Don't worry, be happy

Don't worry, be happy

Eternal Pursuit

Don't worry, be happy

“What we need here,” said the boss to the job candidate, “is a head worrier — somebody to do the worrying instead of me. The job pays the best in the industry.

Do you think you can handle it?” “Certainly,” said the candidate. “When do I get my first cheque?” “That,” said the boss, “is your first worry!”

This is clearly a reflection of what has become of man today. Worry in contemporary times starts even before the onset of a problem. Come dawn or dusk, worry haunts man. Be it mundane or profound, worry throttles man.

Whether it is real or imaginary, worry threatens man. It could be immediate or distant, yet, worry robs man of his peace of mind. Possible and even far-fetched worries challenge man. From conceivable to impending ones, worry has made man a cautious, fearful and nervous wreck.

Society is slurped into this bottomless pit of worry. Collective philosophy centring on worry has affected every individual as well. The brave few, who are ready to take the bull by its horn and live worriless lives, are bombarded with words of caution.

“Be careful,” “Take guard,” “Don’t be a fool,” “Better safe than sorry,” “Tough times are ahead,” “Future is bleak,” “There will never be better times” and the likes of such worry-prone sentiments loom large in society. It has become almost as though if one leads a worry-free life, he is irresponsible and on the path of self-destruction. “It is all on me, he does not worry about a thing,” laments the preoccupied and troubled spouse!

And so, we go about life, worrying endlessly. Worries about finance, future, security, safety, relationships, health and well-being daunt us, day in and day out. We live by the creed that anticipating a problem and brooding over it will somehow give us the answers. Worry has thus come to plague our lives. Like any plague, it has weakened us.

Over time it will, like any plague, wipe us off. As American essayist William G Jordan put it, “Worry is the most popular form of suicide. It is the real cause of death in thousands of instances where some other disease is named on the death certificate.”

With a consequence as grave as eventual destruction, worry has been the topic of much analysis and debate. Theories, essays and books on how to conquer worry have rolled over the century.

Behavioural scientists with deep study and much research have isolated the causes and effects of worry. Subsequently, they have also come out with a blueprint on how to stop worrying. Consolidating and internalising these studies and inferences would well save us from all torments and ill-effects of this deadly virus of worry.

Genesis of worry

It is a known fact that man, the mammal of the human race, is a very vulnerable animal. His inability to fly swiftly, swim audaciously, leap rapidly with dexterity, and tackle sudden ferocious attacks on him, puts him among the most vulnerable of all God’s creatures. This perceived vulnerability makes him weak. Weakness breeds fear. Fear, in turn, leads to worry.

To make matters worse, man is also a thinking animal. His cognitive skills get his imagination started at the slightest pretext. When imagination runs wild, he sees pseudo dangers, perceives failures and weaves negative thoughts of despair and gloom. The seed of worry gets automatically planted in the mind.

It takes roots as he dwells deeper into the issue at hand. Shoots of anxiety sprout. Buds of apprehension burst with time. The fully bloomed worry plant with grey flowers of fear and dark hues of despair stands tall, engulfing man’s thoughts.

Man, also being gregarious, rubs this approach to others around him. One man’s negative and fearful thought influences another and grows exponentially. The worry bug never spares anyone the poison of its venomous bite. One way or another, worry comes to rule and run man’s life.

Worry, the deadly disease

The Oxford dictionary defines worry as “to be anxious, uneasy and troubled.” But, in reality, worry is “a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind and when encouraged, will cut a channel into which all other thoughts are drained”. Worry, thus, is the negative use of one’s imagination. When allowed to run loose, it can ravage mental peace and the physical well-being of a person. Medical research confirms that worry makes a person tense and nervous.

This affects the nerves of the stomach and actually changes the gastric juices of the stomach from normal to abnormal, often leading to stomach ulcers. Ulcers, therefore, are frequently not the result of what we eat, but the result of what is eating us. Worry also disturbs sleep, saps energy, alters disposition, weakens the mind, warps character, saps bodily strength, stimulates a lot of diseases and kills ambition.

Worry, then, is really a deadly disease. So much so that Dr Alexis Carrel has warned, “Those who do not know how to fight worry die young.”

Worry is also a futile exercise, a superfluity that will alter nothing in the end. As Corrie Boom, the Dutch, who along with her family helped Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II and thereby saved nearly 800 lives, once observed, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”

Given that a compulsive worrier is on a one-way ticket to a life of despondency and destruction, conquering worry should form a part of every man’s game plan in the arena of life. Banishing the habit of worrying could well mean better and healthier lives. It will open doors to a positive life, put man in the driver’s seat, and help him soar through life bravely and with courage.  

Arsenal in combating worry

Sailing through life without a care in the world is close to impossibility. Yet, attention should be given to separate a concern from a worry. For, “there is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem and the concerned person solves a problem”. As concerned persons, equipping ourselves with some basic tools to combat worries is the need of the hour in this worry-prone world of ours.

At the onset, it must be fathomed that life’s many fears seldom come to pass. Most men worry over illnesses and other misfortunes without any basis. Even Montaigne, the great French philosopher, moaned, “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened”.

Percy H Whiting, author of The 5 Great Rules of Selling, while calling himself a no ordinary hypochondriac before he could be cured of the worry-disease, wrote, “I used to be one of the world’s biggest jackasses. I have died more times from more different diseases than any other man, living, dead or half-dead!”

This simple truth, taken together with a series of daily practices as advocated by some of the greatest stalwarts in behavioural sciences, can become the arsenal in combating daily worries. These daily practices, simple as they appear, are time-tested and proven methods to eliminate worry.

Getting busy with the day is perhaps the most practical tip that will help in conquering fears and worries. George Bernard Shaw wrote several years ago, “The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.”

And as another writer put it, “Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night.” In short, living everyday with zest and enthusiasm, buried in ardent delight with our jobs, profession and calling is a sure way to beat worries.

Sitting down and facing the facts is better than lying down and worrying ourselves. “If you have devoted half as much time and energy in solving your problems as you do to worrying about them, you wouldn’t have any worries,” instructs a thinker.

Facing facts means identifying what precisely is the worry, weighing the options to eliminate it, narrowing down the remedial course of action, and implementing the decision without double guessing it. This is to say that analysing the worry and meeting it head-on will go to the heart of the problem and solve it.

Accepting the inevitable is another great skill that happy people develop. As Dale Carnegie in his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living writes, “To break the worry habit before it breaks you, co-operate with the inevitable.” Henry Ford, for instance, never failed to follow this principle in his illustrious life.

To quote him, “When I can’t handle events, I let them handle themselves.” This is also precisely what was advised by Epictetus centuries back: “There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”

Developing the art of being patient and letting time resolve some of life’s troubles most certainly will cause worry to melt and trickle out of our minds, confirm experts. Time is the best answer to many of life’s questions. “I have found that if only I have patience, the worry that is trying to harass me will often collapse like a pricked balloon,” writes a worry-free philosopher.

Living in the moment and taking every day one day at a time is another antidote for the poison of worry. Men who live worry-free lives practice the sagely words of Thomas Carlyle: “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” “Think,” said philosopher Dante, “that this day will never dawn again.” “Every day is a new life to a wise man,” ought to be the creed that will help expel anxieties and worries about tomorrow.

Viewing situations in the right perspective also pales troubles and worries to lighter hues. Seen in the larger picture, many of the cares that keep us wallowing in self-pity and worry will shrivel to nothing. Roger W Babson, the famous economist, wrote, “When I find myself depressed over present conditions, I can within one hour, banish worry and turn myself into a shouting optimist.

This is how I do it. I enter my library and close my eyes, and walk to certain shelves containing only books on history. With my eyes still shut, I reach for a book, not knowing whether I am picking up Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico or Suetonius’s Lives of the Twelve Caesars.

With my eyes still closed, I open the book at random. I then open my eyes and read for an hour; and the more I read, the more sharply I realise that the world has always been in the throes of agony, that civilisation has always been tottering on the brink.

The pages of history fairly shriek with tragic tales of war, famine, poverty, pestilence and man’s inhumanity to man. After reading for an hour, I realise that bad as conditions are now, they are infinitely better than they used to be.

This enables me to see and face my present troubles in their proper perspective, as well as to realise that the world as a whole is constantly growing better.” Understanding that our troubles are indeed very trivial in terms of the larger picture should make every worry of ours diminish in size and intensity.

From a worry-wart to so-what?

Eternal bliss is only available in the graveyard. Yet, man’s pursuit for bliss never wanes. And, why not? Part of living this life is to be happy. Happiness has to be chased, found, preserved and experienced on a permanent basis in our life’s journey. Getting converted from worry-warts to happy-go-lucky sorts is the first step in our thousand-mile search for happiness.

Just as beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, getting excited about the half-full glass is all within the reach of the heart. Worrying over the half empty glass is foolhardy and pointless.

Armed with the right attitude, worry can be chased away before it can take hold of our lives. Many a time the words, “So what,” can be magical, wrote Grove Patterson, editor of the Toledo Blade, a leading daily of Toledo, Ohio, in banishing worries.   

Grove Patterson believed that these words, “So what,” had real value. “We can apply,” he once wrote, “the words ‘so what’ to about 50 per cent of our troubles and find that it is a comfortable cure-all.

I sometimes lie awake at nights trying to figure out why I did this or that, or didn’t do it, and all the time the easy conclusion is within my grasp: So what? Many of us complain because of our lot in life, when it is evident that there is little we can do about it. So what? We didn’t ask to be born, but here we are.

So what? When we finally come to learn that many things come to all of us that we cannot do anything about, we shall have put a board and sturdy plank into the foundation of our philosophy.”

Happy men, not counting scores of other positive, worry-free men, had this philosophy of “So what” ingrained in their thinking. Michael Jordan, the basketball superstar, once revealed his secret of a worry-free and fruitful career: “There was never any fear for me, no fear of failure. If I miss a shot, so what?”

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