End Worry With This Powerful Technique

>> Monday

Bertrand Russell, the mathematician and philosopher, used a technique on himself to prevent worry, and he recommended it to others in his book, The Conquest of Happiness. "When some misfortune threatens," he wrote, "consider seriously and deliberately what is the very worst that could possibly happen. Having looked this possible misfortune in the face, give yourself sound reasons for thinking that after all it would be no such very terrible disaster."

Of course, most of us would say, "But it would be a terrible disaster!"

Bertrand Russell anticipated this remark. He goes on to say that there are good reasons to honestly assert it might not be so bad: "Such reasons always exist, since at the worst nothing that happens to oneself has any cosmic importance. When you have looked for some time steadily at the worst possibility and have said to yourself with real conviction, 'Well, after all, that would not matter so very much,' you will find that your worry diminishes to a quite extraordinary extent."

I'd like to point out two things here. He said to look at the worst possibility "for some time." This is not a technique to do for ten seconds. Give it some time. If you really want to ease your worry, it will take a little time.

Also, he said when you can say to yourself it doesn't matter, and say it with real conviction, he does not mean pretending to say it with conviction. He means actually having looked at it enough to be able to legitimately say it really wouldn't matter that much.

He has a little more to say about the technique: "It may be necessary to repeat the process a few times, but in the end, if you have shirked nothing in facing the worst possible issue, you will find that your worry disappears altogether and is replaced by a kind of exhilaration."

This is an effective technique. It actually works, and surprisingly well. Dale Carnegie took the technique one step further and said, "Then try to improve on the worst," which I think most people would do anyway. But you can't skip ahead to improve-on-the-worst part and expect this technique to work. You have to go through a truly honest appraisal of what the worst would be and how bad that would actually be, until you realize with full conviction that even the worst wouldn't be that bad.

If you really do this exercise, you can really and truly cure yourself of a particular worry, and ease the strain on your system that the worry has been causing. To learn more about this technique and how to use it, read: The End of the World.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.

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Complimenting Others Makes YOU Feel Good

>> Saturday

Study after study has shown that the most consistent source of good moods is hanging out with other people. Today I have a little tip that will help make your moments with other people even more enjoyable.

The idea is simple: Keep your eye out for something you really like about the person you're talking to, and say it. I know this isn't earth-shattering advice, but it is something we all need to be reminded of because if we don't make any effort to do otherwise, the natural orientation of our minds is noticing what's wrong.

The human brain has a negative bias. You can read all about that here. Because of that, you have to deliberately try to notice what you like or your attention will be dominated by your own brain's negative bias. This effort is completely worth it, however, because it will boost your mood and the other person's mood as well.

So today, try an experiment. Give five good compliments before this day is done. Make sure what you say is true and specific. Phony flattery is unnecessary. If you look, you will find plenty you can honestly acknowledge. And be specific about what you like because then the person can't reject your compliment. If you say, "You're really nice," they might think of all the times they weren't nice, and reject your compliment in their minds. But you could be more specific: "You were very kind to that old woman. I like that about you." This honest, specific statement is much harder to reject, which means it can penetrate their heart and make you both feel good.

One bonus side-effect of your effort is that you will keep your attention on more pleasant things while you're looking for what you like. It's a great way to raise your mood.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.

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How to Feel Better by Doing Nothing

>> Thursday

To be in a good mood more often, cultivating calmness really helps. Read more about that here. And one way to cultivate more calmness is to spend some time doing nothing. At least that's what it looks like from the outside — it looks like you're just sitting there, or just taking a walk but not really walking anywhere in particular and not walking fast enough to make it exercise. There are several things you can do while doing "nothing" however:

  1. Free thought (letting the mind think whatever it wants to think)
  2. Take deep breaths
  3. Think about a specific thing
  4. Meditate
  5. Relax tense muscles
  6. Pray
These are all helpful activities in the cultivation of serenity, although they do not look like "activities" to an outside observer.

Doing nothing at all, without trying to do any of the activities above, results in free thought — your mind will simply wander where it will. We need more of that. Almost everyone is experiencing a chronic shortage of nothing.

Do you want to know how to feel better? Spend some time doing nothing. Your mind will wander and you'll think things through, and this will raise your mood.

You and I have lots of things we have put off thinking about because we've been too busy working and talking and learning and watching and listening and reading. So these un-thought-about things accumulate and create a kind of tension. When you stop doing anything, your mind automatically starts thinking about those things, sorting them out, coming up with solutions, and the tension drains away.

If your mind does not do this — if when you do nothing, your mind obsesses about worries you can do nothing about — read this.

But the point is that almost everyone needs to spend more of their time doing nothing. Not watching TV or playing video games: Those are doing something. Doing nothing looks like you're just sitting there. Or just walking (not listening to anything, not talking to anyone).

One of the things you had as a child (that you don't have now) was occasional periods of time when you did nothing at all. If you were to spend more time now doing nothing, you would regain some of your childhood serenity.

On your next day off, deliberately set aside a three-hour period to do nothing. Or eight hours. Or the whole day. No email, no chores, no planning, no reading, no watching television, no conversation, no nothing. Just sit still or go for a walk, or both, ideally in a place with few or no distractions.

Try it and notice you feel calmer and happier afterward, sometimes for many days. Do this every few weeks, and the general tone of your life will rise. This is a simple and inexpensive way to improve your mood: Feel better by taking the time to do nothing.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.

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Stress is Bad for Relationships

>> Sunday

At the Ohio State University Medical Center researchers followed ninety couples for ten years. The couples they chose were free of risky behaviors or psychiatric problems, and the researchers specifically tried to choose only people who were happy with their relationships.

The researchers wanted to find out how stress affects the likelihood of divorce. After the ten-year study, this is their conclusion: The more stress a couple experiences while talking to each other, the more likely they will divorce.

According to the researchers, women register higher levels of stress hormones during conflicts (adrenaline, ACTH, and cortisol) than the men they're arguing with. And women with the highest level of stress hormones during conversations with their spouses did not have higher levels of stress hormones than normal in other circumstances in their lives.

Does this concern you? Do you have stressful arguments with your spouse? You can do something to change it. Here are some things that will lower your stress during difficult conversations with your spouse:

1. Reduce the amount of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar you consume. These substances can increase your body's reaction to stressful circumstances. Read more about how they influence stress. Reducing or eliminating them may make things worse for a day or two, but then your stress level will begin to drop.

2. Learn better ways to argue. It seems the content — the actual topics — of your arguments would have the biggest influence on how much stress you experience, but the process you use is more important. If you use a good process, the intensity of the argument remains lower, which reduces the stress of that particular argument. So your arguments become more productive, which lowers your stress level over time too. Here is how to argue with a good process.

3. Learn better ways of listening. One of the biggest causes of stress in an argument is the lack of good listening. You cannot make your spouse listen well, but you can change the way you listen, and that's good enough to alter the course of the conversation. Learn more about listening here.

4. Lower your general upset-ability through meditation. Regular meditation makes you calmer to begin with, and makes your stressful reactions less intense during arguments, leading to more productive and less destructive interactions. Here's more about what meditation is, how it works, and simple instructions for meditation.

Do any of these and you will personally feel better, you'll be healthier, and your relationship will be happier. If you're married, you'll be less likely to divorce. And all this will improve your mood immediately and over time.

Adam Khan is the author of See Her Smile and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

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Solving Problems Like an Artist of Life

>> Monday

Imagine you live in an apartment, and just when you're going to sleep every night, the neighbor's infant is on the other side of your bedroom wall in the apartment next door, crying her heart out.

You can't sleep because you can hear the poor baby crying so loudly. Studies show one of the most upsetting sounds to most people is a crying baby. The baby is beside herself with anguish, wailing loudly in her loneliness night after night.

Imagine yourself in this situation. What would you do? Complain to the parents? Talk to the manager? Contemplate moving to another apartment building? Bang on the wall? Get earplugs?

A woman in this situation came up with a creative and actually fulfilling solution to this problem. She figured that since she could hear the baby so clearly, the baby would be able to hear her too. So she sang the child to sleep.

Isn't that beautiful? What a humane, creative, compassionate, and even satisfying solution!

Now think about a problem you have. Think of a problem that really has you pulling your hair out. And try to think of a solution that will not only solve it but creatively and compassionately fulfill you at the same time.

Can't think of a solution like that? Of course you can't! Good ideas usually take longer than three seconds to come up with.

In your spare time while driving and showering and doing the dishes, go over the problem in your mind, and don't just try to "solve the problem." Don't just try to figure out a way to make it go away. Come up with a creative, compassionate, and even fulfilling solution.

If you're in a hurry, use more than your spare time. Do some concentrated thinking on a constitutional or sitting still once or twice a day.

It may take you days or even weeks to think of one. But when you do, wow! You are on your way to becoming a true artist of life.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

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