Monday, March 15, 2010

Don't Worry....Be Happy*

* Much easier with good news.....
I wrote this in the waiting room at NIH last week after reading an article, from which I've extrapolated:

Animals don't have the capacity to worry about anything that might happen more than 30 seconds from now, according to studies. "Consider the cat," says Robert L. Leahy, director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York and author of Anxiety Free. "No cat has ever wondered whether he offended anyone or if his ass was getting fat." (Yes, and that's one reason I love them so. They think -- no, they know - they're perfect).

A certain amount of worry is a good thing. And necessary if it's channeled in a productive way. (Pleasing a boss, keeping an annual gyno or mammogram appt., buying airline tickets ahead of time for a particular flight). Such productive worry can avert disappointment or help waylay deeper issues to worry about.

But worrying about what you cannot control is neither productive or helpful and I do my level best to 'let it go,' as soon as I feel I've done all I can and have reached the saturation level of 'there's nothing left to do now.' Worrying about something you can't avoid in the hopes that dwelling on it won't make it happen is magical thinking. Kids do a lot of this. Adults shouldn't.

Worry is a form of introspection. Introspective people, I think, are generally unhappy. They over-analyze everything to death. Over-thinking things makes you sad, interferes with concentration, impairs your ability to take action. Or maybe, I'm just against it because it's unnatural to me. Does anyone have a different take on this?

In the article, a psychology professor from U of CA, Riverside, whose written a book on happiness (The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky), (what, she couldn't have a name that didn't use all the letters in the alphabet?), says the 'secret' of happiness is to lighten up and not 'dwell.'

When I dwell too frequently on the negative, I know it's time to reach out and join the human race in a more positive way. I feel more productive when I feel helpful and when I concentrate on others -- and other things. This has always pulled me out of a slump. If you sit around and stew about what hurts and what you can't do, it never fails to make it feel worse. I find it awkward and boring to recite a list of woes (typically health-related). I know I tend to avoid certain people at church who are all too happy to launch into detail about their latest ailment or exactly how they're feeling. I've learned not to ask, and how to change the subject --but fast. I know all of you know people like this.

My parents like to say, "No one really cares - your friends don't know what to do or say, and your enemies will gloat." Maybe this is extreme. I tend to think your real friends wouldn't ask it they didn't care and they do want to know, somewhat. Chanting "everything's fine," when it's not, doesn't do anyone justice, and it's just odd. But you don't have to go into acute detail or dwell in the land of 'let me recite every little twinge and pain or go into detail why we divorced (save it for your BFF)' until their eyes glaze over.

Be considerate. Reach out. Breathe. Feel free to adopt one of my favorite mottos: this too, shall pass.
And for God's sake, lighten up, already.


Jazz said...

Yes, this too shall pass. As my mother always says when I get a little too insane, "Worry about what you can change, forget about the rest, it'll either take care of itself or reach a point where you can do something about it."

Wise woman my mum.

Eva Gallant said...

My husband is always telling me that worry is wasted energy. Things will either happen or they won't. Worrying won't change things. I enjoyed this post.

e said...

You're right, as usual, Why. You too are wise.

Chris said...

The funniest to me is how people will worry themselves to death about whether or not they are happy. You have always been an inspiration to me in this regard. What is that Scarlet says?

Tricia McWhorter said...

"This too, shall pass" has also been my motto for more years than I care to admit.

Leslie said...

Thanks for this, I needed to read it today.

Jayne Martin said...

I've reached a certain age where I've come to accept that I can only do what I can do and then I have to toss it to the Universe.

I agree with Tricia. "This too, shall pass" is a pretty good motto to live by.

Clarity said...

I do agree with distancing oneself from worry, it's almost indulgent, I believe.

Introspection is good when you don't feel rational, then it comes in handy or if you are unsure of your intention in a certain situation. Interesting articles, thank you for quoting them.

Anonymous said...

No I think that you’ve really nailed it! We only have the present moment. The past is a ghost story and the future is a fictional movie, both waste mental energy and cause unnecessary stress. If you haven’t read The Power of Now or New Earth by Eckhart Toole, then check them out. They’re both…. obviously, about this very thing, and they’ve both helped me considerably.

Krimmyk said...

Needed this today thank you