Life Lesson #5 Why Worry When You Can Be Happy?

#5 in series- Life Lessons

4 min read

Back in 1988, jazz and folk singer Bob McFarrin accomplished the unimaginable — he released an acapella song that shot up the Billboard Top 100 list to #1. This same song went on to earn the 1989 Grammy Award for song of the year! How does a song with no instrumental accompaniment have such a roaring success? Apparently McFarrin’s message “Don’t Worry be Happy” resonated with millions across the globe. After all, who of us doesn’t want to be happy?

I highly recommend that you take time to watch it here. Unless you are dead inside, it should make you smile. :)

Be Happy!
Be Happy!

Let's think about this.

Is it that easy? Just stop worrying and you’ll be happier? The short answer is yes. We can choose not to worry and that will definitely lead to more happiness. The more detailed answer is we need to understand worry, truly realize its adverse effect on us, and consciously stop ourselves from going down that path.

When I was young, I saw my grandma worry about a lot of things. In all fairness she had some tough stuff to deal with. But even as a kid, I recognized that her worry seemed harmful and not helpful to her. I decided that I didn’t want to grow up and be a worrier.

Here are 6 things which have helped me avoid being consumed by worry

1. Understand the difference between worry and concern:

When we worry, we allow our minds to dwell on stressful thoughts and possible worst case scenarios. We ruminate to the point of anxiety and mental distress. Think of it this way. Worry is a whirlwind of “what if’s” in your head.

On-the-other-hand, concern is calculated consideration over legitimate situations. If we take a reasonable amount of time to contemplate solutions to an existing crisis, then take action, we are in a place of healthy concern. Think of concern as the tangible “how to’s”- how do I prevent it, solve it, or deal with it?

2. Worry has harmful side effects

Staying awake with worry
Staying awake with worry

Concern doesn’t harm you but worry does. Concern gets us to take action and get results. Worry causes stress and stress leads to a laundry list of health issues—sleeplessness, stomach issues, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, heart problems, headaches, depletion of the immune system, and a possibility of Alzheimer’s, to name a few.

Doesn’t this sound like one of those drug commercial’s side effect disclaimers? Only with zero benefits!

3. Worry is a complete waste of time:

Some people feel like their worries prove their love or care for someone or something. They should worry about their kids or this country, right? Wrong! If your adult children are going through a hard time, you can send out good vibes (or prayers), be available if they ask for help, and trust them to be capable of figuring things out. These are all productive actions, but all the worry in the world won’t help them or you.

And what about things on a national or global level? By all means, take some actions to improve life on this planet. Vote, recycle, get involved… but don’t waste endless hours watching news or shows that make you worry about something so large that it’s way beyond your control. Keep remembering, if it causes you anxiety it’s because you are worrying and worrying is wasted energy. Be concerned, take what actions you can, then let the rest of it go.

Sometimes the only action we can take is the action of getting busy with something else. Exercise, garden, hang out with friends, or choose from a million other good activities. There’s nothing like getting busy to stop the worry-go-round in your head.

4. Worry robs you of your joy:

Kathy and I have a friend who is a habitual worry addict. She worries about basically everything including positive things. She can’t go on a trip, have a home remodeling project, or have her kids come visit without it becoming more about what can go wrong than the excitement of a happy occasion . She never seems joyously looking forward to anything. We love her but find her worry habit tragic. Maybe you know someone like this too, or… maybe this describes you! None of us should be robbed of the here and now for those pesky “what if’s.”

Realize that you will survive and even thrive after mistakes, mishaps, or misfortunes: One of the best lines in McFarrin’s song says this “ In every life we have some trouble but when you worry, you make it double.” Absolutely, worry just compounds our hardships, or even worse, causes hardships to exist in our heads that will never even materialize. Think about your life. You’ve made some mistakes. You’ve had some hard times hit too, but here you are! You survived! If you are honest, you are better off because things didn’t go as planned.

Years ago, I was devastated by a breakup. Now I see things clearly. I not only dodged a bullet, I am with someone soooo… much better-Kathy!

And Finally...

5. Go With The flow:

This is how you get to the “Be Happy” part.

Instead of trying to force life to follow your plans, let life take you on your distinct journey. If you live in the moment of today, accept changes that come your way, and go with the flow instead of worrying about every outcome, you will be much happier. Life won’t need to be perfect for you to feel like it’s pretty damn perfect.

‘The best way to live a stress-free life is to learn how to swim in the ocean of uncertainty.” ~Debasish Mridha

Best wishes until next time.