Worry: The Great Destroyer of Happiness

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” ~ Benjamin Franklin.

Worry is a great destroyer of happiness. It is a totally unproductive thing to do, and yet most of us engage in it with great enthusiasm. I’m always amused when I hear things like ‘is this something we should worry about?’ or ‘What should we really be worrying about?’ The answer, of course, is that we shouldn’t be worrying about anything – there is always a better option.

Worry comes from living in the past or (more often) the future. We have all made mistakes, we’ve all got things wrong. We’ve made foolish decisions and behaved badly. This is part of everyone’s past, and whatever has happened, nothing can be done to change it. But we can learn from this experience and move on. Regret and worry over the past are dead ends.

Similarly, nobody knows the future. Nobody can predict what is going to happen tomorrow, and yet we spend so much time trying to do just that, and worrying about all the things that could go wrong. Mark Twain wrote, ‘I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.’ Sage warning indeed.

‘That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change. But they that build nests in your hair, you can prevent.’
~ Chinese proverb.

The most important thing to keep in mind here (as in all other areas of life) is that you are in control. You are pulling your own strings, you can choose what to think and how to act. So many people don’t understand this, not realising they are unable to change their thinking and so becoming trapped in their own thoughts of worry and fear. It’s very common for people to blame their unhappiness on the outside world – other people, circumstances, the government, etc. – without ever realizing that the problems, and their solutions, lie within.

It is true that some things are outside our control. But I am convinced that happiness is a choice. It’s a decision we all make, whether we know it or not. It is possible to be happy in any situation, because happiness is our natural, default state of being.

‘Joy is not in things; it is in us.’ ~Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

There is Chinese proverb that says. ‘happiness is right in front of your eyes.’ We don’t have to acquire anything to be happy. Often, we think that we need ‘stuff’ to be happy – we need money, we need a good job, we need our family to behave differently, we need to change our appearance. But really, it’s the other way around. When we’re happy, things start to work. When we desire something, the best thing to do is to be happy and appreciative at the prospect of receiving it, and not to to postponing your joy until that certain something arrives.

One of the most powerful ways to find happiness is to make a list of all the wonderful things that have happened to you. At the end of the day, just run through the things you have appreciated during the day. These can be the smallest of things – perhaps someone said a kind word; perhaps you laughed at something; perhaps you were paid a compliment, or spent time with friends. Are you well? Are you free from pain? Did you eat? These are all things to appreciate.

It’s also important to cultivate a habit of seeing the good in things. Many events can be interpreted in positive or negative ways. Is the glass half empty, or is it half full?

Each day, try to develop an awareness of your thinking so that you can catch yourself starting to worry and make a decision to think more productive thoughts. It’s hard at first, but with practise it will become second nature.

Make a commitment to being happy – it’s the most important work of your life!

Michael Miles is a Guest Blogger for PickTheBrain. He also writes at EffortlessAbundance.

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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