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Study: Worrying Can Be Beneficial

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If, like this writer, you tend to worry like there’s no tomorrow, please take comfort from this latest study, which says that clocking up a few anxious hours (within reason) could actually benefit you in the long term.

New research reported by the New York Times has suggested that worrying may somewhat be a good thing, particularly if your anxious thoughts are laced with optimism, as this leaves you better equipped to deal with negative scenarios.

To arrive at this conclusion, researchers conducted a study, and followed the behaviour of a group of 230 law students during the anxiety-inducing four-month span they awaited the results of the California bar exam.

They examined three types of what they termed “worry waiters”: those who tried to ignore or suppress the anxiety of waiting, those who sought silver linings (e.g. “I will grow as a person if I fail the bar exam”), and those “hoping for the best, bracing for the worst.” And according to the experts, it was the latter group of worriers that faired better afterwards.

According to Kate Sweeny, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California and author of the study, the latter group used what is known as defensive pessimism, or proactive coping. This is where one goes into a situation hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, thus developing contingency plans. This means that if you are faced with bad news, you will be able to deal with it and move forward relatively quickly.

“If the news was bad, the worriers were ready with productive, reasonable responses. “And if they passed, they were elated,” said Dr. Sweeny said. And therein lies the positive reasoning behind the worrying; you’ll be able to handle any curve life throws at you.

To surmise, what the study is saying is that if you’re a worrier, provided you streamline those thoughts, aiming for the ‘prepare for the best but expect the worst’ mantra, you should be able to deal with any life situation with relative ease because you’ve mentally prepared yourself for various outcomes.

Unfortunately, the actual time spent worrying probably won’t get any easier (and if it’s vastly impacting your life and general mental wellbeing, it is important to seek help and tell someone about this), but at least you can now say there’s a positive side to it (albeit, a small one) and it should help you the next time an anxious period of waiting draws near.

Via New York Times

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