It was just sitting there, in amongst other black and white postcards on the swirling display stand, next to brightly coloured cheery cards wishing recipients ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Get Well Soon’. The monochrome cluster of postcards, devoid of any colour, stood out clearly against the glittery, sparkly ‘feel great!’ wave of stationery (along with obligatory fluffy stuffed unicorns and Jelly Cat creatures).
The message on the card was simple, clear and direct. I couldn’t stop looking at it. Or thinking about it. I felt genuinely confused and excited (feelings which I definitely had not anticipated when walking through the doors of my post office on the hill). The postcard said:
“Worry is a misuse of your imagination”
There it was. Just seven words which had stopped me in my tracks. I found myself thinking “You mean there is a choice when it comes to worrying? How did I not know this? Is it true or is it a trick?.”
Had I really just been ‘misusing’ my imagination for the past 38 years? I considered myself to be an expert worrier, my life had been spent nourishing niggles into considerable concerns, then fuelling them into full blown walloping worries resulting in anxiety storms far more frightening than any ‘Beast from the East’.
Yet, this one unassuming postcard shook the foundations of my worrying world.
I had to investigate and fell into another universe full of marvellous new words such as ‘mindfulness’, ‘metacognitive’, and, my favourite, ‘neuro-linguistic programming’ (or NLP for short).
I couldn’t just read about this, I had to try it out for myself. I had never considered that worrying was anything but a necessary part of being alive. I worry therefore I am. Surely we wouldn’t exist without worrying? Yet here were people (rather awesome ones) talking about being able to change something called ‘mindsets’ to reduce worry, anxiety and general unhappiness.
Here began my journey.
I became friends with (well, not exactly ‘friends’ but I read their books, followed them on social media, even heard them speak in person once or twice!) Ruby Wax, Professor Carol Dweck, Matt Haig, Rohan Gunatillake, Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, and Steven Fry (I DID meet him in person and touched his velvet jacket when he called me ‘a gorgeous person’, such a charming man). I learnt about new ideas such as fixed and flexible mindsets, the power of self-care, and how positivity and kindness empowers us to feel happier now. Right here, in the present. Not at some future point when we are deemed to ‘have got all’ – career, family, supremely gorgeous cars, bodies or both. To be happy right now, whether you are in your glad rags or in your pj’s, just by being aware of the present.
By falling into the mindfulness universe, with its planets of thinking differently, challenging negative beliefs, and re-framing ideas, I began to learn how to worry less. Nearly a decade on I am still a traveller. Yet a much improved and happier one.
Dec 2018 Caroline Jacobs