Updated: Aug 7
Still looking for a cure for excessive worrying? I mean I’m sure you probably know a lot of techniques to use when you worry but do you wonder if it’s possible to be free of worry once and for all? New research proposes an anecdote and its right outside your door.
Before I tell you where to find what you’ve been missing in your battle against worry, let’s go over a few things you may already know.
I mean you probably know that excessive worry – or rumination as it’s called – really doesn’t solve most problems. In fact, research shows us that our ability to be creative in finding solutions is stalled when we are excessively preoccupied with our problems.
You probably already know that worry often has its roots in an attempt to control an outcome. You may worry to avoid negative emotions or to prevent being labeled a bad person. The only problem is that people are unpredictable and our mind knows that. We continually come up with new “what ifs” and can stay in this heightened state of hypervigilance until it is paralyzing.
And I’m sure you’ve tried mindfulness to help you live more in the moment and create a higher awareness of your current reality. Worry tends to send us time traveling to the past or future instead of focusing on the here-and-now. Mindfulness builds in a pause to our worry, giving us an opportunity to observe what is present right in front of us.
Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts is another technique you’ve probably tried, and it’s helpful because it disengages the ritualistic compulsion to live in fear and to worry because of fear. But how do you sustain it when life is hard
These give us some things to do but here’s something new you may not have heard that’s more about what you really believe. Research is beginning to shed light on a reset for worry. It’s more than mindfulness or positive thinking. It’s an attitude and belief that guides your life. It’s a shift in perspective about your place in the world. The reset is to cultivate an attitude of awe and wonder about the world around you. A kind of child-like view of how vast and grandiose the world is and to more accurately see yourself and your place in the world in comparison. University of Pennsylvania researchers define awe as:
“the emotion of self-transcendence, a feeling of admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than self”.
In the March/April 2016 issue of Psychology Today author Carlin Flora makes this statement:
“The real anecdote to negative thinking is the wondrous immensity of the external world. Cultivate awe in your daily life, no matter its challenges”.
Cultivate awe? Flora’s article goes on to answer these questions to put this goal into action.
Where will I discover a sense of awe and wonder? Look to nature, to the beauty of a place of worship, to sacred spaces and immense architecture we can find in the world, say authors Pearson and Craig. Find the soothing sounds of water, indoors or outdoors, - create this space in your home or office. Check in to these spaces and sounds regularly and linger there and imagine escaping to this retreat. Surrender to the vastness of creation or a creator.
When I experience awe how will it benefit me? So when I intentionally immerse myself in the wonder of things so much grander and more powerful than myself, how will I be different? Louv says that our immune systems kick in, our minds will be sharper and clearer, and we can be more creative and relational at home, in our neighborhoods and in our cities and towns. Paul Piff reasons that when we live in awe we are likely to be less selfish and become more interested in the well being of others. In other words, we’ll see the big picture. We’ll realize we are very small in the big scheme of things, far from the center of the universe. We contemplate our purpose and the role we may play to make the world a better place. We replace rumination with a broader perspective that can sustain us over time. Leahy goes on to say:
“Awe is the opposite of rumination. It clears away inner turmoil with a wave of outer immensity.”
What are the challenges I will face and how can I make this change? Like any other change, our Quest for Awe will require us to intentionally make space in our calendars. Forming a new habit to search out and sink into nature and all things majestic will require us to schedule it as a priority. As my colleague Susan Whitcomb founder of The Academies says, “what we focus on grows”. So search for the evidence to support a belief in the power of awe – test out the theories presented here. Explore whether you really worry less when you spend stretches of time by the lake, underneath a majestic oak, or inside a beautiful cathedral. Bring your journal and record any changes you feel inside. Let these experiences build on themselves until you believe you’ll find clarity and purpose there. Maybe you’ll be so busy being inspired and living in the awe around you that worry will just slip off the schedule. And you really will have changed your life by the power of awe.
Share how you find your sacred spaces and sources of wonder.
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