Have you ever had an afternoon free, or even an hour you could be resting or doing something you enjoy, only to wither it away ruminating past disappointments, worry about the future, or replaying embarrassing moments or awkward conversations over and over.
I took the advice of the late poet and philosopher John O’Donohue. In an interview with Krista Tippett, he suggested a simple thought exercise that involved tracking your most common thoughts and devising a new set.
For the first week of the experiment, I noted and catalogued my thoughts in the notes section of my iPhone. By day seven, the themes were clear—worrying about the future; worrying about what other people think; beating myself up for perceived flaws; comparing myself to others; negatively internalising other people’s actions or words; and ruminating on the past.
What was most startling when reflecting on this list was that each worrying thought was outside of my control. What people think of me, the future, and what other people do is not something I can change by mulling over it. For the most part, I can’t control what happens in my life, but I can control how I think about it.
In the second week, I developed an alternative thought to each on my list.
— Madeleine Dore