They always show up. At the most inopportune time, they come knocking. Shamelessly intruding even while I attempt closing my eyes in sleep. Interrupting peaceful moments with ideas of impending doom. The relentless barrage of “what ifs” pummels my once quiet mind with worst case scenarios veiled in a simple question, “What if…?” Somehow the answer to that question never surfaces a positive answer. But, a recent mindfulness training suggested a new approach to an endless cycle of worry. Embracing the possibility within the “what ifs” reframes an otherwise negative exercise into a hope-filled victory dance.
Welcome to Mindfulness Monday! Where we learn some easy ways to be more present “in the moment” at our jobs, in our homes, with our families and friends. Learning to recognize God and what He has for us in each divine moment He offers. We acknowledge the belief that God is with us always. We confess His presence is available to us, lifting our spirit and helping us with power and grace. Learning to “be still”, so we can hear His voice and view ourselves, others and our surroundings through His eyes.
why all the what ifs?
Among the remarkable functions of the human brain, it vigilantly seeks to protect us from both physical and emotional harm. Which often results in a bad case of the “what ifs”.
“What if my test results show a chronic illness?
“What if I can’t pay my bills?
“What if something goes wrong with ______?”
“What if I lose my job?”
“What if more bad news is coming?”
“What if I’m not good enough?
The brain excels at finding potential problems, which provides us with a good mechanism for planning effectively. But it has a dark side. Too much dwellng on possible negative outcomes pushes us into the realm of anxiety and panic attacks.
Remembering “what if quandries” simply represent thoughts generated by a cautious brain, offers us opportunity for curious exploration, rather than resigned acceptance or fortune-telling.
what if we gain some perspective?
We all know the uncomfortable feeling of grappling with a “what if” question, especially when it spawns more of the same. The stifling negativity and anxiety often keep us shackled to a never ending cycle of doom.
“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”
Michael de Montaigne
Montaigne’s famous quote always brings a smile to my face, but now a study done in 2005 by Robert Leahy, PhD at Cornell University proves him right. Dr. Leahy had participants write down all of their worries for a two week period.
After one month the results showed 85% of the recorded worries never happened.
Out of the remaining 15%, over 80% of the participants admitted positive outcomes in spite of the worry coming to fruition.
Leaving a whopping 3% of things not going as planned or having no real value to their life.
Embracing possibility within the “what ifs” begins with a perspective change. Once we realize the brain problem solves through “what ifs”, we can also forgo a ride on the negativity express.
embracing possibility through reframing
Many mindfulness exercises help tame anxious thoughts, compulsive negativity, and distracted living. Today I share another mindfulness exercise called “reframing” which works especially well in “what if” scenarios.
When lost in an endless stream of “what if” questions, remember the importance of coming back to the present moment. Incorporate an intentional pause, release your thoughts, and breathe slowly and deeply. Keep your exhale twice as long as your inhale; focus on the rhythm of your breathing.
Turn your attention to noises you hear around you now, and any tenseness in your body. With each breath, relax your body and focus on your present surroundings. Once you feel relaxed, slip into a quiet prayer asking God to quiet your mind and help you reframe your worries through the exercises below.
reframing impossibilities into possibilities
For this exercise simply reframe the negative “what if” question into a positive “what if” question. Notice how your creative thoughts multiply.
“What if I fail at _______?” “What if I succeed at ________?”
“What if no one wants to hear what I have to say?” “What if what I have to say is exactly what someone is longing to hear?”
Next, reframe the negative “what if” with a positive outcome investment in your personal growth despite an initial appearance of negativity.
“What if ________ will be difficult to accomplish?” “If _________ is difficult to accomplish, I will learn many things in the process.”
“What if ________ requires more time than I expected?” “If ____ requires more time than I expected, I will learn perseverance.”
Instead of camping on the gloomy negative predictor, reframing helps you see hidden possibilities for serving others, personal growth and trusting God. You begin reprogramming defeating negativity with creative problem solving.
put your what ifs to work
Looking for ways of putting your “what ifs” to work for you, moves you towards embracing possibility within the “what ifs”. Assigning an action step to your “what if” question provides the best way of stopping an endless game of unproductive “uncertainty”.
For this exercise, bring your focus to what you can control about your “what if”. Choose an action step to help avoid the negative outcome you fear.
“What if I can’t pay my bills on time?” What one thing can you do right now, putting you in the best position for paying your bills on time?
“What if my car breaks down on our trip?” Schedule an appointment with a mechanic to go over your car before the trip.
Putting your “what ifs” to work, empowers you to take control over the things you fear may happen.
what if to even if
Reframing your “what ifs” to “even ifs” shifts your mindset from fear to faith. Instead of playing the victim to fear, you commit your “what ifs” to God’s sovereign hand of provision.
For this exercise, consider what your played out “what if” looks like in God’s hand.
“What if my test results show cancer?” “Even if my test results show cancer, God promised never to leave me; He will still provide everything I need. (Hebrews 13:5-6)
“What if my current suffering becomes more than I can bear?” “Even if my current suffering becomes more than I can bear, God is a refuge and comforts the broken-hearted.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
embracing possibility within the what ifs
Bringing awareness to the tyranny of endless “what if” questions positions you to reframe the negative seeking “what if” with the truth of possibilities and deeper trust in God’s sovereignty.
By interrupting the gloom predicting “what if”, you open your mind to creative, positive problem solving, while taking control of your thoughts.
Ultimately, facing possible unpleasant outcomes through a lens of faith, your “what if” becomes an “even if” in the hands of a God who redeems everything for your good and his glory.
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All content is copyrighted and the intellectual property of Donna M. Bucher, Serenity in Suffering 2020.