There’s a small metal box, trimmed in pink pom-poms, that sits on my daughter’s bedside table. In it rest handwritten worries—a collection of thoughts she’d prefer leave her alone.
It’s a special item I loved giving her, but not the first “worry box” I’ve gifted. The original belongs to a friend I met fifteen years ago. And I even have my own version, though it’s only in my mind.
So we have an 8-year-old, a then twenty-something, and a thirty-nine-and-three-fourths-year-old all with one common problem:
Which leads us to two big questions:
- What are thoughts?
- How do we stop them from visiting?
Let’s start with what’s not a thought—YOU. “You are not your thoughts.”3
But just like us, thoughts are energy. They visit our consciousness, then leave . . . if we let them. They’re entities to observe, not identify with.
Bad news: We can’t stop thoughts from visiting.
Good news: We can operate at a higher, more positive frequency so that we are less hospitable to negative, lower frequency thoughts. Remember, like attracts like.
So what can we do?
1) Be a gracious host.
Acknowledge the worry and thank it for visiting. Why? Because presence and gratitude are how we show respect. And since thoughts are their own forms, they want and deserve to be seen and valued, just like every other being. Now, that doesn’t mean we have to like the worry or agree with it, just respect it.
I like using lines such as “I see you Thought; thanks for visiting.” Or sometimes—especially with worries concerning loved ones—I imagine sitting across from it saying, “I see that you’re not part of me, just visiting. Thank you for stopping by. But I know that my family and I are goodness and light.”
(For more on how to step back from a trigger, check out “Feeling Triggered? Follow One of These Two Directions.”)
2) Usher it to the door.
We can then visualize scooping up the thought and sending it on its way with a gentle puff of air. Or maybe, if we’ve been a good host, it leaves on its own. Either way, it exits our consciousness and continues onward, visiting millions of others.
Sometimes, to emphasize to my mind that I’m just one stop on this thought’s journey, I’ll imagine the worry I just released floating to others. And afterwards I’ll focus on the deepest part of me—my soul—and allow that feeling of goodness and light to spread into my body.
3) Fill the vacancy.
When we stop holding onto thoughts, we’ll uncover some extra room in our minds. So let’s use that space to create something aligned with our purpose or fill it with inspiring, soul-expanding material.
This quote by Elizabeth Gilbert from Big Magic says it all:
“ . . . if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).”1
After finishing the first three steps, you can optionally follow up with either or both of these:
4) Box it up.
Try adding a recurring, worrisome thought to your own worry box. The idea is to cement letting go of a thought by accompanying this mental process with a physical one—actually writing the thought on a piece of paper and placing it in its new home, away from your consciousness.
5) Call in the Big Guy.
Like I mentioned earlier, I use a mental worry box. Though it lacks the physical aspect, it still works beautifully for me. Here’s how to try it:
Visualize writing the worry on bit of paper and putting it into a small treasure-chest box. Then imagine handing over the box to whatever Higher Power aligns with your spirit—I use Jesus because he feels like a trusted brother who’d listen to my fears.
Finally, envision the recipient reading it and giving you a hug, saying “It’s okay, ease your mind; I’ve got it under control.”
Just like we must figure out how to coexist with people who trigger us, we can also learn to live with worrisome thoughts. Let these five steps guide your journey, and you’ll discover that even if you can’t stop a thought from visiting, you can control how you respond to it.
Have a worrisome thought you’re ready to apply this process to? Share your story below!
1 Gilbert, E. (2015). Big Magic. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/44044797-big-magic?page=6.
I’ve read and listened to many resources covering thoughts and how we interact with them. And I’ve blended their wisdom with my own ideas to create a daily practice. Below are listed two that I specifically pulled from to write this article. If I’ve included information from some not listed, I apologize as it wasn’t intentional—after so long, it’s sometimes difficult to remember where we first heard ideas that become part of how we live!
2 Tolle, E. (2016). A New Earth. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
3 Singer, M. A. (2007). The Untethered Soul. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.