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Thanking the Mind: A Practice to Ease Anxiety

Untangle from the unhelpful or anxiety-provoking thought process and find a new sense of inner freedom.

The human mind is truly incredible. On the outside, it enables us to plan, solve problems, create goals, work towards our dreams and so much more. But the mind is also a double edge sword. The dark side of the human mind is that it also tends to haunt our inner worlds with scary and hurtful words and pictures. It criticizes us, belittles us, bullies us, and blames us.

Constantly tells us what's wrong with us, tells us when not enough, and puts us down. For many of us that voice inside can become our own worst enemy. It also tends to spend a lot of times simulating possible bad things that could go wrong in the future. It worries, plays out scary movie scenes of things going wrong that could happen, and thinks of all the 'what if' scenarios. Now, when our minds do this, we experience what we might call worry.

Even if everything's actually totally fine and safe in the present moment, when the mind projects itself into the future and imagines these scary or unpleasant possible scenarios that could happen, the body reacts. When we do this a lot, we call it having anxiety, but really what stress worry and anxiety are is that they're all forms of fear. Our bodies experience fear in the present moment when we think of terrible things that could happen to us or others. You might fret about your health deteriorating, your relationship going downhill, your financial future, or your, you career being ruined, even though nothing's actually happening in the present moment, you're fine, you're safe. When we think about thoughts like that, we still feel fear.

So why do our mind do this? Well, the mind has evolved to keep us alive. It's always trying to protect and serve us, which is an important thing to remember. But our minds have evolved over the last 150 to 200,000 years in a very different environment to the one we live in today. In fact of the hundreds of thousands of years that the mind has been evolving, it's only the last couple of thousand years that have been anything like the civilization we're in today. Most of the time our minds have been evolving, it's been through our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

And their world was a very difficult and dangerous place. The cave men and cave women had to constantly try to anticipate all sorts of things that could go wrong just so they could stay alive. They were constantly on guard, looking for threats it's because they had to be. Predators, food shortages, competing tribes, difficult environments, these were constant challenges for them. The cave men and cave women who did not constantly think about potential threats and problems and try to improve their chances of survival, didn't last.

Now, even though we don't live in the same environment as our ancestors did, we've inherited this protective instinct in the mind. It's wonderful that our minds can protect us from the threat of physical harm. And if there's a wolf loose in the village, your brain is well-equipped to figure out how to protect you. Problem is that our minds often get stuck in this survival mode thinking when it's really not helpful anymore and can cause us plenty of unnecessary anxiety and suffering. Even so, again, it's important to remember that your mind isn't the enemy and that there's nothing wrong with you.

When unhelpful or anxious thoughts come into the mind, it's completely normal. It happens to all of us. It's not your fault that the mind is doing this, and it's not your fault that you were born with this complex human mind that's evolved in this particular way. But when it starts to cause you suffering and distress, there are things you can do to buffer yourself from this tendency of the mind and find a new sense of inner freedom. One simple practice to help you untangle from these kinds of unhelpful or anxiety provoking thought processes, one way that really takes the power out of them so they no longer yank you around, is a practice from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy called thanking your mind.

So here's how you do it. Whatever your mind says to you, no matter how mean, awful or scary it is, just with an attitude of warm playfulness, even humor, you simply reply mentally to yourself, thanks mind. Thanks for sharing. So if your mind says to you, Oh my God. What if the kids leave when you get old and you'll have nobody to take care of you? You just mentally reply to the mind.

Thanks mind. Thanks for sharing. And then the mind might say, you know what? I haven't been feeling well and you know what? I don't know what's wrong with me. It could be cancer. Then you say, thanks mind.

Thank you for sharing. And the mind might say, you, you don't thanks mind me. If you ignore this, you're going to die. You could have cancer. Do you know how painful chemotherapy is? And you simply say, thanks mind, thanks for sharing.

So this isn't about getting into a debate with your mind, you know, an argument of any kind. No matter what the mind says, simply thank the mind as many times as you need to, you know, warm and playful time, and then you put your energy and your attention back on what you'd like to be focusing on in that moment. So whether it's taking in the views on your morning, walk, working on your computer or doing the dishes, just feel free to let your mind keep rambling on and on with what it's evolved to do, and just keep on thanking the mind and returning your attention and energy to the things that matter to you. Now minds can be tricky. So your mind might keep challenging you with all kinds of thoughts or showing you scary scenarios of what could be.

But if you simply acknowledge that the mind is simply running these simulations out of habit because of its evolution and they're not serious, you can simply thank the mind each time. And when you do this, you're going to find yourself less and less caught up and more and more feeling at ease. So today, and for the rest of this week, I invite you to take this practice with you. And any time you find yourself getting caught up in negative unhelpful, or anxiety provoking thoughts, just have a play with this practice. See how it feels for you.

Whatever you do with this practice, just remember to do it with a warmth and a humor and a playfulness. No matter what your mind says to you, no matter how serious it claims to be, no matter how mean or hurtful or scary, just have a sense of smiling at the mind, mentally saying, thanks mind. Thanks for sharing, change the focus of your attention to something more helpful and nourishing. And each time you do this practice, you build your capacity to unhook from unhelpful thoughts and bring more lightness, ease and joy into your days.

Talk

4.7

Thanking the Mind: A Practice to Ease Anxiety

Untangle from the unhelpful or anxiety-provoking thought process and find a new sense of inner freedom.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

The human mind is truly incredible. On the outside, it enables us to plan, solve problems, create goals, work towards our dreams and so much more. But the mind is also a double edge sword. The dark side of the human mind is that it also tends to haunt our inner worlds with scary and hurtful words and pictures. It criticizes us, belittles us, bullies us, and blames us.

Constantly tells us what's wrong with us, tells us when not enough, and puts us down. For many of us that voice inside can become our own worst enemy. It also tends to spend a lot of times simulating possible bad things that could go wrong in the future. It worries, plays out scary movie scenes of things going wrong that could happen, and thinks of all the 'what if' scenarios. Now, when our minds do this, we experience what we might call worry.

Even if everything's actually totally fine and safe in the present moment, when the mind projects itself into the future and imagines these scary or unpleasant possible scenarios that could happen, the body reacts. When we do this a lot, we call it having anxiety, but really what stress worry and anxiety are is that they're all forms of fear. Our bodies experience fear in the present moment when we think of terrible things that could happen to us or others. You might fret about your health deteriorating, your relationship going downhill, your financial future, or your, you career being ruined, even though nothing's actually happening in the present moment, you're fine, you're safe. When we think about thoughts like that, we still feel fear.

So why do our mind do this? Well, the mind has evolved to keep us alive. It's always trying to protect and serve us, which is an important thing to remember. But our minds have evolved over the last 150 to 200,000 years in a very different environment to the one we live in today. In fact of the hundreds of thousands of years that the mind has been evolving, it's only the last couple of thousand years that have been anything like the civilization we're in today. Most of the time our minds have been evolving, it's been through our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

And their world was a very difficult and dangerous place. The cave men and cave women had to constantly try to anticipate all sorts of things that could go wrong just so they could stay alive. They were constantly on guard, looking for threats it's because they had to be. Predators, food shortages, competing tribes, difficult environments, these were constant challenges for them. The cave men and cave women who did not constantly think about potential threats and problems and try to improve their chances of survival, didn't last.

Now, even though we don't live in the same environment as our ancestors did, we've inherited this protective instinct in the mind. It's wonderful that our minds can protect us from the threat of physical harm. And if there's a wolf loose in the village, your brain is well-equipped to figure out how to protect you. Problem is that our minds often get stuck in this survival mode thinking when it's really not helpful anymore and can cause us plenty of unnecessary anxiety and suffering. Even so, again, it's important to remember that your mind isn't the enemy and that there's nothing wrong with you.

When unhelpful or anxious thoughts come into the mind, it's completely normal. It happens to all of us. It's not your fault that the mind is doing this, and it's not your fault that you were born with this complex human mind that's evolved in this particular way. But when it starts to cause you suffering and distress, there are things you can do to buffer yourself from this tendency of the mind and find a new sense of inner freedom. One simple practice to help you untangle from these kinds of unhelpful or anxiety provoking thought processes, one way that really takes the power out of them so they no longer yank you around, is a practice from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy called thanking your mind.

So here's how you do it. Whatever your mind says to you, no matter how mean, awful or scary it is, just with an attitude of warm playfulness, even humor, you simply reply mentally to yourself, thanks mind. Thanks for sharing. So if your mind says to you, Oh my God. What if the kids leave when you get old and you'll have nobody to take care of you? You just mentally reply to the mind.

Thanks mind. Thanks for sharing. And then the mind might say, you know what? I haven't been feeling well and you know what? I don't know what's wrong with me. It could be cancer. Then you say, thanks mind.

Thank you for sharing. And the mind might say, you, you don't thanks mind me. If you ignore this, you're going to die. You could have cancer. Do you know how painful chemotherapy is? And you simply say, thanks mind, thanks for sharing.

So this isn't about getting into a debate with your mind, you know, an argument of any kind. No matter what the mind says, simply thank the mind as many times as you need to, you know, warm and playful time, and then you put your energy and your attention back on what you'd like to be focusing on in that moment. So whether it's taking in the views on your morning, walk, working on your computer or doing the dishes, just feel free to let your mind keep rambling on and on with what it's evolved to do, and just keep on thanking the mind and returning your attention and energy to the things that matter to you. Now minds can be tricky. So your mind might keep challenging you with all kinds of thoughts or showing you scary scenarios of what could be.

But if you simply acknowledge that the mind is simply running these simulations out of habit because of its evolution and they're not serious, you can simply thank the mind each time. And when you do this, you're going to find yourself less and less caught up and more and more feeling at ease. So today, and for the rest of this week, I invite you to take this practice with you. And any time you find yourself getting caught up in negative unhelpful, or anxiety provoking thoughts, just have a play with this practice. See how it feels for you.

Whatever you do with this practice, just remember to do it with a warmth and a humor and a playfulness. No matter what your mind says to you, no matter how serious it claims to be, no matter how mean or hurtful or scary, just have a sense of smiling at the mind, mentally saying, thanks mind. Thanks for sharing, change the focus of your attention to something more helpful and nourishing. And each time you do this practice, you build your capacity to unhook from unhelpful thoughts and bring more lightness, ease and joy into your days.

Talk

4.7

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