People will rather focus on what is wrong, what they don’t have or what they think will make them happy, rather than focusing on the present moment and the things that actually make them happy. This preoccupation with what isn’t working or whether expectations are being met, can lead to unhappiness, stress and feelings of inadequacy and the way around this reminds of the Bobby McFerrin classic, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”.

Worry and the Memory

Now I’m not suggesting that by being happy will solve all of our problems or that concern and worry don’t also have a positive purpose, but research has shown that worrying can have many negatives. Hayes, Hirsch and Mathews found that people who worry more have lower memory capacity than when thinking about a positive topic. This means, when you are worrying, not only does it affect your memory, but it can also mean that you have fewer mental resources available to take your mind off your worries. This can be a downward spiral, as you have fewer resources to move away from your worries and so the troubles will then grow. This is why people who worry suffer more from depression and anxiety than people who worry less.

Worry and wellbeing

As well as affecting our memory, worrying can have other negative side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, depression, depressed immune system, a nervous feeling in your stomach and tiredness. These can mean that your performance, relationships, happiness and ability to flourish suffer. These symptoms could also lead to long term effects to your wellbeing, which can have a downward spiral of mental health, in a similar way that there is a downward spiral of memory capacity when we worry. All are compelling reasons to seek ways to reduce worry and to experience more happy times.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

I’m not here to announce that their is a magic ‘off’ switch for worrying, more to say that we can develop a habit for happiness and this can help protect us from stressful and worrisome times. If we focus on things that make us happy rather than what troubles us, then we will be drawn towards happier activities, and to do this takes practice.

First of all, you need to know the things that make you happy. So my recommendation to you is to get a piece of paper and a pen and then give yourself two minutes to write down as many things as possible that make you happy. Keep going until you have a nice long list and a minimum of ten items. When you review your list, I wonder how many of them you would be able to carry out over the next week, quite a lot I imagine.

My invitation to you over the coming weeks and months is to carry out the things on your happiness list as often as you can and it might just be that your worries start to recede and that you will be more able to tackle them should a problem arise.

After all, don’t worry, be happy!