5 Unexpected Ways to Decrease Anxious Thoughts
You might find it hard to believe that simply putting pen to paper to write could give you peace of mind, groundedness, and increased vitality. Yet it's a fact. Through clinical research, James Pennebaker, author of Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, discovered that writing makes people happier, healthier and less anxious.
Combining writing and meditation can help people with anxious thoughts or 'monkey mind' to see these thoughts for what they are--just thoughts--once they get them out of their heads and onto paper. Truth is most of us go around with myriad notions running rampant in our heads. Rarely do we take the time to explore how these thoughts influence our mental health and general well being.
With that in mind, here are five ways you can begin to curtail anxious thoughts:
1) Pick a time every day to write freely for up to 20 minutes. You can begin with 10 minutes for a week or so, then add on the minutes until you're more comfortable sitting for longer. It's widely known that daily meditation helps people recognize destructive thought patterns. While this is a writing exercise, you will be approaching it as a meditation. Some studies on daily meditation even show a reduction in areas of the brain related to anxiety and stress.
2) Carve out a quiet area of your living space just for you. Add items, such as candles, pleasing photos of nature, flowers, and soft furnishings that help you feel relaxed and safe.
3) Open your notebook and begin to write down how you're feeling at that moment, or what you're experiencing (i.e., through your senses) as you take in your surroundings.
4) Don't judge what comes up for you, just record it and notice when it passes.
5) Acknowledge the negative self talk inside your head. The act of writing it down will gradually help you take away its power.
You can listen to the video below where I talk about the three writing meditation courses I'm offering that teach you how to bring the active mind in closer alignment with the mind of meditation. And if you wish to just try it out for a few days and see how you feel, my 7 Day Writing Meditation Course is absolutely FREE!
These courses will help you develop tools and insights for overcoming habitual mind states, self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors. After about only one week you will feel yourself opening up to others and to your creativity and imagination. All you need for this course is a quiet space, a notebook and a pen.
This course works really well to:
• Bring more creativity into your life
• Be more outgoing
• Develop loving kindness and compassion to all beings
• Become more self confident
• Be more trusting of yourself
• Become a better, more intuitive writer
• Help unleash ideas for your writing
Here's a sneak peak including three FREE guided meditations:
I initially came across the expression “first thoughts” in Nathalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Freeing the Writer Within. In her book she counsels to keep writing even when you feel like stopping to read what you’ve written. Allow the pen to continue across the page and don’t cross out anything. Goldberg’s “first thoughts” or what other writers might refer to as “free writing,” helps you trust yourself and open to the creative process. This exercise allows you free reign to write and not worry about what you are writing.
More precisely, what you are doing here is connecting to the ‘original mind’ or your true self as your ‘first thoughts’ come before you have a chance to censor yourself or rethink what you’ve written. These thoughts are important information for you to deepen your awareness of who you are but also to trust in the process and not worry about the outcome.
In this lesson you will practice ‘first thoughts’ and begin with a meditation to help free your mind and prepare the ground for deep creativity. Meditation can help you give way to the mystery of existence by allowing you to encounter your core consciousness. In wisdom traditions we often hear of the space between thought as a window to God, our spirit or our truth. This space is an area of infinite possibility but also of unbridled creativity and imagination.
In this first meditation you are going to practice saying a mantra, which will enable you to focus more easily. The word “mantra” is a Sanskrit word combining the words “man” which refers to “mind’ and “tra” which means “instrument.” This “instrument of the mind” is a tool, which yogis used to go from a place of scattered thought to a place of stillness.
Before you begin the meditation make sure that you have a pen and paper or notebook beside you as you are going to begin the writing exercise shortly after.
The idea is to keep your hand moving for, say, ten minutes, and don’t cross anything out, because that makes space for your inner editor to come in. –Natalie Goldberg
Find a comfortable place on a sofa, chair or on a cushion on the floor, and make sure that the location is quiet and free from interruption. See that your back is supported and that you are sitting upright. You may cross your legs if you wish or just sit with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Allow your hands to rest on your thighs or knees, palms facing upwards. Take a few moments to sense the inflow and outflow of breath. Allow your awareness to follow the breath as it expands your lungs and abdomen and exits through your nostrils. With each breath begin to let go a bit more, releasing any tension or pain in your neck and shoulders, your arms, back, hips and legs.
The mantra we are going to use is “I am.” This mantra is neutral and doesn’t distract us whereas, if we were to say our name after it, then it would trigger thoughts and emotions. By saying the mantra “I am,” we are beginning the journey of focusing and calming our mind to detach from outside concerns and connect to the deep, inner silence and stillness within us.
Keep your eyes open for a few moments while you repeat out loud the mantra “I am.” Say this mantra 15 times or more and then close your eyes. As you meditate, say the chosen mantra mentally to yourself, breathing naturally. Sense the inflow of the breath as it fills the lungs, and then sense the outflow as you slowly let go and begin to relax. Continue to say the mantra to yourself and see if you can relax just a little bit more, noticing wherever there is tension, pain or discomfort. Relax the mind. The heart. As you let go, allow the breath to guide you to a place of relaxation. The sound of the meditation bell will signal the end of the meditation.
Going back to the idea of “first thoughts” and connecting to your core consciousness, pick up your pen and begin to write down the first thought that comes to you. Keep writing, staying with that first thought, and not looking back to judge whether what you wrote was good or bad. Enjoy the flow of the thoughts that are coming to you and just write them down. Try to stay with this burst of thought for as long as it carries you. It might last five minutes or it might only last 60 seconds. Once you feel that the first thought is complete, put the pen down.
Throughout the day and into the evening, consider the meditation and writing exercise you did. Pay attention to any sensations or thoughts that came up during the lesson.
Congratulations! You’ve completed Day 1 of the course. In the days that follow, you will notice yourself become more compassionate with others, and more trusting of yourself and the creative process. The benefits from these lessons are cumulative so it is important that you try to do one everyday if possible so that you see and feel your progression. Also, remember that the first day of integrating a new habit into your life is always the most difficult. Yet as you continue with it you will find it is easier everyday. For those of you who want to develop a habit of writing and/or meditating every day, this is a great way to start.
What people are saying about the course:
I've been loving this course! I knew it would be amazing starting with Day One, which felt like diving into cool water and coming out completely refreshed. Lissa M. Cowan has a way of getting you attuned to your five senses and helping you connect deeply to the present moment, where you notice so many things that were once invisible and unavailable.
–Nadine Prada, Artist and Painter
This course will allow you to express your natural creativity. It helps you to let down the barriers that your mind or the past place on your creativity. I highly recommend this course!
–Sergiu Funieru, Tech Entrepreneur
To learn more about the course or to sign up, click HERE.
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