Your manager walks up to you with a stern look in her eyes and says she needs to talk to you. Immediately, the intense pounding of your heart seems to take over your whole body. As she scans her calendar looking for an appropriate meeting time, you study her expression intently, in the hope that the nature of the meeting will somehow show in her face. But she is unreadable. You cannot tell if she is upset, or how upset, or why, or at whom. She looks up from the calendar and tells you to come to her office tomorrow at noon. And you lose the courage to ask what the purpose of the meeting is. With a dry mouth you murmur, "Okay."
As you return to the task of folding the button-down shirts, a wave of worry rushes over you. Working in a retail store, you deal with a huge number of customers on a daily basis. You wonder if one of them complained about you. Or could one of your coworkers be unhappy with you? Although your sales numbers are among the highest in the store, you ask yourself if you've been working hard enough.
The remainder of the day passes in a haze as you absentmindedly assist customers, all the while worrying about the following day's meeting. You run through scenarios from the past few weeks that could have upset someone, but cannot think of anything that rises to the level. During your drive home, your best friend calls and you spend forty minutes analyzing the situation together. You become furious with your coworkers, wondering if one of them said something to the manager. As you fall asleep that night, you ponder if you'll have to look for a new job.
Finally, the time of the meeting has arrived. With sweaty palms and a racing heart, you make it to the manager's office. She seems to be warmer than the previous day, welcoming you with a smile and asking you to take a seat. Taken off-guard by her demeanor, you do as she tells you. She takes out a stack of papers and goes over your productivity and sales for the past year. She concludes that you've done so well she'd like to promote you to department specialist. With your mouth slightly agape, you don't know whether to laugh or cry. Feeling simultaneously relieved and irrational, you just nod your head and smile.
All the worry was for nothing. It took over your mind, body and interactions for a full day, sowing fear, anxiety, mistrust of your coworkers, and serious doubts about your own past behavior and performance. Even now that the supposed crisis has passed, you remain disturbed that you let would allow your worry to dominate you to such an extreme degree.
Unfortunately, most people function in this way. When we're confronted with news that could be good or bad, our minds tend to side with the bad. And the important thing to note is, we've programmed ourselves with this mindset of worry and fear. When given a choice between siding with fearlessness and calmness or fear and anxiety, we automatically choose the side of fear. And that initial, predetermined choice sets into motion a fear-based thought process that feeds on itself.
In the above scenario, as the day wore on, the worry gained momentum, accelerating through the phone call with a friend, and reaching peak velocity at bedtime with thoughts of having to look for a new job. It's important to realize that the mind will feed on itself. It will take a thought, however negative or unpleasant, and run with it.
It's also important to realize that positivity is the natural and optimal disposition for the wellness of your Being. Yet, since most people have programmed their minds to think negatively from the outset, it's necessary to take action. The key first step is to become aware when a negative thought first enters your mind. Just this simple realization will begin the process of turning things around. The sooner the negativity is stopped in its tracks, the less mind-chaos you will have to deal with.
In the beginning it may seem like a struggle to think positively: like an exhausting tennis match between optimism and worry. But, instead of imagining two well-matched opponents, think of optimism as equivalent to light and worry to darkness; and it will sink in that, logically enough, light always wins. Not only will it win, it's a part of our wellbeing to not worry and to see the good in all situations. This kind of mentality rejuvenates the spirit and restores the health. The mind is so powerful that its contents become a projection of a person's whole life.
Once you're aware of your thoughts, you can separate yourself from them. Decipher whether each thought will help or hinder your life, and realize that if you're worrying, you're moving away from wellbeing. Even if you're in a situation that is truly appalling, worrying will not make it better. The energy of worrying blocks both peace and practical solutions from entering your consciousness.
Everything is a choice. You can choose between worry and wellbeing at any moment. Both cannot exist simultaneously. If your mind functions on worry, just remember that if it was programmed into you, it can be programmed out of you.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more