By worry, I mean having negative thoughts about a future event that may or may not happen. This negativity is more common than you may think. Robert Leahy in his book, The Worry Cure, (Harmony, 2005) claims that 38% of people say they worry every day, and more than 19 million Americans are chronic worriers.
Researchers find that worriers show an increased activity in the area of the brain associated with executive functions such as planning, reasoning and impulse control. Strengthening your executive skills, outlined in my brief book, A brains-eye view of time management, (as well as in previous blog articles) will help you control your tendency to think negatively.
A positive attitude tends to stress-proof your life. It’s important to get sufficient sleep, daily exercise and social support. And it’s equally important to be aware of the good things that happen to you – those positives amid negative events. Be more conscious of the things that go right in your life, and remember that when things look bleak, humor helps. Also, volunteer on a regular basis; by helping others you are also helping yourself.
If you let it, your brain will take any thought about financial problems or job insecurity or a disagreement with your spouse and create worse case scenarios to worry about. According to an article in the December, 2009 issue of Scientific American Mind, research showed that “the more we dwell on negative thoughts, the more the threats feel real, and the more they will repeat in our skulls, sometimes uncontrollable.”
Trying to put a negative thought out of your mind only tends to make it hang on that much longer. It’s like trying to ignore a song that replays repeatedly in your mind. It makes more sense to spend a few minutes accepting the fact that you are worried, mulling it over, assuring yourself that you would be able to survive even if the worst were to happen, and then get on with the next item on your “To Do” list.
Action dissipates worry.