Note: I originally wrote this from the point of view of avoiding worry (as I found I was getting caught up in worrying more than usual), but later I realised I follow the below to lead a happier, more content life overall. If you are feeling down, worrying a lot or just generally feeling unhappy read this and try some of the steps below.
There are many quotes on how worrying is a waste of time. A few of my favourites include:
“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere”
“My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.”
“Worrying doesn’t stop things from happening, it just stops you from enjoying the good”
We all know them to be true, but it is easy to read and agree with a quote and another story to live by it. Personally, my brain enjoys working overtime. Therefore, when not preoccupied with something else, worrying comes easily to me and I have to actively work to “fight it”.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about the act of worrying; how it happens, why it happens and how to do less of it. Read on to learn how I deal with worry - hopefully it can help you too.
7 steps to worrying less and feeling better in life
1. Maintain a healthy mind and body
- Exercise regularly and release those endorphins. It doesn’t have to be intense - just get out and move. You can follow something like I am at the moment here
- If your mind is running in circles or you are feeling stressed go outside and get some fresh air. Go for a walk or cycle and breath.
- Eat well - whole real foods and stay away from sugar.
- Meditate regularly. This is something relatively new to me but I have found it super helpful. You can follow a program using an application such as Headspace, or do as I do:
- Take 5 to 10 minutes (set a timer if necessary)
- Sit down comfortably, close your eyes
- Count each breath: 1 for in, 1 for out, all the way to 10 before starting again.
- If your mind wanders and you forget your count, start at 1 again
2. Think logically about what is on your mind
- Think about what you are worrying or concerned about. Is it a valid concern? Is there any real evidence to back up your thoughts? What is the real probability of this specific worry happening? Our brains can naturally bias us towards thinking something is more likely than it actually is (and have a higher perceived risk of occurrence).
- Write down your thoughts to help form the logic around it.
3. Switch to a truly positive mentality
- Focus on the bright side of life and expect positive results from the things you do. Believe in yourself and the fact that you can overcome any obstacle, difficulty and worry.
- Speak positively over and over to yourself. Come up with specific phrases for yourself. For example “I am fluent in Spanish. I am fit and strong.”
- Smile! Sounds simple but it works.
- Read this article for more tips.
Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
4. Disconnect from anything that impacts your happiness.
- Remove yourself from social media and from following other people’s lives. When I first did this it was incredibly refreshing. When I start looking at other people’s “successes” and how great they are doing I can get down and worry about how little I have done.
- Disconnect yourself from negative people who get you down and encourage your worried thoughts.
- Stop doing anything that causes you unhealthy stress and worry. For example, some TV shows / films / news that causes you to worry. If something causes you to worry, don’t entertain it.
5. Take action and learn
- Go do something to improve your own or someone else’s (even more fulfilling) life. Some suggestions:
- Do some meaningful work
- Learn something new (language, coding, cooking, skill, sport, movement, dancing)
- Teach someone something
- Help someone do something
- Make someone feel better
- Read a book
- Write a book
- Linked to the point above on disconnecting - try to reduce the time spent on unfulfilling things (watching too much TV / video games / drinking). We all need to unwind and relax but the less of these things you can do the better you will feel.
6. Take some time to reflect
- Give gratitude and reflect on all of the things you are grateful for. A lot of this may be things you take for granted yet many around the world don’t have - safe environment, place to stay, clean drinking water, freedom. Think about how lucky you are.
- If you are worrying about a lack of “success” on your part, reflect on your own achievements in the last month, 6 months, year and 5 years. Think of how far you have come in that time.
- Side note: I recommend keeping a list of your accomplishments (no matter how big or small) somewhere. Add to it whenever you do something you are proud of.
7. Create small positive habits to reinforce the above
- For each thing above you want to do, start tracking them as daily habits. For example, the things I track:
- Daily exercise (read this post for more info)
- Read out loud in Spanish
- Read at least 5 minutes of a book
- Meditate for at least 5 minutes
- Think positively
- Smile :)
- Think of 2 things I am grateful for
- To help with tracking habits, I recommend using Loop on Android or HabitBull on iOS.
I hope the above helps you. Remember this is just my own opinion and what works for me - take it and adapt it to work for you :)