This is the title of a record album (by the Wildhearts), which made me smile when I first came across it. Thinking on it further, I realised it was rather a wise piece of advice. When someone is worrying it’s vacuous to say ‘don’t worry, just be happy’. That’s framed in the negative for a start and gives no clue at all as to how somebody can alter their state of mind towards one of happiness - and the ‘just’ is simply patronising I feel.
Worrying has been compared to riding on a rocking horse: you put lots of effort into it but it doesn’t get you anywhere. According to Dale Carnegie (see below) it is a habit and one that can be changed. Here are some techniques that I have personally found to be useful…
The Wise Observer. This is an ancient technique where, as worry-thoughts appear, some part of our mind ‘stands back’ and notices them going on. When we’ve learned to do this we are not so caught up in the tangle of impressions and feelings, but can sift through them more calmly to work towards a solution.
Direct Positive Action. It’s easy just to let worries circle around in our minds. As a general rule, doing anything about them is better than doing nothing. Taking direct positive action to tackle worries creates a sense of empowerment and control.
Support Networks. Seeking help and advice is one of the most effective courses of action we can take. Even sharing our worries with a caring listener can make us feel better, and shatters the illusion that we are alone.
‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’.
I was an expert worrier through my teens and twenties. Reading this book by Dale Carnegie literally changed the way I thought and acted. I still have my copy from 1972 and dip into it occasionally if worries begin to haunt me. Carnegie’s tips include -
Remembering Winston Churchill’s sound advice, “I’ve had many problems in my life, most of which never happened.”