Making Peace With Uncertainty
I’ve often heard the saying Change is the only constant. If that is true, that means we are all surrounded by uncertainty all the time. And how often do you hear someone say “Oh! I just love when things are uncertain! There’s a specific type of peace I find there.” I’m sure those people are out there, but most of us can agree that uncertainty brings with it an amount of discomfort.
So what do we do with that? As with everything, there is no one right answer. There will not even be one right answer per person. How to approach that will depend on the circumstances and what the uncertainty is bringing up for each person in each moment.
As a mindfulness teacher, I’d like to offer you a look at uncertainty through a mindfulness lens. The presence of uncertainty in life is a given. We will all be presented with it in some way shape or form- some more often and some more extreme than others. However, it’s certain to appear for us all. So why not begin to fill a toolbox with tools to help you be resilient and flourish during times of personal uncertainty? After all, life is a tapestry of circumstances and responses to those circumstances.
I will add two tools to your toolbox today. I invite you to explore them, consider them, take what speaks to you, and leave the rest!
As a naturally curious person, I’ve learned over time that there is power in asking intentional and well crafted questions. In response to uncertainty, two of those being: What if everything works out? and What if this ends up even better than I expected?
I invite you to try one of those on as a reframe the next time you find yourself worrying over something in life that is presenting uncertainty. Anytime your mind wanders to a specific worry, switch your thoughts to “What if everything works out? What if this ends up even better than I expected?” and see if that helps to soothe your nervous system, even just a bit.
The gift of the question is that you are giving yourself permission to meet yourself where you are in that uncertainty. Over time, as you ease into comfort with it, you may feel able to shift those to more absolute statements like “Things are alway working out for me,” or “I know there’s a gift in this challenging moment”.
Depending on the situation, this may all seem to be a far reach. If that’s the case, I invite you to consider the following idea….
2. The Power of Attention
In my mindfulness courses we learn about the power of our attention. What we put our focus on can impact many things, including how our nervous system behaves throughout our daily life. Ruminating on things that are uncertain can bring with it a great deal of stress and worry, which throws your nervous system into a state of fight, flight, or freeze.
To counterbalance that, you can activate the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that is responsible for problem solving and rational thought. This can be done in many ways, one being by listing things you are grateful for.
That’s right! Something as simple as listing things you are grateful for can activate your rest and digest response by shifting your brain out of fight or flight mode. As you become more and more present by thinking of what you are grateful for in your now moment, you may notice that your heart rate slows, your thoughts settle, and you feel an overall sense of calm.
3 Ways to cultivate a gratitude practice:
✨Turn positive facts into positive experiences- be on the lookout for delights in your day. When they appear, allow yourself to pause and laugh, note them out loud, share them with someone closeby, or simply smile and feel the feelings of gratitude and joy.
✨Journal- every night before bed, or every morning when you wake up, take a few moments to list things you are grateful for in your day. You may even start to notice that you are collecting moments throughout your days since you know you are going to write them down later.
✨ABCs of gratitude- instead of counting sheep or going through your to-do list in your head as you drift off to sleep, try going through the alphabet and listing things you are grateful for in your life that start with each letter. You can keep it general, or get super specific (ie- things I’m grateful for about my family, or about my job). You’ll find that it’s a lovely feeling to drift off to sleep thinking about things you like in your life.
The trick to any of this is practice! Just as you are able to build muscles in your physical body through exercise, you can build your mindfulness muscles through practice. The more often you do something, the stronger the neural pathways become in your brain, turning your practices into habits of thought.
Interested in more?
Check out this book: Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion, by Pema Chodron
Want support in cultivating a mindfulness practice?