The more you try to run away from a nagging thought or fear, the harder it is to escape it.
The more effort we put into forcing out of mind an uncomfortable thought or fear, the more we focus on it. The more we focus on it, the more we reinforce it and lodge it deeper in our mind. It’s the old “try not to think of a pink elephant right now” and the whole class suddenly imagines a variety of pink elephants promptly inhabiting the room.
Meditation is an attainable “feel good” practice.
We did a few meditation exercises in the class. Meditation for our purposes means sitting comfortably in a chair, or standing, or even slowly walking, while breathing normally and focusing on the breath. Stay calm and focus on how the chest and abdomen distend to receive the nourishing air that brings oxygen to the heart, brain…to the whole body. Breathing in and out, stay with it. Because our minds are used to being busy, the tendency will be to jump from thought to thought. But no matter where your mind goes by itself, like an unruly puppy, you bring it back to focus on the breath—a single, simple focus point. As with a beloved puppy, be gentle and kind (nonjudgmental) in bringing the focus back to the breath. Thoughts will occur; they do in everyone.
This is a simple step, a humble beginning. If this works for you, you will likely take further steps in this practice.
Using my IPad, I drew a few diagrams on this subject.
The first one represents an unruly, untrained mind, one that is very busy worrying about everything, can't focus on anything in particular and is completely overwhelmed by the chaos it creates for itself.
The second diagram represents a trained mind, used to sort out worries, prioritize them and deal with worrisome thoughts without panic. It holds many different thoughts, many more than an unruly mind, because it has a clear, uncluttered focus. It is a much calmer mind, too. Much more balanced and much less overwhelmed. Formal meditation is one way to achieve this clarity. But not the only one.
The third image is a picture I found on fotolia.com. It is a good visual metaphor for an enlightened mind, able to go beyond the obvious, so powerful that it can hold the entire world in it. Some say that through years of diligent practice of meditation, one's mind could get to this level.
Here are some helpful references if you would like to explore this subject:
Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Mindfulness Solution Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems: book and website by Ronald Siegel
Explore the work of Jon Kabat Zinn