How many times have you worried about something, or had someone tell you to stop worrying? How many times have you been able to actually stop? This article is about the science of worrying with actionable tips on how to stop.
I won’t be telling you to stop worrying, because you already know you have to. Why else would you be here reading this? What I am going to do instead is write about the negative impacts worrying has in your life with scientific evidence as well as simple steps you can take to cease the worries.
Interested? Then read on.
- The negative impact of worrying
- Research on worrying and happiness
- Tips on how to stop worrying
- Stop worrying, start living
- Closing words
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
The negative impact of worrying
Thinking about issues can help you stay on track. However, worrying excessively about others can easily cross the fine line and end up harming your mental health. Constant worrying can have severe effects on your happiness and wellbeing, both in the short as well as in the long run. It can take away your energy and positive feelings. It can take away your sleep, imbalance your appetite, and tire you out. And it can take away your ability to make sound decisions.
Worrying can lead to anxiety and even depression
Worrying too much, be it about relationships with others, people from work, health, finance, and so on, can lead to anxiety and even depression. Instead of leading to a solution, most of the worrying we do creates more issues. The bitter part is that most of us suffer because we aren’t able to control our worrying. However, with a few effective coping strategies, we can stop worrying, particularly about people or things we shouldn’t be worrying about.
You aren’t alone
If you worry a lot, you aren’t the only one. A lot of people do. A new research study has discovered that more than 30 percent of people worry almost every single day. We tend to take real or potential problems and imagine all the negative things that could happen or already have. Day after day. Night after night.
Worrying is a bad habit
Before knowing how to control your worrying, you need to first make yourself realize how it is a really bad habit that you do not need in your life. It’s time to let go of these nagging thoughts and what-ifs making your mind and your life miserable. Accept that excessive worrying has no benefits at all. What better way to do that than find out what scientific research says about worrying?
Research on worrying and happiness
Research conducted in 2013 evaluated the risk of suffering from cancer among people with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This is a disorder caused by excessive, continuous, and uncontrollable worrying leading to sleep abnormalities, muscle problems, and continued exhaustion. The study discovered that the overall risk of cancer was higher among GAD patients, that is those who worry excessively.
In more recent research conducted by John C. Lefebvre and Mark P. Jensen in the year 2019, 120 healthy participants had to face 4 levels of noxious stimulation. They were then asked to note down the intensity of the pain, worry about the pain and catastrophizing of the pain they experienced during the stimulation. Then they were assigned to either of the 2 conditions – worry or happy. Here they had to face emotion induction processes, followed by another round of noxious stimulation and the resulting records related to pain.
Can you guess the outcome? The ones in the worry condition noted down an increase in the intensity of their pain while the ones in the happy condition noted down a reduction in their pain intensity. Those in the worry condition also reported an increase of pain-related worry and catastrophizing, while those in the happy condition reported the opposite outcome. This makes it evident that changes in the level of worrying can significantly affect how one experiences pain.
Tips on how to stop worrying
Research has shown us how negative and detrimental worrying about others can be for us. So what do we do to let go of all the negativity, slow down our negative thoughts, and in turn, calm our minds? Let me tell you about a few of the techniques that have helped me to let go of excessive worrying, techniques that I have fallen in love with because they don’t require heaps of props or preparations. All you require is an open mind, a few minutes and the will to continue it daily for your wellbeing.
1. Learn to be in the present
Many of us tend to focus on regretting our past or worrying about the future so much that we forget to live in the present. However, to let go of the unnecessary worries about others, the first thing you need to do is to focus on being in the present. How do you do that? Simple, by practicing mindfulness.
What is mindfulness
The first question you might have is – what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness simply means being present and completely as well as purposefully being engaged with what you are doing at the present moment. No judging or distractions are allowed in this space of yours. You are aware of your feelings and ponderings but you do not let them control you, you only focus on the present moment. Even though this may sound like a simple thing to do, it might require some training that helps you build this positive skill.
Benefits of practicing mindfulness
This technique is being accepted and recommended by many for reducing stress and increasing happiness. It aids in moving your thoughts from the usual worries and preoccupations to embracing the present and eventually, the bigger picture of life. This practice helps improve your well-being by teaching you how to savor the big and small pleasures of your life and strengthen deeper connections with people you love. It improves both mental and physical health by lowering pressure, improving sleep and appetite, and reducing the feelings of pain and sadness.
Tips on practicing mindfulness
Now that you know how beneficial mindfulness is, let’s move on to the next step of knowing how to practice it in real life. While you may find several ways to practice mindfulness on the web, you need to find the ones that fit you and your daily life better to gain the maximum benefit out of this practice. I am mentioning a few that worked great for me:
- Sit in a quiet, comfortable place and really focus on your breathing
- Pay attention to every part of your body, one by one
- Notice things around you with your five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, taste
- Let your emotions stay but do not judge them, be it happiness, rage or frustration
- Keep practicing and improving through a regular commitment to this mental training
2. Maintain a journal for yourself
Yes, I know. Not all of us are big fans of writing, especially writing our feelings and fears down. But take it as a tried and tested medicine that can help lessen your mental pain and worries. Believe in the worry journal because it can make you feel better as your own safe, secured, and private space for only your thoughts, and no one else’s. Let your emotions flow from your mind to your fingers and to the pages that will help in reducing your stress and bringing in more thankfulness.
Tips on starting a worry journal
So how do you start a worry journal?
The first thing is to select your ideal medium of inputting your thoughts – pen and paper, marker and sticky notes or note-keeping apps – anything works as long as you are getting those thoughts to flow the way you want them to. For me, nothing tops the traditional notepad-pen combo.
Take your pick and then write down the worry that has been nagging you the most. Dig deep and pinpoint the exact problem, and don’t beat around the bush. You can have a lot of worries running through your mind, but pen down the biggest, most troublesome ones. These worries should be prioritized.
Understand where and why you are stuck. Write down and relax – take a deep breath. Trust me, breathing always helps. Then just think about the possible outcomes of these issues, not the unrealistic ones. Focus on only the logical ones. That will help you to unearth feasible solutions to your problems and thus, reduce or even cease your worrying.
This problem-solution thinking helps you enhance your ability to solve the pressing issues of your life and become a happier person.
3. Realize that most worries aren’t real
This is perhaps one of the most important things to keep repeating to yourself to let go of your stress – that most of your worries aren’t real and won’t be coming true in the future as well. There is a very interesting study on this.
Research on the reality of worries
According to this recent study by the researchers at Penn State University, more than 90 percent of the worries are false alarms that won’t come true. The participants of the study suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) were all asked to write down their worries for 10 days.
The participants were reminded through four text messages every day to note down any worries they might have. They were then asked to go through their lists for the next one month to note down which of the worries came true out of the worries that could be tested during that time. The results proved that only 9 percent of the worries came true, and the rest did not. The outcomes people were worried about were better than expected one-third of the time.
This brings us to the conclusion that tracking our worries can indeed help us in finding out if they come true or not and also to find solutions for them instead of becoming obsessed about them in a way that hampers our lives and wellbeing. An article that speaks wonderfully about how persistent worrying can be pointless is Most Things You Worry About Will Never Happen by Markham Heid.
Stop worrying, start living
Now you have the power and the wisdom to control your worries instead of letting them control you and your life. You have read how worrying about others is a terrible habit that can harm your mental and physical health and wellbeing. This has been proven by scientific research as well. Excessive worrying increases the risk of ailments as well as feelings of pain and suffering.
However, the good news is that you have all the power in the world to teach yourself how to stop worrying through learning to be in the present, practicing mindfulness in your daily life, noting down your worries and their solutions in a journal for yourself and of course, realizing how most worries don’t even translate into reality at all. So stop worrying, practice these great techniques, and start living today.
Do you want to share your own positive change that you applied in your life? Did I miss an awesome tip that you used to be happier in an instance? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
An introvert at heart and a nerd by birth. Clocks in as a strategic planner. Breathes as a writer with a decade of experience. Loves picking positivity and happiness over pomp and haste.