Mindful Mastery: From Worries to Wins
Mindful Mastery: From Worries to Wins

Mindful Mastery: From Worries to Wins

A worry is a thought signaling an unmet need. Navigating the fine line between worry and planning is a challenge many of us face, particularly during times of grief and uncertainty. Our worries, often rooted in past experiences or fear of the unknown, can lead to overwhelming rumination if left unchecked. So today we’re exploring the concept of Thought Mindfulness, a practice that encourages present-mindedness and intentional planning by validating and observing our thoughts without judgment, ultimately fostering a sense of calm and resilience.

There’s a bridge between worry and planning that we deserve to spend some more time with, though. I’ll get to that in a minute. When we are in a state of worry, moving away from the rumination and overthinking patterns leads us into overwhelm and frustration (sometimes even despair). Our worries are morally neutral thoughts, often stemming from a past experience or a lack of information about the future. Uncertainty is a scary prospect and for grievers, it’s a constant.

This is where Thought Mindfulness comes into play. A thought mindfulness practice must be developed before we rush to build a plan of action. This practice allows us to keep our window of tolerance more open and to build a plan of action from a place of rest and intention.

In a time when our brain feels relatively settled and calm, our thoughts are safe enough to remain in the present. A present-minded person doesn’t need to have all the answers about what will happen, but can rest in the moment with confidence that hope exists, despite impending uncertainty. The present-minded person is one with an open window of tolerance, allowing each thought to receive its due time and then be allowed to pass through without taking root. Our intention takes shape, and a plan is formed.

However, it is difficult to practice thought mindfulness in the moment of overwhelm unless we’ve established that habit ahead of time – meaning, we have worked on thought mindfulness when the waters seem steady. That does mean leaning into discomfort when life is comfortable enough to do so, but this is okay. This is the work. This is the beauty of giving yourself space to lean toward yourself and your difficulties with compassion and gentle movement, trusting clarity and comfortability with uncertainty to surface. The bridge between worrying about the future and creating a plan for the future is developing a nervous system capable of thought mindfulness when our thoughts are running amok.

Before we jump into the work of thought mindfulness, take a moment to consider any thoughts that seem difficult and simply validate those concerns. Allow yourself to see them as moments of honesty – as a sign that something is not quite right within, and that’s expected and reasonable, considering all we’ve been through.

Validating the thoughts allows you to drop self-judgment and build resilience internally. The next time discomfort arises, if your first thought is negative toward yourself, this practice will quicken your response to hold space for the thought and then release it with lovingkindness toward the part of you that remains uncomfortable.

As you know by now, discomfort is the place of growth and integration. In the places we are willing to stretch, we will become less breakable. That’s why thought mindfulness is such a powerful tool in our grief work – where grief can make us feel broken, thought mindfulness can remind us to remain soft and present with the tender pieces of our hearts.

When you feel that you’ve validated your uncomfortable thoughts the best you can, we can move into the practice itself. For this exercise, it works best if you can be in a still place, not driving or doing another activity. It is the nature of thoughts to pop up and pass by, so we want to honor each one that arises in this time in order to better understand what we need.

Sometimes a thought might stay for a split-second – at other times, it might seem as if our thoughts are firmly and permanently planted in our mind. But the more we practice simply observing our thoughts, the less power they begin to have over us. We can learn to manage our thoughts and the impact because we start to see them as they are – thoughts popping in and passing away – rather than as facts, or truths, or even as stories we need to continue reading and become involved with.

So to begin, if you haven’t already found a thought to consider, bring to mind a situation that you’re finding a bit challenging. Maybe it’s a conflict at work with a coworker, or perhaps a friendship is a bit on the rocks. Choose a situation that isn’t too distressing for this exercise; at most, choose a situation that is a 3 out of 10 on the scale of distress.

Notice what thoughts are coming up for you around this situation. Now as you notice, simply watch where your mind goes. You may want to close your eyes for this and limit any additional input from impacting your thoughts. And more than anything – take your time. You can even press pause on this conversation and return when you feel ready. There’s no rush; just stay with yourself and with the thoughts as they move through. It can be helpful to visualize each thought as a cloud blocking a blue sky and as you witness the thought, the cloud moves out of sight.

Allow each thought to remain for a time – rational or otherwise – and honor that your nervous system is going through something. These thoughts are not silly or stupid. They’re honest expressions and as such, they deserve to be respected and treated the same way you’d treat your younger self in a moment of fear or concern.

As grievers, we can begin to admit a fear of the unknown and uncertainty of the future because it feels rational, but rarely can we recognize the fear of our own thoughts and emotions. One of the most common questions I hear is “When will I stop crying?” and in my experience, part of the answer depends on how often you allow yourself to cry in the first place. Becoming comfortable with a practice of discomfort – in thoughts and emotions – allows us to experience more peace with each new interaction with ourselves.

When we consider our thoughts without trying to change them, we remember they are not facts – just ideas that may or may not be helpful in the moment. The less we try to keep hold of them or try to resist them, the easier they will pass on their own without damaging our sense of self worth.

In the coming week, try to find moments to observe the thoughts in your mind and do your best to observe them without judgement. Compassionate curiosity is the name of this game – the more curious we can remain about where thoughts begin, the more intentionally we can work with the source and make a plan for our continued healing.

Thank you for listening to episode 142 of Restorative Grief. Let this be an invitation for you to carve out moments of stillness in your life, allowing yourself the space to gently explore your thoughts with compassion and without judgment. Identify one specific need that frequently triggers worry for you—whether it’s related to work, relationships, or personal growth—and transform this worry into a tangible plan. By embracing Thought Mindfulness, you empower yourself to navigate life’s uncertainties with resilience, turning your concerns into opportunities for intentional, positive action.

If this is your first time listening to the podcast, thank you for taking the risk on a new thing and on yourself! Within you is all you need to begin the work of realignment and restoration. Please remember to subscribe to the podcast and leave a five star review so other grievers can find this work and support themselves. Speaking of support, if you like what you heard and want to hear more, join our Patreon at the link in the show notes for early episode releases and more. The work couldn’t continue without you!

And as always, before we go, one last thing. Please remember, the only solution for grief is to do the work of grieving. Thank you for listening. I’ll see you next week.

Links + resources from this episodes: