Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened. Now there’s a study that proves it. This study looked into how many of our imagined calamities never materialize. In this study, subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did not actually happen.
Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.
Montaigne’s quote has made people laugh for five centuries, but worry is no joke. A worried mind means a chronically stressed brain, and chronic stress generates serious problems. The stress hormones stress and worry dump into your system shrinks brain mass, lowers your IQ, makes you prone to heart disease, cancer and premature aging, predicts martial problems, family dysfunction, and depression, and makes seniors more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s.
If we could get a handle on the worry and stress that habitually, incessantly, and often unconsciously seizes hold of our mind, we would greatly increase the odds of living a longer, happier, healthier, and more successful life. It’s a matter of reprogramming our brain. We human beings are called the Crown of Creation because nature blessed us with an amazing brain and Nobel Prize laureate Eric Kandle tells us that we direct our brain with “the most complex set of processes in the universe, the mind.” Until recently, we haven’t had the Owner’s Manual identifying the mental processes that switch our brain to full power … but we have it now. In the last 15 years new research has identified the mindset or mental attitude that literally changes your brain to change your life. In addition, this shift in attitude stimulates the growth of new connections that expand high order brain function to enable you to reach even greater heights.
The process of reprogramming your brain is called neuroplasticity. It takes a decision and a specific practice, but it’s simpler than you might imagine and results can happen quickly, in as little as four weeks. You can learn more about the personal power that neuroplasticity restores in my book The End of Stress, Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain. I present 20 proven tools and processes that are organized into a step by step practice that build the attitude that programs your brain for a better experience of life leading to far better results.In the meantime here is a tool called The Clear Button that can get you started. Here’s how it works. You imagine a button at the center of your palm. You press it and keep pressing it as you count to 3, thinking of each number as a color.
- Breathe in, count 1, think red.
- Breathe in, count 2, think blue.
- Breathe in, count 3, think green.
- On the exhale, completely let go of thinking anything for a moment.
Nature gave us a 90 second window to bust stressful thinking before it takes a long walk off a short pier, and The Clear Button gets us through the window in time. The more you bust stressful thinking during the day, the more your brain will strengthen synapses that end worry.
Here is the neurological reason why the Clear Button works. The part of the brain that causes stress reactions literally has the intelligence of a toddler. And every parent knows you don’t stop a tantrum by appealing to a child’s logic. You distract the child. This tool distracts the terrible two-year-old in your brain from casting you off the deep end. Practice this tool every day and soon your brain will dissolve worried, stressful, self-defeating thoughts at the point of inception.