28 June - 02 July 2019: Come back to the mountain for Aiglon's 70th. Book your tickets today!
Where your FOCUS goes your ENERGY FLOWS
Whilst sitting in my garden on a beautiful sunny day, I came across an article in The Guardian entitled ‘We live in an age of anxiety’. Feeling quite the opposite of anxious, I proceeded to read the article only to be informed that books relating to anxiety have increased by 25 percent from last year and that the UK has become the world’s second largest market of illegal online sales of anti-anxiety medication. Most interesting!
Looking closer to home at our own community in Aiglon, we also know that anxiety is a real thing. Even when surrounded by such natural beauty, spend so much time outdoors and have so much social support, anxiety comes from many sources. It comes to us in the influence of media, family expectations and even our own expectations of ourselves.
So when we do encounter anxiety, what can we do? There are lots of practical things with which we are all familiar … deep breathing, visualisation exercises, meditation, yoga, running, more sleep … and these are all extremely helpful. However, the most effective and long-lasting technique is to change the way we think. To change the way we perceive our experiences.
Metacognition is thinking about our thinking. It is an awareness and understanding of our own thought processes. When we begin to pay attention to our thought processes we can identify what helps or hinders us. Our minds are powerful. How we think influences how we feel and behave. When we are anxious, we are thinking in ways that produce negative and anxious thoughts.
Compare your thought patterns to a field of corn. When you think in a particular way it creates a path (a neural pathway in our brain) and once you have created this path, it is very easy to walk along it. This is how your brain works. Now imagine that you want to create a new path. You are going to have to push your way through the tall corn and stomp it all down. If you decide to do this every day, you will eventually create a new neural pathway in your brain, which in time becomes easy to walk.
To create a new path, we must pay attention to our thoughts, stop ourselves when we notice a thought that is unhelpful and replace it with something helpful. It is not magic, but with perseverance, you can enhance your wellbeing. The word ‘however’ is useful. If you catch yourself thinking an unhelpful thought, add ‘however’ followed by something positive. Consider these examples:
Oh no, I can’t stand this class, the teacher is so annoying, however, he can be very kind.
I’m scared that my presentation will be no good, however, I have prepared well and I know my subject.
I don’t like my nose and wish I was three inches taller, however, I know I have beautiful eyes and fabulous hair.
We know at Aiglon that anxiety is real. It should not be ignored, but we can make a difference. Focus on the positive. When we focus on what is good in our lives, what we like in other people and what we like about ourselves, we find that our mood is uplifted and we are less likely to feel anxious.
Where your focus goes, your energy flows.
About Ruth FitzGerald
Ruth FitzGerald is Wellbeing Coordinator at Aiglon College. Her approach to wellbeing combines positive, humanistic and cross-cultural psychology. She is particularly interested in helping individuals discover their talents and fulfil their potential. Prior to joining Aiglon, Ruth worked in the field of wellbeing at American University of Antigua, College of Medicine. She has also worked in the Middle East, Russia and the US.