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Why Changing Anxious Thoughts Is Hard Work, but Worth It

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Your mind is wandering and, suddenly, you find yourself deep in the rabbit hole of anxiety-provoking thoughts. You know the type — the “what-ifs,” the “worst-case scenarios,” catastrophizing, even the ruminating on that one super embarrassing thing you did from years ago.

Our brain is constantly hard at work, and it’s running all day long. If we’re not directing our brain, it’s kind of like pushing the gas pedal on a car, and then taking our hands off the steering wheel. Dangerous, right? We would never do this while driving our car, but we seem to do it almost every day when we let our thoughts run amuck.

Our thoughts create our reality.

This is really important, so I’m going to say it again: our thoughts create our reality.

This is actually good news! It means much of our reality is within our control. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to accept the issues in life are external and outside of our control versus internal and within our control. Why is this? Why is it easier to complain and point fingers at things outside of us? If the issue is something outside of us, then we can vent to our girlfriends about it during happy hour instead of accepting we are the thing that needs to change.

And change is hard. Like, really hard.

But remember, our thoughts create our reality. So if changing our thoughts means having a more positive experience, isn’t it worth it? How much of your reality are you creating? How much of your day-to-day experiences are a result of the thoughts you’re choosing? How might things be different if you chose a new way of thinking?

Obviously the whole “just choose new thoughts” thing is much easier said than done. It’s a learned skill that requires slowing down, bringing awareness to our thoughts and challenging and changing those thoughts. And the next step? Rinse and repeat. Again and again.

This process is the kind of thing we must continue to come back to, because it’s literally building new neural pathways in the brain. It takes time, patience and hard work to build these new pathways. But with time, these pathways become the default and it becomes easier and easier to notice our thoughts and choose more helpful ways of thinking.

Remember: you are not broken. You don’t have a “broken brain” that needs to be fixed. Your brain is constantly “on” and at work, so naturally, it requires maintenance. It just requires some attention and TLC.

And while this process of change is a pain at first, it gets easier. It’s exciting and motivating when it starts to “stick.” When you begin having a more positive reality, you’ll see all the hard work was worth it.

Unsplash image by Allef Vinicius

Originally published: January 20, 2020
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