Anxiety can be difficult to deal with. You can’t cure it with the perfect medicine, and it doesn’t go away passively like a cold.
Anxiety demands your attention while making you more fearful of giving it your attention the closer you look at it.
I’ve had anxiety most of my adult life. At times it’s been physically crippling. But what I’ve found is that certain mindful attitudes can help.
I don’t believe that adopting mindfulness into your daily life will magically cure anyone of anxiety, but it might make it easier to manage.
So keep in mind that mindfulness isn’t for everyone, but there has been some positive research.
If you’re interested in learning more about the research, here’s a great article from the American Psychological Association analyzing the wealth of new research on mindfulness and its possible benefits.
And this study found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction “may have a beneficial effect on anxiety symptoms in GAD, and may also improve stress reactivity and coping as measured in a laboratory stress challenge.”
So without further ado, here are the 10 mindful attitudes that I’ve found have helped me deal with anxiety and live an enjoyable life:
1) Find the Goodness In Every Moment, Even The Ones You Don’t Like
Some of us have issues with the lessons of mindfulness. This comes from the fear of living in the present, because the present isn’t always as great as we want it to be.
By living with mindfulness, they believe that they are withholding from themselves the ability to disengage or escape.
But that’s exactly what mindfulness tries to teach—not every moment can be positive or beautiful, and not every moment should be positive or beautiful.
We must learn to live with every moment, even the ones that we dislike, because those are the ones we learn from most.
2) You Can’t Do Everything
One of our greatest sources of anxiety is the fear that we can’t fix everything and we can’t make everything right.
Take a minute every day to stop and tell yourself, “That’s right—I can’t fix everything.” Accept the limitations of your being and you will be happier with what you have seen yourself accomplish.
Free up the energy and time that would rather have been spent worrying about things out of your control.
Don’t judge yourself and don’t push yourself too hard. Do as much as you can and find peace.
3) Always Be Present
The modern world makes it so hard to live in the present. We’re always dreaming of future wants and needs; we’re always looking at great pictures of past events; and we’re always distracting ourselves from the present moment with social media and technology.
There’s one thing you need to do, and only one: Stop. Engage with your present in the way you would want others to engage with you—with their full attention.
Feel the moment as it passes knowing that it will never return; do not hold anything against it simply because it isn’t an amazing moment. Engage with your senses and open your mind.
At Hack Spirit, we focus on teaching “micro-meditations” to get in the habit of living in the moment.
They are essentially meditations that you can practice over short periods of time, no more than 1-3 minutes at a time, throughout your day.
When we are stressed or agitated our breath gets shallow and fast, the key is paying attention to the way you breathe, become aware of your breath, the way your body moves, try to hold your breath, and if possible, hold your stomach.
After holding your breath for a moment, start bringing air into the belly. Don’t force it or strain yourself, if it feels uncomfortable try to hold it higher in your body. The point is to focus on your breathing patterns.
Practicing this type of “micro-meditation” during stressful or overwhelming parts of your day can improve the way you face those feelings and situations, allowing you to become aware and calm.
Once you start practicing regularly, you will become more focused on your everyday life. You can practice micro-meditations every hour or so, set up an alarm on your phone, make a habit out of this experience.
Use them before a presentation, when you are stuck in traffic, any time you feel stressed. The longer you do it, the faster it will become a habit. Think of mindfulness as a muscle, you have to exercise it in order to gain strength.
(If you’re looking for specific actions you can take to stay in the moment and live a happier life, check out our best-selling eBook on how to use Buddhist teachings for a mindful and happy life here.)
4) Let Yourself Be Surprised
These days, too many people think they know everything. We are always trying to predict, to foresee, to judge before we know the full story. But this ruins the way we experience events, because we are always ready to say “Ha! I told you so!”
Stop trying to prove yourself to the world. You don’t have to know everything, so why bother? Let life take you down a road without predicting every part of the path for once, and you will understand the true joy of what it’s like to be genuinely surprised.
5) Surrender to the World
Too often, we are taught to resist. To fight against change, to keep things the way we want them to stay, and to do everything in our power to make sure tomorrow is exactly like today.
But the world doesn’t operate according to your whims and fancies; the world changes, and this is a part of reality.
So the best way to deal with this? Accept it. Surrender. Let go, and flow with the waves that are pushing you a certain direction. Who knows—you may find something better on the other side.
(To learn how to let go, check out my guide on the art of non-attachment here)
6) Stop Trying to Understand
The modern world has turned all of us into a pile of neurotics. We obsess over knowledge and information and knowing, and any time we don’t know, we are just a few thumb presses away from Google.
Simply put, we are taught that we have to know everything, and that not knowing is something to be ashamed about.
But constantly labeling everything will make things less organic, less natural. Try to step back and let life unfold naturally, without you forcing it to happen faster than it can.
Breathe, exist, and interact, and if you don’t know something, then, well, you don’t know.
7) Trust in the Universe
How do you achieve your dreams? There are thousands of people who have earned everything they ever wanted, even if they came from nothing. The answer? They took a leap of faith. They put everything they had into their dreams and said, “F*ck it, let’s go.”
They trusted the Universe, or God, or something; something greater than them, to help lead them on their way to their hopes and dreams. You don’t have to be religious to believe that there’s something bigger than you looking out for you. Just the belief is enough to change your whole disposition.
8) Stop Analyzing
Let’s say you’re traveling somewhere, and you get lost. You might end up getting worried, getting upset.
You check your phone, check the GPS, check the maps, update your social media platforms, call your friends, freak out, and a thousand other things.
But all of these are the wrong answer. Just stop. Stop analyzing, stop overthinking. What has happened has already happened, and the best way to get out of the situation is not to think about every little thing that caused it, but to just keep going on.
9) One Thing At A Time
Multi-tasking is the bane of a mindful existence. Why do we always have to be busy, why always in a rush? Success, recognition, fame, money—are these really all the things that matter?
Focus. Concentration. Presence. Stability. These can contribute so much more to the current condition of your life than arbitrary goals of success and recognition.
You don’t have to be the best and you don’t have to beat everyone around you. Learn to be present, instead of a shadow moving from one state to another.
Learn to start living your life like someone who is alive.
(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).
10) Hold No Grudges
We can’t always live a peaceful existence. Emotions and reactions are normal, and disagreements happen all the time. Anger, grief, rage, pain—these are parts of life that can’t be avoided.
But grudges? Grudges are unhealthy. They are unnatural. They are no longer emotional reactions, but conscious decisions to continue holding a pain or anger against someone else for something that has already passed.
The one hard truth about grudges is that they hurt you much more than the person you are holding it against.
Why? Because the grudge is always on your mind, while it only affects them when you are around. Start letting go, and start accepting what has happened.
How this one Buddhist teaching turned my life around
My lowest ebb was around 6 years ago.
I was a guy in my mid-20s who was lifting boxes all day in a warehouse. I had few satisfying relationships – with friends or women – and a monkey mind that wouldn’t shut itself off.
During that time, I lived with anxiety, insomnia and way too much useless thinking going on in my head.
My life seemed to be going nowhere. I was a ridiculously average guy and deeply unhappy to boot.
The turning point for me was when I discovered Buddhism.
By reading everything I could about Buddhism and other eastern philosophies, I finally learned how to let things go that were weighing me down, including my seemingly hopeless career prospects and disappointing personal relationships.
In many ways, Buddhism is all about letting things go. Letting go helps us break away from negative thoughts and behaviors that do not serve us, as well as loosening the grip on all our attachments.
Fast forward 6 years and I’m now the founder of Hack Spirit, one of the leading self improvement blogs on the internet.
Just to be clear: I’m not a Buddhist. I have no spiritual inclinations at all. I’m just a regular guy who turned his life around by adopting some amazing teachings from eastern philosophy.