Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don't Worry. Be Happy.

Who doesn't remember that Bobby McFerrin song. It was a catchy little tune, wasn't it.

But we all have worries. And sometimes they can be quite overwhelming.

The interesting thing about worrying is that probably 99% of what we worry about never happens, or just doesn't matter. But we waste about 80% of our time thinking about it, talking about it, dreaming about it, and sometimes it really interferes with our lives. All for something that will most likely never happen.

I see a lot of people who don't worry anymore. The worst has happened. All the other worries have slipped away as they now face the worst possible news of their lives.

All of a sudden, worrying about people eating on the sofa becomes rather silly. No more cares about small dents in the car from the parking lot, or how much they weigh, or how the boss will react to whatever piece of nonsense they have always reacted to in the past.

All the petty worries of everyday life melt away. Because they just don't matter anymore.

And the interesting thing is this. They never did.

It is a lesson for everyone. We are all going to die one day. It is a fact. You can worry about it and try to prevent it for as long as possible, but it is still going to be there. Worrying about it will not stop it. And the stress may even hasten it.

Think about that.

So, in the long run, is it really worth wasting the time we do have on ridiculous worries? If we spent half the time thinking about and doing things that make us happy, we would be free of many of the worries of life. Not that legitimate worries don't exist. They do. But they are really only a small part of our lives and many of those things we worry about incessantly are really not the most important ones anyway.

I know someone who won't let anyone eat in his car because he is worried about the mess. I know another who constantly worries about her son's safety, almost to the point of hysteria. And yet another who worries about how the house looks all of the time and doesn't invite people over because she worries she is going to be judged.

Well, guess what. You are going to be judged anyway, worry or not. Your son may not always be safe, worry or not. And that car? It is going to get dirty. Get over it.

I know it sounds simple and even naive. We will always worry about our kids, no matter what. We worry because we do not want anything bad to happen to them. Some worry because they think that if they worry, then it will somehow protect their child. Like people who are superstitious of happiness sometimes think that if they are too happy, then something bad will happen. It is strange, but true.

People who have been through a real life crisis tend to be able to place things into better perspective. The worst has already happened. Their child may be sick. They have been diagnosed with cancer. They have lost their home or their life savings.

But many who have survived a life crisis tend to lose that perspective once the harm has passed. They go back to life and many times return to the petty worries once again.

I don't worry so much anymore. Worry to me is a waste of time. I try to act instead. If I worry about my daughter drowning while she is swimming, I watch her more closely. I get her swimming lessons. I never let her go into water I think is dangerous. I don't worry. I act.

And that is what people need to do.

Worrying that your house is too messy? Clean it. Worrying about your weight? Exercise more. Worrying about your health? Eat better. Exercise. Get to the MD for a check up.

The thing about worries is that it is much easier to sit and worry then to actually do something about it. Doing something is hard work. It is much easier to sit and ruminate about it instead.

So make a list of what is really worrying you. Then next to it, write what you can do to alleviate the worry. And cross off the worries that you have absolutely no control over. Don't waste the time you do have on those things.

Then write down what makes you really happy.

Spend more time doing those things.

Plan out how to get more of that in. Fun things. Happy things. Things that will make happy memories.

Worries will always be there, for sure. We cannot make them go away. But we can balance them with true enjoyment of life.

Worries are infinite. Life is finite.

And that makes the song "Don't worry, be Happy" more than just a catchy tune.

If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I'd have fewer imaginary ones. ~Don Herold

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~Leo Buscaglia

If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today. ~E. Joseph Cossman

People gather bundles of sticks to build bridges they never cross. ~Author Unknown

For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe. ~Author Unknown

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