It’s a challenge to find clarity when we feel so stuck in the sensation of worry. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of things to do instead of worrying; I know how impossible it can seem to free yourself from the grasp of worry when you’re smack dab in the middle of it. I also know that we DO have options.
What confuses us, or even makes us laugh, stops worry in its tracks and distracts us long enough to make another decision.
We all know what worry feels like.
It’s so important to understand where an anxious sensation is coming from, how the negative pattern started, and what triggered the painful story that’s replaying in our head. While we know how fruitful the process of self-reflection can be, it might not be the best idea to analyze what’s going on from the mindset that got us here.
This is a good time to reference a quote commonly attributed to Albert Einstein (though I’m not 100% sure if he actually said this): “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Analyzing our worry while we’re still deeply involved with it can make us feel even worse. I’ve found that what’s really crucial to finding solutions is to first create space between one thought and the next. That’s what this list is for: making space.Worry loses ground when we interrupt its patterns. Click To Tweet
The list below is full of healthy distractions that are capable of interrupting thought patterns long enough so that we have the space to make a decision with greater clarity. (Making decisions from a cluttered headspace has never worked well for me.)
Pressing “pause” on the train of negativity allows something new to enter: our own conscious presence.
The distraction could be confusion, humor, or physical activity, but the common goal is to create space where we can access insight and solutions otherwise cut off from us. Maybe we decide to stick with worry, but at least we have a conscious say in what’s next.
It’s highly likely that you’re not going to feel drawn to all of these suggestions, but that’s not the point. The point is to support your quest for the “pause” button, to give you an accessible way out of the internal drama.
Choose the ideas that make sense for your interests and lifestyle, and if nothing suits you here, let this be a time to ponder other healthy distractions. Best-case scenario: You find a way back to peace. Worst-case scenario: You start thinking of how to get back to peace. Not too bad, right?
Thinking about peace beats thinking about worry.
In honor of the peace that I believe is your inherent nature, here are some things to do instead of worrying about what could very well be an illusion.
38 Practical Things to Do Instead of Worrying
1. Color a coloring page.
2. Listen to Ted Talks on anxiety, happiness, or any subject you’re interested in.
3. Go for a walk (or run, or hike, or roll out a yoga mat) in nature.
4. Try a new activity. Search for exercise classes at your local gym or studio. Take horseback riding lessons. Ask a friend to join in on one of their hobbies.
5. Watch a movie.
6. Do some gentle stretches. I enjoy listening to music while I’m stretching (sometimes Trevor Hall, sometimes Tom Petty, sometimes Enya, depending on my specific mood).
7. Listen to a guided meditation or relaxation recording.
8. Read a magazine. Read the story (or stories) inside, if there are any.It's normal to worry, but worry is not your truth. Click To Tweet
9. Take pictures of nature; send to a loved one and share the beauty.
10. Write something that rhymes.
11. Say or do something totally unlike what you usually think, say, or do. This Ted Talk, at 10:00, sheds light on how doing something unusual (like singing the Danish national anthem) can break us out of the loop we’re in.
12. Listen to an audio book.
13. Read a book (I find that both self-help and adventure books help, but it depends on the particular situation I’m in).
14. Take a nap.
15. Write a thank you note to the universe, in gratitude for what you’re now receiving help with.
16. Write a love letter, gratitude letter, or forgiveness letter (actually sending it is optional). Mail a postcard to someone to let them know you’re thinking of them, or send an e-card.Hope has more potential to heal our problems than worry ever will. Click To Tweet
17. Cook, bake, or make something you’ve never made before.
18. Pull out a note or twenty from your happiness jar.
19. Call a loved one and focus on listening to them with compassion and presence. Ask them about what’s going on in their lives. Take turns talking about what inspires you.
20. Have one or a group of your loved ones over for brunch, tea, dinner, dessert, a movie, a game, or any other healthy distraction.
21. Watch a nature/space documentary.
22. Bag unused or old items for donation.
23. Play a game: board game, card game, puzzle, crossword puzzle, sudoku, video game, etc.
24. Hang out with animals. Pet your cat, take your (or someone else’s) dog for a walk, go to a petting zoo, or watch fish in an aquarium.
25. Redecorate a room or corner of the room, or reorganize one section of your digital life.
27. Look out the window and look at everything you see for at least 5 seconds.
28. Go for a scenic drive, with no destination in mind.
29. Participate in any activity that challenges your strengths just enough so that you’re fully engaged, confident in your abilities, getting feedback on your performance, and working toward a goal. (These are called flow activities.)
30. Make a collage, scrapbook, or vision board for yourself or someone else.Healthy distractions can guide us to higher ground, where we see more clearly. Click To Tweet
31. Choose a D.I.Y. project to work on. Whatever you’re interested in (woodworking, sewing, painting, home decor, aromatherapy) try typing that along with “DIY” or “DIY project” into Pinterest for ideas.
32. Try to pick out shapes in the clouds.
33. Search for positive affirmations online to read, write, and/or draw. This one about trusting that something good is coming might help.
35. Go somewhere you’ve never been. You don’t need to get on a plane to get there, either; this new place might be close enough to travel to by car or foot.
36. Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know (e.g. the barista, waiter, plumber, contractor, librarian) and ask them something about their lives.
37. Learn something new. Pick a subject you’re interested in, and learn three new things about that subject. Your time is better spent learning than worrying it away.
38. Write! I can’t express in words how helpful it is to write. These journaling prompts for stress might help. Write a really short story (just write whatever random thoughts/plots come to mind). Make a to-do list or a STOP doing list. Meditation followed by stream of consciousness writing (where you just write without thinking and get it all out) is also pretty liberating.
What’ll you do instead of worrying today?
Tell me in the comments. I read every single one, and I’d love to know!
Stay curious. Stay grateful. Stay hopeful. Stay spacious. Your power lies in your presence.