitt shows up on your doorstep with flowers and offers to cook dinner and vacuum the rug. Or Angelina Jolie really wants to come over to get to know you better.  How about the one where James Bond shows up to tell you that this suitcase full of cash actually belongs to you? Or your spouse shows up at your office with two tickets to the Bahamas and you don’t have to worry about packing because you can just buy all new things when you get there.  Make it over-the-top good and don’t hold anything back.

Really picture that scenario happening – see every detail, if you’re going to dinner in your fantasy pick out what you would order.  Really get into it and enjoy it. All of this only takes 30 seconds out of your day – it’s not like you’re spending hours in this positive fantasy (like you might do with the negative one).  It’s basically a break that allows your brain to jump track, to get distracted from the usual pattern of bad thoughts and to get a little less used to catastrophizing. This allows you to break the cycle of absurd fear and worry thoughts. After all, anxiety has a brain chemistry component but it also has a habit component.




The hardest part, just like with meditation, is actually noticing what your mind is doing. For many of us this form of worry is second nature and we don’t even really notice when it’s happening. It just becomes the background chatter in your brain.  In order to stop the background chatter you have to notice it.  If the noticing is the hard part, you may benefit from some mindfulness meditation to start to be aware of the merry chase your brain is leading you on.

In your anxiety lifehack unicorns really can fart rainbows. Really.  Awesome image from puppylover4002.wordpress.com

In your anxiety lifehack unicorns really can fart rainbows. Really. Awesome image from puppylover4002.wordpress.com

This exercise isn’t necessarily about the good fantasy, it is simply to point out how completely ridiculous it is to get caught up in the ‘what-if’ place.  The smiles you get from the good fantasy are really just the cherry on top. Ironically, it’s easier for your pessimistic human mind to recognize it as ridiculous more easily when you fantasize about good things than when you fantasize about bad things.  It seems that we all know Brad Pitt isn’t showing up for dinner, but we’re not totally sure the roof isn’t going to collapse or a loved one isn’t going to get into a car wreck. Huh.

There are really enough difficult things in life without creating new ones for yourself, so if you catch yourself getting into a big mental story about the worst case scenario, then take a minute to create a mental story about the best case scenario. Now what if suddenly your boss tells you that you don’t actually have to come to work anymore, but they appreciate you so much they’re keeping you on the payroll.

By doing this over and over again the catastrophe thoughts seem to vanish.  They go away on their own because you’re not feeding them any more and you’re not exercising those mental pathways.  Just let them go and if they come back, well, it’s a great opportunity to revisit that great fantasy where you’re horseback riding down the beach with the Old Spice® guy.



Be a blissed out joy-bunny! The gorgeous fractal is "Finite subdivision of a radial link" by Brirush - Own work.

Addicted to Thinking? Learn To Meditate

When we think of addiction we usually think about the big scary addictions like heroine or crystal meth or alcohol.  As it turns out you may be plagued by an addiction that takes a far greater toll on your health – you may be addicted to thinking.

Ha! How could that be a problem? We *love* thinking.  We worship thinking.  Thinking helps you to grow and innovate and solve problems and plan for your day, your life, your week, your career.  Thinking got you all those certificates and awards and diplomas and promotions. But what if there is a point where all the thought turns into over-thinking. Where the planning becomes worrying, and where the thought loops become obsession?  What if we are a Nation that thinks instead of feels?

I feel like this is a fine line to walk, but every day in my patients (and yes, in myself too) I see people trying to solve all the possible problems of the future by thinking of them in advance. I see people so consumed by fear and anxiety about what might happen that they don’t notice the wonderful things that are happening right now.  I see people trying to decide if they love their partner by making pro and con lists (hint – this isn’t going to generate the right answer for you). Maybe we all need to take a collective deep breath and watch all those thoughts go by until they can settle down just a little to give us space to feel, to notice, to breathe.  Maybe then we can unwind all those knots in necks and shoulders and relax those overly tight muscles.




What is the Answer to Over-Thinking?

I feel like there is only one answer to the problem of being addicted to thinking, and that is mindfulness.  I know mindfulness is the new buzz-word. Everyone thinks you should have it because it helps with stress levels and combats chronic pain, but what is it actually? In a big general sense, mindfulness means being here right now. Instead of thinking about the past and what has happened, or the future and what might happen, or analyzing the “why” or “how” questions, instead you are completely present with the here-and-now. Surprisingly, that is harder than it sounds, and it isn’t something we’re used to doing.  For this the practice of mindfulness meditation is the key to training your mind to be right here, right now.

How To Practice Mindfulness Meditation

First – assume the position. Not crash position, actually just sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting gently on your thighs.  Keep your back upright and straight, so not slouched down resting on the back of the chair, but rather  with your vertebrae ‘like a stack of gold coins.” Keep your eyes open and your gaze downward at about a 45 degree angle.  Open eyes help you to not get distracted by your thoughts.  Here are the steps:

  1. Assume the position! (As I just described)
  2. Set your timer on your phone for 3 minutes. (Yes! Just 3 minutes!)
  3. Take three deep breaths to help settle your mind and relax your system
  4. Just keep your eyes open and notice what is happening in your mind.
  5. Chances are, you’re thinking.  Notice the thinking and let it drop without following it and turning it into a story.
  6. When you have a new thought pop up, just notice it and drop it.
  7. When the buzzer rings, drop the thought that’s happening right then, and you’re done!
  8. Pat yourself on the back because you just did your first mindfulness meditation.
  9. Now rinse, and repeat!  Do another 3 minutes and then you’re done for the day.
  10. Try to do this 5 days a week and then just watch out world because there is going to be a whole new you.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness does so many wonderful things for you – here’s just a short list.

  1. Cures that pesky addiction to thinking
  2. Reduces anxiety
  3. Reduces panic attacks and helps you get out of them more quickly
  4. Helps decrease chronic pain
  5. Gives you more peace of mind with who you actually are (and helps you to have less of the self-critical voice in your head)
  6. Increases attention span
  7. Helps you focus
  8. Increases your joy in the moment
  9. Enhances your immune system
  10. Helps reverse heart disease

    Be a blissed out joy-bunny! The gorgeous fractal is "Finite subdivision of a radial link" by Brirush - Own work.

    Be a BLISSED OUT JOY-BUNNY! The gorgeous fractal is “Finite subdivision of a radial link” by Brirush – Own work.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, you also get to be the blissed-out joy bunny on the block because you are able to see all of the wonderful things happening right now. Mindfulness is no joke and the more research we have on it the more powerful we realize it is. Isn’t it time you dedicate 6 minutes a day to being a happier you?