Anxiety can be very debilitating. Most of us will experience anxiety at times in our lives. Some of us tend to incessantly worry or obsess over the things out of our control, or the past we cannot change, or the imagined future filled with worst case scenarios. This anxious way of thinking and being can be a destructive habit with negative impacts on our physical and emotional health.
I have found Rick Hanson’s book “Just One Thing: developing a Buddha brain one simple practice at a time” (2011) a wonderful book of practices – simple things you can do regularly that will increase your sense of security and safety, self-worth, and well-being. These simple practices can be very powerful to change your brain through what he calls “experience-dependent neuroplasticity”. This means that what you pay attention to, what you think and feel, and how you work with your reactions will shape your brain. For instance, if you regularly focus your mind on worries, self-criticism, and anger, then your brain will gradually take the shape of anxiety, low sense of worth and prickly reactivity to others. On the other hand, if you regularly focus your mind on, for example, noticing that you are all right in this moment, seeing the good in yourself, and letting go (3 of the 52 practices in his book), then your brain will gradually take the shape of calm strength, self-confidence and inner peace.
Each practice is usually small in itself, but those moments really add up. Hanson refers to it as the law of little things: because of slowly accumulating changes in neural structure due to mental activity, lots of little things can wear you down- and lots of little things can improve your well-being. Over time, small efforts made routinely will have long term benefits. But you have to stick with it.
Another helpful source is the UCLA free guided meditations on the internet – a user-friendly and easy way to cultivate mindfulness. Weekly podcasts keep the meditations interesting and varied with a range of topics to choose from. While these are easy and ordinary practices, the effects can be profound. To reap the rewards of practice, you need to do it, and keep doing it.