What is worry?
Let me attempt defining “worry” before proceeding with the investigation of its effects on the quality of our life. “Worry is an anxious thought we entertain anticipating a trouble in the future or regretting an incident of the past”. If we agree with this definition, worry is connected with the unborn future or buried past! We can classify all our thoughts into two categories namely negative and positive. Jealousy, greed, anxiety, worry etc fall under the negative category and love, compassion, etc. fall under the positive. All the negative thoughts have destructive effects on our heath, as the science has proved beyond doubt how our quality of thoughts has an influence on our health.
One of the modern day killers is the worry which has many destructive effects on human health such as tooth decay, hypertension, stomach ulcer etc. How can a thought create a physical effect? The physical body reacts according to the mental state. If you are anxious, you breathe faster and if you are cool, you breathe softly! The body and mind are so interconnected that one influences the other. William James, the greatest psycho-analyst of this century has demonstrated several experiments to show how body and mind respond to each other.
Many of us succumb to this silent killer “Worry” without knowing what is happening within us. It appears that this concept of worry does not exist in the animal kingdom and it is an exclusive right of human beings! I would say it is a unique feature of human evolution as it requires higher intelligence to worry – namely the rationale! Like the feeling of upset, one cannot be productive when they are busy with the worrying thought. In order to master this negative state of a being, we need to understand what worry is all about, and how we can overcome this habit? This is the main topic of discussion in this article.
In order to appreciate why we are caught up with the habit of worry, we need to understand the anatomy of human personality. The moment we are born, we certainly know that we will die one day! Whether anything else is certain or not, death is certain. Due to the higher intelligence and fear of death, human beings want to escape from death somehow. This concept has created a feeling of security. We feel that if we have enough money, we are secured. With the result we go around aggrandizing wealth thinking that money will help us to escape from death. All these have created a phobia of an un-born future making us to worry about our health, future of our children and so on.
Science has studied about the composition of our thoughts and found that we process an average of sixty thousand thoughts in our waking hours and out of which 80 percent of them are about our un-born future! Invariably they are anxious thoughts of worrying about future. In other words we spend 80% of our time in imagining about worst to happen in the future. This may be of bad health, safety of our children gone to school and so on. Invariably we find that 99% of the worst we visualized have never happened in reality! Even then we continue to entertain the worry thoughts helplessly.
We need to learn many things from the animal kingdom to improve our quality of life. In the animal kingdom there is no concept of past and future and the only reality is “present”. The animals are believed to be governed by their instincts; hunger, procreation, self-preservation and rest. As they don’t have the concept of self-awareness as we have, they don’t know that they exist! As they don’t recognize that they exist, they don’t have an idea of death either. In another words, they have no fear of death as we human beings have. This fact leads to the conclusion that they have no desire to aggrandize wealth for securing their future like we do! If there is no concept of future, obviously they cannot worry about the same!
If scientist could invent an instrument which can study the pattern of thinking of an animal, we will find that they have no worry thoughts. Even when we examine their behaviour we find that they have no anxiety about their next meal as they are never denied of it as the nature has planned to provide them when they need it! It may not be an exaggeration if I say that they are more confident about the love and compassion of the creator than human. In one of the discourses, Sukabodananda refers to the kindness of the creator by referring to the formation of the milk in the mother’s breast when the child is just delivered. We notice that the food nature creates is just-in-time and ideal for the infant to consume and survive. There cannot be a better example than this to re-assure us that nature provides what we need and not what we want!
Let’s us examine now how we can come out of the habit of worrying all the time.
To start with we need to understand that worrying is a habit like smoking or drinking. In order to manage anything in life, we need to know more about the subject we are trying to manage. If you wish to come out of the habit of worrying, you need to know more about “Worry”. As Stephen Covey said, formation of habits needs three ingredients; Desire, knowledge and skill. Most important ingredient is “Desire” to form a new habit and once it is taken care, the next is “Knowledge” about worry.
One of the great thinkers has said that “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due”. What a great statement it is? Worry is like paying interest on the money which we have never borrowed! This implies that majority of the worst outcome what we imagined have never happened in reality, but we have already paid the interest by draining our precious time worrying about it! Another great quote I remember is “Worry is like a rocking chair; it keeps you busy but takes you nowhere!”
Having mastered the Desire and knowledge, the next in habit formation is “skill”. To develop a habit of eliminating the worry thoughts is to know when they attack you. As we have heart attack, we have to be aware of “Thought attack”. Whenever we get busy to encourage the worry thoughts about the future, we have to stop entertaining our mind by substituting with a positive assertion saying that the present moments are more valuable for us rather than the anxiety of un-born future! Dale Carnegie in his famous book “Stop worrying and start living” calls this habit as “Living in a Day tight compartment”.
Dr. Richard Carlson in his famous book “Don’t sweat the small stuff; it is all the small stuff” suggests an allotment of “worrying hour in a week”. Tell your mind when the worrying thought hits you, you will take it up in the worrying hour and not now! If you really look at, all these suggestions are nothing but re-education of the mind imitating the animals. If you like, you can surrender all your anxiety to the divine which has brought you here providing the ambience for you to survive in your mother’s womb and created the food you needed when you are just born!
- Worry is one of those negative state of being which ruins your present moment making you ineffective.
- All negative thoughts including worry affect your heath leading to disease. Disease is “Dis” “Ease” with the nature – non-alignment with the plan of the nature.
- Learn to live in the present moment like an animal. Don’t underestimate animals as they have better quality of life as they obey law of nature better than us.
- Worry is a habit like smoking and drinking which can be changed at your will if you desire.
- Don’t wait for the doctor to say that you are terminally ill to change your habits! The will-power what you get that time is already there within you even now.
- New habits can be made if you have desire, knowledge and develop skills.
- By re-education of mind, you can eliminate the worrying habits over a period of time.
- Don’t throw away your invaluable present moment by worrying about an un-born future.
- Remember 99% of the worst future you imagined have never happened! Why continue this wrong habit of worrying?