Studies have found that people who are prone to worry have more activity in the right side of the brain, which is also associated more often with negative or uncomfortable emotions. Sometimes it’s relieving for some people to realize this and for others it seems like a sentencing. If the belief is the latter what follows is a feeling that we are deficient or defective in some way. It doesn’t have to be this way.
You might think:
"What's wrong with me, how come sally doesn't react this way?"
These thoughts often give rise to feelings of shame and secondary emotions such as anger about our shame or even more shame about our shame. Before you know it we are in a loop which mingles with depression with anxiety.
I love the phrase that I first heard from my friend and colleague Daniel Siegel, MD who says, “There is no such thing as immaculate perception.”
In other words, it’s not the worrying that’s the problem, it’s how we’re relating to it.
Even if you have an overreactive anxious mind, you can learn to step outside of the habitual cycle of reaction that creates that downward spiral, and in that moment of awareness you are present and are able to see a wider and more open landscape. Seeing the hope landscape of options in front of us, we become more creative and flexible which often calms the anxious mind.
The fact is with people who are prone to worry on a biological level we might see heightened arousal in the amygdala, a part of the brain that is meant to react to changes in our environment like danger.
Research by Matthew Lieberman out of UCLA shows that when we’re able to name emotions activity in the amygdala goes down. An interesting finding. Mindfulness practice is a very practical way of relating to our anxiety differently, learning to name it and approach the feelings instead of reacting by fleeing or avoiding which exacerbates it.
Better than learning how mindfulness works, why not try it right now with a practice video out of The Now Effect. Whether you’re experienced in mindfulness or a novice, give yourself this gift right now.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.