Do affirmations work? What if you’ve been looking for a job for months with no results? What if your home is being threatened by foreclosure? These are no small things and there are too many of us in this very place. Saying over and over, “I’m attracting more and more abundance in my life” when we don’t really believe it, can be counterproductive. So, what can we do when we are feeling stressed out and worried about our livelihood, our health or our future?
In my experience it is hard to take giant leaps into positive thinking when my mind is filled with a relentless sense of worry. Yet over and over I hear wisdom leaders and brain scientists say: ‘Where your thoughts go, so go you.’ They tell us that if we’re focusing on lack, then we grow in lack. When we focus on abundance, then (supposedly) we grow in abundance. The trick is how to get there from a gnawing sense of despair.
My own negative thoughts can be like an express train roaring down the tracks at a blinding pace without stops. So, what to do? Pulling myself out of the muck and mire of fear and worry is no easy task. However, I’ve found a glimmer of hope in the practice of noticing kindness.
I’ve experimented with this insight with gratifying results. When I’m feeling especially worried about something, I remind myself to pay attention to any kindness that comes my way. Nothing is too small to notice. I start by being mindful when someone moves their shopping cart in the grocery store to let me by. I pay attention to drivers who slow down to let me into traffic when I’m entering a freeway. I acknowledge someone holding the door for me. And then, as if by magic, I’m starting to return those kindnesses. I’m no longer living in the isolation of my worry; I’m expanding into the world of others. I feel lighter. It seems as if actual light is streaming into me and warming me.
Worry closes me off from others. It causes my muscles to contract and my brain doesn’t get as much oxygen because my breathing is shallow. As I start to feel lighter and more relaxed, my brain is getting more oxygen. I can think better and be more creative. As I open myself up to the people and things around me, I begin to connect to a greater number of solutions as well.
Next time you find yourself in a litany of worried thoughts, try noticing the kindness of others and let it lead you to a bigger and more creative place. I’d love to hear from you about your experience with this practice of noticing kindness.
By Justine Willis Toms