Can you remember the last time you tossed and turned all night worrying about your job, your relationship, your children, your finances? It may have been last night.
It seems that many Americans are plagued with worries. “What will happen if…my kid flunks geometry…I don’t get that promotion…I can’t balance our family budget…my spouse disagrees with me….my parents get sick…?” We all think of the awful things that might happen to us or to someone we care about. Worry is just a harmless, necessary part of life, right? Maybe not.
What is worrying? It’s actually just daydreaming — negative daydreaming. To worry is to imagine an unwanted outcome to a situation.
Although worrying is a mental process, it can affect the body. Whenever we worry about something, the body becomes tense and vulnerable. Worry, stress, and dwelling on problems weaken the immune system, leaving us more susceptible to illness. Worrying sometimes includes visualizing negative outcomes in our minds. By repeating those negative images in our mind, we are more likely to make them happen. We will expect the worst to occur and may unwittingly cause it to happen.
When we imagine a bad situation, the body often reacts as if it has happened. You lose energy, your mood drops, and your performance suffers. Do you use this kind of negative imaging?
Anytime you imagine a future event, you are daydreaming. Everyone does it. In fact, children are expert daydreamers. Gazing through the school window, a child may imagine winning the Indy 500, being a doctor, tossing a stick to a puppy.
As adults, we still daydream. Fantasizing about a faraway place, an ideal relationship, or being wealthy are all healthy ways to temporarily escape. Positive daydreams help relieve stress, improve attitude, and refresh the mind, body, and spirit.
Many Olympic athletes and successful business leaders use daydreaming to envision success. Using this technique, they anticipate or imagine landing the perfect jump, closing a deal, or standing on the gold medal podium. They actually experience winning. This directly affects mood, performance, and energy level.
Worrying accomplishes the same thing except it imprints negative images rather than positive ones. By thinking about all of the awful things that could happen, you are “practicing” that event.
Negative thoughts can be replaced with positive ones with a little practice. The next time you daydream, make those dreams work for you, not against you. Ann McGee-Cooper, author of You Don’t Have to Go Home from Work Exhausted! offers the following tips to get you started.
Get comfortable. Listen to calming music if you wish. Follow these steps:
- Stretch your body.
- Close your eyes.
- Take long, slow, deep breaths.
- Allow your body to relax.
- Put worries out of your mind.
- Focus on your breathing, the music, how comfortable you feel.
Take a mental trip to a favorite or imagined place. See the colors, feel the breeze, smell the fragrances. Really allow yourself to be there.
See yourself doing whatever makes you happy. Perhaps you see yourself briskly walking for exercise and eating only healthy foods. Maybe you’re laughing and enjoying an evening with friends. You may visualize emotional control, mastering a tough project, or easily recovering from surgery.
“All Work and No Play…”
Be sure to daydream about playing, relaxing, and having fun. Not all of your images have to include accomplishing a goal. Create a healthy balance for your life.
Use positive imaging to help manage stress, work through a tough issue, or escape the everyday pace of life. Allow daydreams to have a positive influence on your life.