Don’t worry, be happy! And there may be some more to this than you think!…
I got into a little bit of a fun debate the other day around worrying and stress, and whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I thought it was an absolutely awesome discussion and I wanted to open it up to The Start of Happiness.
My friend was arguing that there is absolutely no benefit of feeling worried. And sure, research suggests that worry isn’t that great… it can cause stress, lead to heart attacks, breakdowns, panic attacks, sometimes you can’t think straight and it can potentially lead you to physically being ill. That’s a pretty long list of negative associations of stress! And I don’t disagree with these… so how can I possibly have argued on the contrary?
I may have been born differently to everyone else on this planet… but I swear I see worry (mostly) as a positive thing. I see stress as a positive thing. Worrying switches our brain on! It helps us to actually take a situation seriously. It helps us to think through different alternatives to a situation. It helps us plan for the future. It prepares us for what is ahead of us. Without worry, we would just be acting on impulse and dealing with horrifying consequences.
Obviously, the key separation here is the level of worry. It’s the need to reduce the level of worry and keep it at a positive level without it leading to psychological or physical harm. In my debate, I was suggesting my methods on how to see worry as a good thing and some strategies to reduce your level of worry, and I’ll come to these shortly. However, I wanted to do some research into the topic, firstly to confirm that I was born normal and that other people thought the same as me 🙂 And secondly to see if there was actually any scientific proof behind the positive effects of worrying. What I found was exciting!
I came across this (http://www.cognitivetherapynyc.com/whyworry.pdf) awesome article from the Scientific American Mind journal, December 2009. It goes into the detail of worry and the consequences of worrying, but much to my delight it also describes some of the benefits. To cut to the chase, it summarises that worrying can be healthy, however over-worry, as expected, has its negative consequences.
The above article mentions that one of the first experts to suggest the potential benefits of worry was Psychologist Graham Davey of the University of Sussex in England. In a study performed in 1994, he concluded that worry can be constructive, helping to motivate individuals to take action, help people resolve problems and that it can actually reduce anxiety. Another study in 2005 by Psychologist Maya Tamir of Stanford University concluded that worrying can improve performance when working on a cognitively demanding task, such as a test or exam.
One study (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120412153018.htm) suggested that our worrying may actually have co-evolved with intelligence. It suggests that worrying can help us keep away from dangerous situations and has helped us to have higher survival rates.
The key thing I noticed going through all this research is the level of worry. Worry IS a good thing, but to a certain extent. Michel Dugas, a psychologist at Concordia University in Montreal, suggested that worry is like a bell-curve, where moderate levels can improve functioning and performance, but when excess worry occurs there would be a decline in performance.
I loved this quote from Christine Calmes, a postdoctoral fellow at the VA Capitol Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center, Baltimore, who even suggests that those individuals that are more successful at life actually worry a little more…. To me, this sums up what I was debating the other day:
“It’s all about how people cope with the worry. If it’s incapacitating, then it’s not okay. But if worrying motivates people to go above and beyond—put in longer hours, attend to details that others may miss—then it’s a good thing.”
Tips to Ensure that Worrying Brings You Happiness
Reframe the Situation
One awesome technique that I always do is to completely reframe the whole situation. When I start to get worried or stressed, I simply look at it from the point of view that it’s actually helping me look at alternative ways of dealing with a situation, it’s helping me to plan for the future and it’s also heightening my awareness… because of this, I start thinking “HOW AWESOME IS WORRYING?!” and I try to worry more however the worry just seems to dissipate… ;D
Ask Yourself The Real Questions
The other thing I do when becoming worried or stressed, is simply ask the question “what’s the worst that can happen?” or “will this matter 5 years from now“? 99 times out of 100 it doesn’t. This again can reshape the whole situation and reduce your worry and stress levels.
Get Somebody Else to Ask You The Real Questions
If you can’t seem to talk it over yourself and reduce your worry, get another perspective! Talk to someone that you feel comfortable with and get their thoughts on the situation. You might find they start calling you ‘silly’ for worrying too much… this is a good thing! It simply means you shouldn’t be worrying. If it is worth the worry, another perspective will help you bounce around ideas and prepare you for what you need to do.
Book An Appointment With Your Worries
Treat your worries like a human being. Book an appointment with them in your diary for say, later that night for 30 minutes. Talk to your worries in that 30mins… deal with the worry by applying the above techniques, use that time to solve the problem. You might even find that by the time you get to your appointment you may realise that what you were worrying about during the day is actually not much of a worry anymore!
Take Yourself Out of the Situation (aka Micro Holiday)
If you’re stuck worrying about a particular thing, remove yourself from the situation completely. Holidays are the best example of this. When you’re on holiday, how often do you worry? What can you do in your day that acts as a Micro Holiday? Do something that you love and remove yourself from worry. When you revisit it, you might even find that the worry is not actually worth worrying about!
Do What You Love
Linked in with the above, do what makes you happy! If you’re doing something that you love, surely you can’t be worrying? Exercise is great for reducing anxiety, stress and worry. Why not give this a go?
Simply Confront Your Fear
If you’re worrying about a particular thing, person or situation, simply confront it! One of the best and fastest ways to get over worrying is to just take action and face your fear. You will probably find that the worry was not worth worrying about.
And My Favourite… Know When You’re Becoming a Super-Human
If you know when you’re worrying, then you will know when you are turning into a super-human with heightened awareness, a more advanced ability to think cognitively and know that your IQ levels are being raised (proven! http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120412153018.htm ) . When you know this, you can unleash the super-human in you and turn your worry into a super-power 🙂
Here’s to living your amazing life!
P.S. If you’re in Sydney this weekend, please feel free to join us for a ‘Party of Purpose‘ at the Glenmore down at The Rocks (http://www.theglenmore.com.au) from 11:30am. Some followers of Live Your Legend are throwing the party and it’s sure going to be an amazing group of passionate people… I’ll be there and I’d love to see you there! Come say hi!