The 1 Sentence That Changed My Perspective on Anxiety and Overthinking

Updated 04/23/19
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Just when I thought being a millennial with anxiety couldn't get any more clichéd, I tried meditation. After months of hyper-focusing on what I was anxious about, rather than controlling the anxiety itself, it dawned on me that the issue in question would never improve if I didn't first get a handle on my anxious mind. Time had taught me that the "problems" in my life were more a product of rumination and overthinking than actual real-life circumstances. 

My budget immediately ruled out therapy, and my past efforts told me that simply focusing on the positives, though a nice idea, was not a viable, long-term solution. Meditation, however, was free, accessible (thanks to apps like Headspace), and most importantly, thoroughly science-backed.

Though I'd previously written off the ancient practice as "not for me," I figured that decades of research trumped my judgmental, Western-minded reaction to the idea of sitting cross-legged on the floor with my eyes closed and a hand languidly perched on each knee. I pushed my skepticism aside and downloaded Headspace. 

Within a few weeks of meditating for 10 minutes in the morning right after my shower, I felt a palpable sense of relief. But I'm not here to wax poetic about the myriad benefits of meditation (more on that later). Many of the seismic perspective shifts came in the form of quotes and teachings as relayed by Andy Puddicombe, former Tibetan Buddhist monk, co-founder of Headspace, and (extremely soothing) voice of the guided meditations. His sentiments did not rid me of stress and anxiety, but they did change my perspective of it. I no longer felt so trapped and suffocated by my thoughts, and it's made a world of difference (that, plus a new CBD vape pen and reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck on repeat, in the name of full transparency).

True to form, I immediately wrote each quote down, forming a mini-meditation journal of sorts over time. These two had the most lasting impact, with the bolded bit hitting especially close to home.

On the Power of Positive Thinking

"It might be tempting to think that we can somehow get rid of all the negative thoughts that come into our mind, whether they're about ourselves, our about someone else, but if it were that easy—simply replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts—we would have done that a long time ago. And it's actually quite exhausting trying to do that; it creates a lot of conflict, a lot of inner tension. This is more about stepping back and seeing our thoughts with a little more clarity, a bit more distance, a bit more perspective, so we no longer have that bias of good thought, bad thought, pleasant thought, unpleasant thought. Instead we simply see them as thoughts. We recognize that we're not our thoughts, we're not our feelings, we're not what we look like, what we wear, what we do. There's something beneath all of that. It's almost like a quiet confidence which underlies all the business and the noise of the mind." 

On Overthinking + Self Esteem

"If we think that we can out-think the thinker—bearing mind that it is the thinking mind that has caused this unpleasantness and feelings that we're not good enough, not worthy enough, or whatever it might be—are we really thinking that we can use that same thinking mind to somehow get over that or out of that situation? We're almost kind of setting up this place of inner conflict and tension. It's like we have one little voice on one shoulder, one little voice on the other, one saying we're good enough, the other saying we're not—that's endless. There's no way that will ever bring about peace of mind. The only way we can bring about a genuine, sustainable peace of mind is to see both voices, and to recognize that it is just one mind."

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