How to stop feeling bad, sad, mad or frightened

Di Westaway | Chief Adventure Chick | Wild Women On Top | Life Changing Adventures

My mum gave me a priceless present. She taught me to control my thoughts. From a young age I learned I could change my thoughts. Swap one for another. This meant I was responsible for my thoughts. I learned to use my thoughts to help get what I wanted and to heal my mind and body. 

I know. Sounds a bit radical.

But it actually works. 

This skill helped me believe I could achieve anything. I became a national gymnastics champion at 16. Not because I was the strongest, the springiest or the most flexible. But because I believed I could do it.

Science explains why changing our thoughts can help and heal. Buddha says “we become what we think.” But it’s actually really hard to control the demons inside your head, to cope with self-doubt, fear of not being loved, fear of not being enough and fear of failure. 

But fearlessness comes from facing fear frequently. Whenever you feel sad, bad, mad or frightened, you have an opportunity to change your mind. 

It’s hard to do. It’s tough accepting responsibility for your body, your mind, your health. And it’s really hard to control your emotions. I often fail. It’s a moment by moment, hourly, daily, weekly personal mind mega challenge. But I still try, every day.

You swap one thought with another. If you have a negative thought, one that sucks your confidence or makes you feel bad, sad or mad, you chuck it out and replace it with a positive thought. You can also replace a negative feeling with a positive one by thinking a happy thought. You can replace grumpy with grateful by thinking differently. 

But fear of failure stops us from trying. In the wild, this fear keeps us safe. But unless you’re swimming with sharks or driving while texting, it’s the tigers of the mind we actually fear today. As thought leader, Peter Cook said “Failure can have a psychological or financial impact, but it's generally not going to get you eaten.”

Fear can prevent us from reaching our potential and living a life we love. But it also motivates us to take action, to do something to avoid rejection, failure, uncertainty, loneliness or change. 

By facing fear frequently you learn to overcome it.

Adventure teaches us to face fear, to be brave. It provides us with little scary moments like balancing on a rock ledge or leaping a stream. It takes us outside our comfort zone in the rain, the wind, the wilderness, the dark. It makes us strong and powerful so we can overcome physical obstacles and build mental toughness. Like Cheryl Strayed in “Wild” and Katniss in the “Hunger Games” and we can all use the lessons of the wild to manage emotions and control thoughts to overcome fear. It also makes us healthy.

My friend Sam who likes doing adventurous treks had never ever felt brave in her life before discovering adventure. But now she does.

“Challenging adventures have given me the courage to give so many more things in life a go. I’ve had hundreds of life threatening and life rewarding moments! From a major personal meltdown, to the exhilaration of standing on a peak looking over the most beautiful landscape – from electrical storms where your hair stood on end to bathing in the purest of rock pools – from absolute cold fear staring into someone’s eyes to gaining the courage to continue, to just about wetting my pants giggling with my room buddy! I’ve had it all on wild adventures.” 

It’s been the same for me. The lessons of the wild have not only made me strong and healthy, they have also taught me to manage risk and overcome fear of failure, to be like a lioness protecting her cubs, to feel the fear and do it anyway.

And I’ve learned that fearlessness comes from facing fear frequently.

Studies show that if you fail regularly but keep trying you’re better equipped to respond to challenges and set-backs in a constructive way. You learn how to try different strategies, ask for advice and persevere. 

The ability to control your thoughts is well known to the world’s great thinkers and achievers. But it’s something we can all learn to do.

And, there’s another benefit. As the legendary Sophia Loren says, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” 






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