Don’t Know Mind - How To Avoid Negative Thought Loops - Stop Worrying About The Future


Brain made out of gears

Our minds are magnificently powerful tools. Capable of using everything we’ve learnt, we often try predicting what we think may happen in the future based on what we know about the past and present. The downfall to our powerful minds is that sometimes it can feel like they’re not on our side. When thinking about the future our minds can often come up with potential scenarios that are simply not going to happen. Regardless of this fact we may still feel the negative emotions associated with our projected vision of the future.

A popular topic across the health and wellness community is the practice of “living in the moment”. When we forget about the past and future and focus on the present, we can avoid thinking negatively about things that in reality, have little to no in the present we’re currently experiencing. The only time frame that will ever truly exist is the present. The past is over, and our choices in the present are the only thing that we can control.

One of my favourite personal reminders to help our mind avoid thinking negatively about the present and future is what I like to call “Don’t Know Mind”. The way it works is like this:

Example 1 - A Friend Bails

sad girl crying on a bed

Mark & David are two friends with plans to head out to go swimming at the beach in the morning. David is going to pick up Mark to drive them both over. When the morning rolls around, David sends Mark a quick text to let him know he can’t make it, that’s all Mark knows.

Mark thinks back that just a month ago another friend Jake bailed on him at the last moment similarly to this time with David. When thinking about the situation with Jake, he remembers that Jake bailed on him to do something else and actually lied to Mark about why he couldn’t come anymore.

Mark begins to imagine that David has bailed on him to do something more fun with someone else. While he does not know if this is actually the case, he begins to feel bummed out that one of his friends would bail on him. He feels sad.

A few hours pass and David texts him again saying that we was so sorry that he had to bail, his dad had slipped on some stairs and broke his ankle. He had to drive him to the hospital. Later that week Mark sees Davids father with a cast on his ankle, confirming that he indeed broke his ankle.

This is the moment where Mark should take a moment to say to himself “Don’t Know Mind”, and reflect on the fact that what he imagined might have happened, did not happen at all! His imagination unfortunately even led him to feel sad about something that didn’t even exist. There was no point to have those negative thoughts.

Example 2 - Work Stress

cartoon work stress

Mark is at work and his boss lets him know that on Wednesday there might be some new clients coming into work for an afternoon meeting. He'll need Mark to meet with them for the entire afternoon if the meeting happens. It has not been confirmed yet.

Mark realizes that he normally uses all of Wednesday to write his weekly reports. Mark begins to stress out as he really dislikes squeezing time to complete the reports into Thursday or Friday. In fact, Mark's day is ruined by the worry that he may have to spend the end of his week writing reports.

Wednesday morning rolls around and Mark's boss pops in to let him know that the meeting has been cancelled and it won't be necessary moving forward.

This is yet again the moment for Mark to remind himself of the "Don't Know Mind" process. There was really no reason for him to stress about the reports this week as he ended up having all of Wednesday to complete them in the end.

How "Don't Know Mind" Works Over Time

To start, a great way to use "Don't Know Mind" is to simply remind yourself of this phrase and the meaning (essentially unnecessary negative emotion) every time you catch a situation working out in a way that was better than the way you worried or stressed out about it potentially happening.

Over time, if you continue to remind yourself of "Don't Know Mind", your brain will begin to catch your thoughts when you're worrying or stressing out about potential future outcomes that you have no control over. You will have countless reminders of times where there was no need to worry to help calm an irrationally worrisome mind.

This technique can be an absolutely great way to stop feeling negative emotions related to the future, and help you to live and focus on the present.

- Robert O'Kruk 

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 Girl meditating on a beach with the sun setting behind clouds over water during sunset


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