“Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere”. ― Erma Bombeck.
I have often been asked how I stay happy most of the time and if I had any worries? I come across as a happy person who laughs a lot and lives without many worriers or care. I take that as a compliment.
Well, over time, and with conscious and continuous practice, I have become the person I am today. I choose to be happy, despite the hundred odd little and big issues in my life.
Giving up worry did not come naturally to me. Like many, worrying seemed a natural emotion to me. It took me years to know that neither is worry an emotion, nor is it natural. It is a habit that we learn from our early social and cultural conditioning and observation.
The Monkey analogy
Worry is like an invisible monkey on your back, gnawing away into your skin with its claws, bleeding you deep. The monkey refuses to get off your back no matter what you do. It becomes a constant partner, your twin self. Over time, you became so used to its weight on your shoulder that you’d miss it when you’re occasionally in a happy state and not worrying about something. You’d felt guilty of leaving behind your dearest, loving, loyal friend, the monkey. You become habitual of being constantly in a state of engaged worry. If one issue was resolved, you’d find another to worry about, and then another, and then another. The list was endless and the cycle never ending. How many of you can relate to this?
More often than not the best things in life happen when our well-designed plans fall apart. In the most difficult and darkest time of my life, I remember, being in an unusual state of calm and poise, devoid of worry and care. Just calm. That’s when it struck me. I had worried all my life to put in place every little thing, being proactive, being the best in everything, doing things right. And, at this lowest point in life, when I should be devastated, I was actually feeling better. What good did all the worry do then?
My darkest times gave me the profound power to be resilient, without worry and care. It wasn’t easy at first. Old habits die hard. I had to consciously keep a check on my worry-meter. But with time and practice, I got better at it, little by little, day by day. Today, being happy, positive and content is a way of life for me. It comes naturally and has become a habit, a choice and an obligation towards myself.
Don’t let worry rob you of peace and negatively impact your quality of life. If you worry about every life situation as a matter of life and death, you’d possibly die many times over during your lifetime. So, drop your worries and improve your life-quality manifold.
How to deal positively with worry?
- Divert your attention to a pleasant activity that gives you a sense of happiness and achievement.
- Do not hold yourself responsible for things that have gone wrong in your life or in others’ lives. Taking ownership and the right steps to improve things is acceptable but living in guilt is not.
- Be kind towards yourself. Worrying constantly is like sniffing on hash. It gives you a high but it kills your from within.
- Learn to distinguish between worry and anxiety. Anxiety is short lived and caused by specific triggers, like may be exam or a job interview, while worry is long lasting, has no specific trigger.
- Do what it takes to keep worry at bay. If fixing breakfast for your child ensures you a worry-free gym session, do it and have the best workout session possible. Take pride in being a warrior (read doer) and not a worrier.
- Organize better. Execute better. Worry less.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude is a powerful emotion that draws positive energy and grace into our lives. Be grateful for every little thing you have. Be grateful for spending the day above the ground!
- Acknowledge that most of the worries you’ve had, never happened. Most of the ‘what ifs’ are unreasonable and imaginary, and are just that.
- Accept that your worrying or not worrying will have no impact on the outcome. Only action can. If its possible to take a specific action to change the outcome, go ahead and take it. If not, sip on your favourite wine and relax. Let life have its way. This little Serenity Prayer may help you in moving towards a more fulfilling life. It has done a world to change to me. “God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
- Write down your worries. Yes, write it down. I work what I call a “worry matrix” from time to time. Being an economist, I understand charts best. I segregate my worries under, big, moderate and small, and bucket them under “I can do something about it” and “There is nothing I can do about it”. For the actionable ones, I see how many are real and how many are imaginary. The worries I actually need to worry about now is much less, only big-moderate-actionable-REAL worries. This is how a typical worry-matrix looks like. I am sure yours will be no different. This exercise is worth doing. Grab a pen and paper.
11. Don’t fret and fuss over death. Young parents often find themselves tangled in the imaginary fear of death. They are worried about their child’s future and security. If you’ve drawn your worry-matrix you’d probably know it’s not worth your sanity. Be adequately prepared, take the right insurances, invest wisely and leave the rest to God. You cannot postpone death. It will come at its right time. Live happy until then.
12. Take care of your body. Its true that a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. That’s the only place your soul has to live. Choose a form of exercise that you like.
13. Catch up on sleep. It is important to let the mind rest and unplug it from the world for atleast 7 hours each day.
14. Don’t entertain “chronic worriers” or allow them share their worries. Learn to say no and walk away from people who always have trivial complains and worries to share. They bring with them tremendous amounts of negative energy and skepticism, and you sure don’t need any of it.
15. Practice mindfulness. Be in the moment and observe the environment around you. Be mindful of the people passing by, the new paint on the roads, the little girl selling flowers at the signal, the aroma of the food you eat and everything that you can absorb. Being mindful is an elevated level of awareness and a supreme form of consciousness that helps is being more connected with reality and the present.
16. Embrace the beauty of imperfection. Imagine how boring a perfect life would be. Even people with the seemingly most perfect lives are worrying about something. If little imperfections and oddities worry you, care less and embrace them. Life is beautiful, with its imperfections.
17. Find humor in the oddest places. Humor and laughter have a unique healing power. Humor is all around us, in our homes, workplaces, beaches, everywhere. Allow yourself the liberty to look for humor. I am sure you will find it, just somewhere around you.
18. Price your worry. Every time you catch yourself worrying without a ‘real’ reason, put in the price of the worry into a piggy-bank for charity. Be honest. Soon, you will see the piggy bank full and ready to be given for charity (Be honest). In a couple of weeks, you will be doing all you can to save yourself from putting in money into the piggy bank.
19. We often associate worry as symbolic of being concerned and committed, be it to a person of thing. Lack of worry in no way lessens your concern or commitment. It is just that you choose to manifest it in some other constructive way.
20. Last but not least, choose to be a happy person. Do not let worry stop you from enjoying what you have, a happy life.
Don’t take life too seriously. At the end you will not even remember what worried you the most. If at all you remember, you will probably laugh over it, and wish you could live life again not worrying about any of those things.