The Hidden Costs of Worrying or Ruminating

I’m not talking about the health issues. I don’t need to lecture anyone about that and turn myself into an ever bigger hypocrite. God knows, I’ve spent enough time taking years off my longevity and turning myself into a physical wreck as a result of worrying.

And I’m not even talking about giving up such a beloved habit. After all, that worry or rumination often leads to action and to positive change. I’m talking about when that worrying goes beyond productive. I can’t let go. I can’t let it go. I can’t stop fretting or beating myself or someone else up (in my mind, not literally).

We know it’s not healthy. But worrying also takes a psychological toll on your perception of well-being and life satisfaction. For example, if I’m focused on the future or the past I can’t be present in the moment, enjoying the company of my family or friends, savoring the beautiful day or scenery, or tapping into my inspiration and creativity. My whole life will pass me by and I’ll have been mentally elsewhere.

It’s the equivalent of being on PlayStation or Facebook your entire vacation. You might as well stay on the couch at home. The same is true for our lives. If we desire, we can view our daily lives as the vacation we’ve always longed to take.   Every day can be filled with spectacular sunsets, romantic walks, deep and interesting conversations with loved ones or a talented acquaintance, and discovering new ideas, experiences, people. But whether at Disneyland, our desk or our couch, we need only to choose whether to view our daily life as vacation or drudgery.

I also find that my life simply goes better when I’m present. I get more out of what I do, not only in terms of enjoyment, but also out of engagement, productivity, and creativity.   People like me better when I give them my undivided attention and, accordingly are also more likely to give me their full attention. I make fewer mistakes and just feel happier and more satisfied in general.

I’ve gotten better about getting myself out of the ruminating cycle too. Sometimes it feels impossible to stop worrying, but taking intentional action to be present helps to break the cycle: taking a walk, meditating, working out, taking a hot bath, listening to inspiring music, pausing to feel my heart energy, smiling at a child, writing a blog, or expressing appreciation or gratitude. Then I do it some more, for good measure. When my life seems to get back on track as result, it’s all the more reinforcing.

My old left-brained-dominated self wouldn’t have believed this, but my wiser, more balanced self believes that being present is essential to my emotional, physical, and professional well-being. And I’m just easier to live with, and in doing so, decrease the stress for those who love me.

Now, please excuse me. It’s time for me to get back to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

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