By Don Goewey
Mark Twain said: My life has been filled with calamities, some of which actually happened. There seems to be nothing more fictitious than the worry that goes on in our heads. Now there is a study that proves it. The now famous study by Matthews and Wells at the University of Cincinnati found 1 that eight-five percent (yes, 85%) of what we worry about never happens. Moreover, 79% of us handle the 15% that does happen in ways that surprise us with our ability to turn the situation around. Dr. Robert Leahy of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy suggests that we write our worries down on a regular basis and see if they come true. If you find that the content is always shifting, it indicates worry is a habit.
We laugh at Mark Twain’s joke because it’s so true. But worry is no joke. It causes serious problems. Worry is the threshold to clinical depression. The stress reactions makes us prone to disease and the stress hormones it produces debilitates higher brain function. Seniors who worry are twice as likely to develop dementia.
The good news is that conquering worry is simpler than one might think. A tool as simple as The Clear Button can head worry off at the pass. Here’s how it works:
The Clear Button
- Imagine there is a button at the center of your palm that’s connected directly to your brain. This is the Clear Button. When you push it, it sends a signal that stops worried, stressful thinking.
- So let’s role play it. See yourself as anxious and beginning to spin a worried, pessimistic yarn that could easily proliferate into catastrophic thinking.
- Then you remember the Clear Button. You hold your left hand in front of you, palm facing you. You press the button at the center of your palm and keep pressing it. As you do this, imagine an electrical signal travels to the lower brain and quiets the negative, worried chatter.
- Next, you become aware of your breath and you count to three, seeing each number as a color.
- Take a breath, count “1,” and see the number as red,
- Take a second breath, count “2,” and see it as blue,
- Take a third breath, count “3,” and see it as green.
- As you exhale on the final breath, you come into the present moment, right here, right now, and you relax, letting go completely. Quietly, re-engage with the situation and consciously choose to be at peace.
The part of the primitive brain in charge of stress reactions is fully developed in a human being at age two. The intelligence of the primitive brain is at the level of a two year old. When a worried person frets and ruminates over the smallest matter, we often say they’re acting like a two-year-old. That description is not far from the truth. Neurologically, this is the system that’s in charge. You don’t use logic or reason on a two year old. You distract them. Counting to “3” and seeing the numbers as colors is a form of distraction.
Here’s the benefit: When we’re worried or under stress, all we see are problems. But once we’ve quieted the brain, control will shift from the lower to the higher brain where creative intelligence kicks in. We start to see solutions. This simple tool is a powerful first step in rewiring the brain to extinguish worry at the point of inception.