If you struggle with anxiety, learning how to think good thoughts may seem an elusive pursuit. Happily, I recently found a practical four step guide for rehabilitating those unruly thoughts. And it works!
The technique is easy to recall using the acronym APPLE:
- Pull back,
- Let go, and
This sequence for navigating negative thoughts is simple and effective when used as a compliment to God’s wisdom on the subject. Read on!
HOW TO THINK GOOD THOUGHTS — TOLERATE UNCERTAINTY
How can you?
The vagueness of the unknown feeds your anxiety. Of course, if you’re like me, you try to lessen the uncertainty by worrying about the possible incident. You tell yourself that you’re just “being responsible” – preparing yourself mentally for any and every future crisis.
There’s some truth to this. Reasonable foresight and planning are wise. And so you convince yourself that taking this to the extreme is necessary. You worry.
The toll on your mental health is substantial: worry is debilitating, paralyzing and robs you of life in the present moment.
Anxiety causes that tight feeling in your chest.
You plan, prepare, and scour the internet for ways to fix problems that haven’t yet happened.
Is there any way you could ever tolerate, dare I say even embrace, uncertainty?
HOW TO THINK GOOD THOUGHTS — YES AND AMEN!
To God, Everything is Known
God provides the context, dear reader. Things may be uncertain to you, but with God, everything is known. Not only is He certain of what’s coming, He is in control of it.
This doesn’t mean that He causes everything to happen. Rather, it means that whatever does happen is within His control.
God instigates some of it; He permits some of it. You and I won’t understand why He allows everything that He does, but we do know that He is working everything for good, in the grand scheme of eternity.
God’s Love for You is Certain
Do you know that God loves you?
Can you actually believe it?
Do you trust that He knows you even better than you know yourself?
Remember that emotions and thoughts are not facts. You might not feel like God loves you when the hardships come, but you can know that He is working all things for your good and His glory.
HOW TO THINK GOOD THOUGHTS — PHYSIOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY
Now you’ve got the context, and your mind has embraced the truth. Then why do you still have problems with anxiety? The reasons are both physiological and spiritual.
- Physiologically, you may be more susceptible to anxious thoughts. It’s a facet of your personality. On the upswing, we who struggle with anxiety often possess the more positive qualities of compassion, sensitivity, and responsibility. Some people have a more relaxed attitude towards life and just “take things as they come” (a temperament which manifests its own variety of strengths and weaknesses). By contrast, our vigilance (when healthy and moderate) aids with essential life skills such as organization and planning.
- But habitual worry takes this too far, causing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bondage. The mere occurance of that worrisome thought isn’t, in itself, sinful. It’s when you start to entertain the thought, to meditate upon it, that it becomes sin. Spiritually speaking and in God’s eyes, treading into the territory of unabated anxiety raises the red flag of unbelief. Thankfully, He offers us forgiveness, grace, and power to overcome.
FIVE STEPS TO EASE ANXIETY
Several of my blog posts offer help with the spiritual aspects of victory over worry.
However, in this post I want to share some practical tools to add to your arsenal in the fight against negative thoughts.
The APPLE steps (developed by Carol Vivyan) will help you recognize, confront and dissipate anxious thoughts:
- Acknowledge. Simply notice and acknowledge the uncertainty, the cause of your anxiety, as it comes to mind.
- Pause. Don’t react as you normally do. Pause. Wait. Breathe.
- Pull back. Take a step back, mentally. Remind yourself of the truth – both spiritual (God’s love, provision and sovereignty) and pragmatic (the apparent need for certainty is neither helpful nor necessary).
- Let go. Release your anxious thoughts and desires for certainty. Let them go. Tell yourself these are only thoughts. Don’t believe everything you think! Thoughts are not statements or facts. These thoughts will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. Imagine them drifting away like clouds across a windy sky.
- Explore. Turn your attention mindfully towards your physical surroundings. Welcome the immediate sensory experiences of touch, taste, sight, sound and smell –
- Feel the temperature of the air as it enters your nostrils, and the weight of your body against the floor or your chair.
- Note the colors you see and the shapes of the objects around you.
- Continue drawing long inhales (through the nose and into the belly) and releasing even longer exhales.
- Pay attention to any scents lingering in the air.
- Notice what sounds you hear.
- To round out your experience of the five senses, go ahead and eat something really yummy. 🙂
Finally, shift your focus to something else. Think about what you need to do next, what you were doing before the worry came, or fully engage in doing something else entirely.
FINISHING WITH GOOD THOUGHTS
God is good, and so are His thoughts towards you. He is worthy of your trust. Embracing dependency upon Jesus – fully trusting Him – this is where freedom and peace are found. I have tasted, and I know it to be true. I wish the same for you, in your noble struggle to think thoughts that are true and good.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5,6
I welcome you thoughts and comments below. Please share, and I will always respond. Be blessed! — Ali 🙂