Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Can we learn not to worry?

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Worried Guy

A few years ago a reggae song contained the infectious lyrics: “don’t worry, be happy”. This is easy to say, but hard to do for most people. I don’t like to deal with worrying and anxiety and have come to realize that a certain amount of worry and anxiety is normal, but there is a point when the balance tilts and a person becomes consumed by worry and “gets stuck”.

Today as I was browsing The Huffington Post, I came across this story: 11 Habits of People Who Never Worry and I thought that this is a story worth sharing with our blog readers. The strategies come from Jason Poser, PhD, at Michigan State University and Christine Purdon, PhD of the Centre for Mental Health Research at the University of Waterloo. Doctors Poser and Purdon talk about “squelching” worry as well as identify strategies used by people who are not bogged down by worry. So let’s see what the worry experts recommend:

1)      Focus on the present and don’t get bogged down by things which are yet to happen. Recognize what solutions are available and could be implemented.

2)      Practice mindfulness and stay in “the here and now”

3)      Stop the negative cycle and focus on the overall aspects of their life and the decisions which are needed

4)      Be willing to take chances. People who worry excessively tend to “get stuck”. Non-worriers are more flexible in their thinking and open to options

5)      Have and maintain a sense of perspective. Worriers tend to micro-focus on potential negative outcomes and are problem generators vs. problem-solvers.

6)      Control the amount of time spent “worrying”. Dr. Purdon recommends a specific amount of time each day to devote to worrying and a specific place he refers to as “the worry chair”.  This strategy allows the worrier to shift attention away from worry-bound thinking

7)      Can I switch my attention elsewhere? This strategy allows the worrier to put time, energy and focus into other matters of life

8)      Have confidence that a problem can be handled rather than worrying about the potential negative outcomes

9)      Maintain an ability to see and implement positive outcomes in a difficult situation

10)   Ask yourself the right questions: Is it my problem? Do I have control over it? Have I done everything I can? Is it imminent?

11)   Know how to perceive your negative emotions. Non-worriers look at negative emotions as a sign that a problem needs attention

Certainly some people need help with learning to not excessively worry and such help is available through psychotherapy like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and other strategies which support alternative patterns of thought and behavior. A certain level of worrying is normal, but when a person’s life is consumed by worry then it’s time to take action. Take a chance and apply these strategies the next time you get bogged down with worry.

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