Self help experts (like myself) all offer a plethora of tools that people can use to help themselves. Each one claims that their tool is “the end all be all”. But the truth is, that is the same as claiming that a hammer is “the end all be all”. Sometimes a hammer isn’t the tool you need. Sometimes a screwdriver is the tool you need. The key to living a successful life is to personalize your toolbox. We are meant to fill our toolbox with the individual tools that we have collected, which work for us personally. We are afraid to personalize our toolbox because we are afraid of using the wrong tool for the situation that we find ourselves in. We’re afraid of trying new tools because we trust other people more than we trust ourselves. We trust them, instead of ourselves when they say that one tool will work for something and another wont. There are so many spiritual teachers and self help guides that teach that tool you need when you are suffering, is the tool of “present moment awareness”. But the truth is, that is not the only tool that works for suffering. And there are some tools that can be better for certain kinds of suffering, such as anxiety and worry.
If we suffer from anxiety or worry, we most likely suffer from the lack of a basic human need; the human need called certainty. Certainty means the inner knowing that we have the power to avoid pain and gain pleasure. Most people, who suffer from anxiety, feel as if they have no control over whether they suffer or whether they feel pleasure. Their bodies register a feeling of dread relative to the future because of it. They anticipate suffering in the future.
Bringing the attention of someone who is anxious or worried into the present moment can work wonders for some. But it can be useless for others. For some, it works much better to change the way they are focusing towards the future. It is a very unconventional spiritual tool to intentionally spend time focusing on the future. But for some people, it can make all the difference in the world. This is especially true if you suffer from morning anxiety (which so many people do).
Because of my PTSD, I have struggled with anxiety for many years. So, I have put a lot of time and effort into developing tools specifically for anxiety. If you dread the future because you lack a sense of certainty (and thus suffer from anxiety or worry), one of the best tools to use is a tool called “Things To Look Forward To”. I want to offer this tool to you today because I was using it myself and thought "Hey... maybe other people who suffer from anxiety don't know about this yet". This tool is also good for reducing suicidal feelings. Using this tool is very simple, every day, simply set aside time to write a list of things to look forward to about the next day. If you like, you can include things on this list of things to look forward to about the near future as well. This will change the sense of dread into a sense of anticipation. It gets your energy moving forward in life. Do you remember how it used to feel on Christmas Eve as a child? If you use this tool regularly enough, it is common for every day to start feeling like this. This is not escapism. This is intentionally creating your life.
The “Things To Look Forward To” tool is especially beneficial when you do it before you go to sleep at night. Before you fall asleep, write a list of things to look forward to (things you will enjoy experiencing) about the next day. If you cannot find something to look forward to about the next day, it is time to change your life. Create things to look forward to. This is the reason humans invented holidays! Even though people use holidays to give themselves just enough relief to keep the rest of their lives miserable and unfulfilled, holidays are not in and of themselves bad. Holidays can provide just enough anticipatory excitement needed to raise your vibration. In a perfect world though, people would treat every day like a holiday. People would design their lives so that they had things to look forward to about each on coming day.
Here is an example of a list of “Things To Look Forward To”
- Drinking hot tea when I first wake up before the sun comes up
- Hearing my cat purr and touching his soft fur
- Writing a new blog entry
- Watching a romantic comedy
- Going to my business lunch with my marketing director and hearing great new ideas about how to expand the business
- Depositing money I made in the bank
- Shopping for a new coffee table
- Spending time in the hot tub
- Watching my son’s face as I read him books
- Taking the dogs on a walk and skipping rocks in the water
- Making a spelt crust rhubarb pie
- Playing board games with my friends
- Listening to my new songs on Pandora
- Starting a new painting
- Laying underneath my warm blankets before I go to sleep
- Going to the mailbox to see what came in the mail
- Going to see my somatic body work therapist
- Putting on my makeup in a new way
- Feeding the fish and watching them contentedly swim after the food
- Watching the number of “likes” increase on my face book posts after I post something.
The things you put on this list do not have to be big things. They can be small things to look forward to. Just make sure that anything you put down on this list, you are genuinely looking forward to. If you can’t find anything that you’re looking forward to already, ask yourself what experience you would most enjoy to have, and plan that experience for the next day. You will find that your mood will increase, you will want to experience life and pretty soon, there will be nothing to dread. Instead, you will be well along the way to creating within yourself, a sense of certainty.