Choosing Not to Worry

"..the world can be very discouraging. But we can not sit and think about all the things that have gone wrong, or could go wrong. There was no point in doing that because it only makes things worse." -- Mma Ramotswe -- from The Kalahari Typing School for Men', by Alexander McCall Smith

This can be used throughout the day to develop an awareness of worry, and then to put a stop to it.

How to Practice

Is this worry?
The first step is to catch yourself worrying. It may be easy, it may be hard. If you find that you have to work hard to convince yourself that it is not a worry, then it probably is one.

Can I Fix This?
Ask yourself if there is anything you can do about this worrying situation right at this moment. Hint: Usually the answer is 'No.'

Choose Not to Worry:
Then remind yourself that you were choosing not to worry and direct your attention elsewhere. This can be hard if you have a habit of 'keeping things in mind.' Choosing not to worry is the opposite of this. It means being willing to release all the energy around the worrying situation out into the world, trusting that if you need to pick up the pieces again in the future, they will all be there.

Get Into the Moment:
Do whatever works for you to get into the here and now. I pay attention to the temperature of the air on my face and follow the rise and fall of my belly with each breath.

Choose Different Thoughts:
Choose thoughts that better serve you. Gratitude is a good one. I can call it up almost anywhere. So if I'm worried about a loved one's health, I may feel grateful that we had a chance to laugh together on the phone. If I'm worried about the state of the world, I can direct my attention to the delicious scent of onions cooking, or the chatter and song of the birds outside.

Take Action:
Then it's time to take action. Now that my thoughts are changing, physical action can set the decision not to worry in my body as well as mind. Lately for me I have been cooking for the freezer, reorganizing my office, that sort of thing. I may not be able to influence this worrying issue, but this stuff is something I can do today. A long walk can help too, or if the weather is good, a dip into a cool lake.

This takes practice and courage, and sometimes the stars have to be lined up right, but it's worth it. Don't give up if after 1 or 5 or 10 attempts you don't see lasting results. Worry is a deep habit and it'll take time to think differently. Keep at it, it'll become easier, and you'll be so good at catching yourself, people may wonder where your worry lines went.


One of the great hidden benefits of this is that we become aware that worry is often a cover for sadness or another difficult emotion that we need to process. If we can let some of that mental energy dissipate and feel the sadness, it can clear out the cobwebs. And that can give us a fresh start.