Worry and anxiety in general leads to a number of detrimental health issues, from anxiety-induced habits such as hair pulling and nail biting to physical manifestations such as insomnia and high blood pressure. However, research has discovered that one of the most detrimental aspects of worry is that it shuts down the creative centers of the brain, leading to the inability to imagine or develop solutions to the problem that induces worry.
To worry is to focus the attention onto negative consequences, either perceived, imagined or genuine. When a person worries, they imagine the worst possible outcomes to an event, and then continue to ruminate on that outcome as though it were inevitable. In a sense, the act of worrying is the end result of making the decision that the only conclusion to an event or process will be detrimental.
In a study done on positivity by Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina, the process of worrying limits a person’s ability to conceptualize alternative pathways, choices or decisions that could create positive outcomes. The thing that a person fears often comes to pass, then, because he or she becomes frozen with regard to uncovering and implementing another, more beneficial, set of choices or behaviors.
Fredrickson’s study found that people who entered a challenging situation and developed the technique of positively stated self-questioning were better able to formulate solutions than were those who attempted to “affirm” their way through a problem.
Take the following situation as an example: a household emergency has taken money set aside for utility bills and the electric bill is due. The worry-prone person will immediately ask him or herself, “What am I going to DO?” A more constructive, positively stated question is, “What can I do today to make enough money to pay this light bill?” The first question normally leads to a feeling of disempowerment and a paralyzing sense of doom, whereas the latter spurs the creative juices to flow and opens the door to solutions.
The remarkable thing about the worry-prone person is that he or she is highly creative; the problem is that their creativity drives them in the wrong direction. Changing perspectives from one that focuses on the brick wall to one that assumes there is always a door to open harnesses the tools of intelligence and imagination, and serves to transform worry into wisdom.
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