How to Worry Less—and Enjoy Life More

How to Worry Less—and Enjoy Life More May 25, 2019

Artem Beliakin via Unsplash

If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying? ~Shantideva

How often do you find yourself worrying about something, big or small? Once a week? Once a day? Hourly? A recent Gallup Poll showed that 55% of Americans feel stressed or worried on any given day. (Compare that to the global average of 35%.) That’s not a good thing.

Why do we worry so much?

Carl Richards, who writes the Behavior Gap column, points out that worrying is a behavioral trait that dates back to the time of the cave man/woman. Worrying kept us on our toes, helping us stay alert to predatory animals or other tribes who might want to bring our tribe harm. The issue: worry became ingrained in our nature.

Today, we don’t face the same type of life-or-death threats that our early ancestors did, yet we worry all the same. We stress over our children, our families, our job security, the stock market, the value of our homes and the list goes on and on. Richards points out that the problem is “most things we worry about just don’t happen” and “even if they do happen, worrying doesn’t help.”

So how do you keep our worrying, over-analyzing minds from making you nuts? For starters,take a few deep breaths and try to get centered. Then, following Richards’ advice, ask yourself three simple questions:

  1. Is this a real problem or something your mind has blown out of proportion?

  2. What’s the worst thing that can happen if the thing you’re worrying about comes to pass?

  3. When you worried about this thing in the past, did it actually help?

Richards believes we need to either “fix it or forget it.” That means either finding a solution to the thing you’re worrying about—or, if there is no apparent solution, forget it. Your worrying is doing you no good as this line from the noted businessman and life philosopher John Templeton illustrates.

“Worry is like a rocking chair that gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Worrying is like rockingTrue, isn’t it? Worrying doesn’t move you forward or really change anything. It merely fills your mind with negative thoughts and wastes time that could be better spend finding a new and creative way to address the challenge you’re facing.

Templeton tells us that the origin of the word “worry,” as found in Webster’s New World Dictionary, is to “strangle or choke, to annoy or bother.” That’s worth contemplating. When we worry, “we can strangle the flow of ideas that could help us solve the problem. We can choke (or block) the life current and keep it from flowing freely through us.”

Like Richards, Templeton also points out that the things people worry about tend not to happen and are often born out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the unexpected. Fear of the worst possible outcome. This fear is usually not realistic and is often the product of our imagination.

What’s the best way to confront a real worry?

 The key is to change the way you contemplate a problem or difficult situation. You need to flip the switch from fear to positive action, by asking yourself a single, simple question: What’s the best solution to the thing I’m worrying about?

  • Worried about job security? Write down the steps you can take to make your position more secure. Should you be in real danger of losing your job, brainstorm other options so you’re prepared.
  • Worried about a loved one? Consider the actions you can take to improve the relationship—or the advice and steps you can take to help those who need your help. Again, writing down your thoughts often serves as a great way to move your worries out of your head.
  • Worried about the latest headline in the news? Know that some things are out of your control and your worry solves nothing. There is balance in life, bad is often followed by good, and most troublesome situations come to pass.

Yes, ridding ourselves of the things that trouble us is often easier said than done. So along with taking positive action, we should heed the advice of John Templeton who tells us we also need to have “faith in God, faith in the goodness of life, faith in the universe, faith in your own potential.” The key is to face worry head-on, to walk with it, to show the worrying-part of your brain that there is a better way.

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