When people are very caught up in anxious thoughts, they’re “top-heavy,” so to speak. The constant mental activity they’re engaged in has caused an imbalance in which all of their focus is on their mental anxieties. In my experience, one of the fastest ways to move out of this anxious mental haze is to begin to move your attention from your head to your heart. With practice, if you simply make a deliberate shift of attention to your heart, you’ll find that the anxious thoughts dissipate and the mental fog starts to clear.
 
Do this by practicing the art of gratitude.
 
 
I’m sure you’ve heard people speak about the art of gratitude and the benefits it can bring to you. It’s been scientifically proven that regular mental practice of gratitude can dramatically change your body’s chemistry, giving way to a more peaceful body and mind.
 
The Heart Math Institute (www.heartmath.org) has fifteen years of scientific research proving that a simple tool like the art of gratitude can dramatically reduce stress and improve performance for individuals and organizations. Many Fortune 500 companies are starting to use this technique to reduce work-related stress.
 
I’m going to outline a gratitude exercise in a very straightforward manner so that you can start practicing right now. When you practice this technique, you’ll feel a greater sense of perspective on the anxiety that’s been troubling you. This activation of your heart’s emotion will lift the heavy-fog sensation that anxious thoughts create. This is a very simple technique, but it’s really powerful. You should notice a difference within minutes.
 
Are you ready? Here’s the technique:
 
1.     Close your eyes and move your attention to your heart area. Imagine a feeling of warmth emanating from the center of your chest. Place your right hand there. If you’re around people or driving, etc., simply imagine your right hand resting on your heart area (and don’t close your eyes if you’re driving!). Imagine this area glowing warmly, and stay with that image for thirty to sixty seconds.
 
2.     Now, begin to focus on something in your life for which you feel a genuine sense of appreciation. This can be one or more things that you really appreciate having in your life (e.g., family, health, friends, work, your home).
 
3.     It’s important to focus on things that spark a real sense of gratitude and appreciation. If you really appreciate the thing you’re thinking about, you’ll immediately feel a response—possibly a light, warm sensation in your heart area or an involuntary smile. You may even feel this right now as you think about all the great things you have in your life. It doesn’t really matter what you think about, as long as it evokes this feeling of warm appreciation from your heart area. Everyone has something for which they can be grateful. (Remember, the cemetery is full of people who would love to have your problems!)
 
4.     Don’t worry if you think of your partner or family and don’t feel this. Some days it will be people close to you who spark the heart feeling, and other days it may just be gratitude for the parking space you found or the hand of cards you were dealt while playing poker the previous night! It depends on the mood you’re in, so remember—it’s only the feeling that you’re after. The feeling is unmistakable; it’s a positive change in your emotional state. It’s really best to do this alone, because you want to stay with this feeling for as long as you like.
 
5.     When you feel you’ve taken it as far as you can, open your eyes.
 
There’s no time frame on this. It can take a minute to half an hour. Again, it’s about establishing a heart-mind connection. Incorporate this exercise into your daily routine:
 
·         Do it first thing in the morning to start the day on the right note.
·         Do it when you’re stuck in traffic.
·         Do it sitting at your desk.
·         Do it before you go to sleep at night.
 
Practice it again and again. Just like a muscle, your heart will get more accustomed to this state, and you’ll be able to switch into it at a moment’s notice. This is such a simple way to really feel more grounded and to lift the fog of anxious thoughts you may experience.
 
You can also use this exercise in the middle of any stressful situation, and you’ll be surprised at the outcome in terms of your own stress levels and the change in reaction of others around you. For example, if you feel an outburst of anger, you can quickly turn around the explosive situation by doing a split-second version of this exercise.
 
Try it out, be creative with it, and make it your own daily ritual.
 

It’s my experience that most people don’t have the patience or time to make major lifestyle changes. By using this one exercise, you can very easily make a dramatic improvement to your life. The simplest exercises are often the most effective, and this is one of those gems. Don’t pass it up.

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