You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Waiting is the hardest part.”
And, if you’ve ever actually worried yourself sick, you know how true it is.
That’s because waiting for something to happen can be far worse than dealing with the reality of it happening.
In fact, a lot of your life has most likely been spent waiting… waiting on test scores when you were in school… waiting on news of whether you got the job… waiting on hospital test results to tell you whether you’re going to be okay or spend the next years of your life fighting a debilitating disease.
And, you’ve probably also tried all of the traditional methods to cope with that waiting and overcome the worry — like distracting yourself, staying positive or even bracing for the worst.
Well, I’ve got news for you…
According to new research none of those methods work! In fact, they could even make it worse, leaving you literally sick from worry.
But, there is one thing you can do to beat the worry and the stress and even illnesses that come with waiting…
Being in the present
According to new research, funded by the National Science Foundation, mindfulness meditation is a sort of antidote to the “curse” of waiting. That curse is a focus on the past or on the future, like when you ask yourself “Why did I say that?” and “What if things don’t go my way?”
In other words, by focusing on the present using meditation, you can beat the worry and stress that come with waiting.
Instead of focusing on repetitive thoughts and worries about the past or future, you focus on the present and accept your thoughts and feelings as they arise — rather than engaging in tactics to avoid them. This allows you to process your emotions differently and more effectively.
This phenomenon was demonstrated in a new study performed using 150 California law students who had taken the bar exam and spent four months waiting on the potentially career-killing exam results.
During the four-month waiting period, the students were asked to participate in a 15-minute audio-guided meditation session at least once a week and complete questionnaires as to their stress levels as well as optimism.
Here’s what they found…
Mindfulness meditation served to postpone the phenomenon of “bracing” — or essentially preparing for the worst. This was important because while bracing can be an effective technique for managing expectations, its benefits erode when it occurs too early in the waiting process.
So, by putting off bracing, the students who participated in mindfulness meditation preserved their levels of optimism longer and experienced less stress throughout the waiting period.
Best of all, according to the researchers, the mindfulness tactic requires no training, no money, and minimal time and effort (just 15 minutes a week).
How to practice mindfulness meditation to wait better
It’s clear that if you’re experiencing stress or even illness from the effects of waiting and worrying, practicing mindfulness meditation could be your key to better well-being.
Here are the steps you can use to take advantage of this practice at home:
- Sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor.
- Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nose and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
- Once you’ve narrowed your concentration, begin to widen your focus to become aware of sounds, sensations and your ideas.
- Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it good or bad.
- If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again.
The goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to your thoughts and sensations without judgment. This allows your mind to refocus on the present moment.
The challenge is not to latch onto a particular idea, emotion or sensation or to get caught in thinking about the past or the future. Instead you watch what comes and goes in your mind, and discover which mental habits produce a feeling of well-being or of stress and anxiety to increase your awareness.
So, stop worrying yourself sick and instead use mindfulness meditation to wait and feel better.
- Mindfulness meditation can offset the worry of waiting — University of California – Riverside