Worry! It’s a word that has been used by people to describe emotions in various situations. I’m worried whether my child had food or not, says a mother who has left her kid at home for the first time. I am whether my son will score enough marks to secure the seat in the prestigious college, says a father who is tensed about his son’s academical performance. I am worried that my brother will find out about us, says a sister to her boyfriend who is her brother’s best friend. I am worried whether my sister has reached home safely or not, says a brother who reads about heavy rain affecting his hometown on TV. Yes, the same word worry is used by people all over the world, to describe emotions like fear, anxiety, insecurity and so on. Whenever we listen to the word ‘Worry’ we tend to think of it as a negative word and obviously think that it is not good for us.
We are told by our parents and our teachers that we shouldn’t worry about things as worrying too much can actually make our fears come true. Worrying about anything and everything is not good for a human being is what we are told right from our childhood. We are told that worrying stops us from achieving our goals and instead of worrying we should go ahead and execute our plans without worrying too much about the results. Well, we have been brainwashed into believing that ‘worrying’ truly is a bad thing for a human being and one should stay away from such emotion. But surprisingly, recent studies have found out that worrying can be good for us. On the contrary of the opinion that worrying is bad, a research conducted by Sweeny has found that not all emotional status of worrying is bad for a human being and some of it can turn out to be helpful.
Sweeny, who came out with this theory following her 2016 study, explains why she thinks worrying can actually be good for a human being on the contrary of popular opinion. She says, our ancestors survived only because they worried and took the right action when they ran into predators. If they were chilled out, they would have never seen the light of the day. Only if one is worried about getting skin cancer, would he apply sunscreen before sunbathing? Only if you are worried that you will not be able to do well in the exams will you study long and hard enough. By this, she tried to explain that by being worried, you are not only preparing yourself to face the worst but you are also trying as hard as you can to give your best, and as we all know, when we prepare for the worst, anything better than the worst will be acceptable to us.
Psychology Professor at the University of California, Riverside, Kate Sweeny did a study on two particular events: waiting for a diagnosis for a medical prognosis and the waiting for the results of the bar exam. In the review published in Social and Personality Psychology Compass, she through her findings shows that worrying is actually – counterintuitively – a beneficial emotion.
Sweeny, who analyzed the questionnaire filled in by the law students who had given bar exam and were waiting for results found out that worrying results in building up of ‘emotional buffer’, a sort of self-defense. The law students have to wait for four months to get their results after giving the bar exam and Sweeny would make them fill in questionnaires every two weeks to report their level of worrying. Not only did they fill in the questionnaires before the results were out but they also filled the questionnaire after they knew the results.
She found out that during these four months, students go through a lot of stress and worry a lot about their results. While many worry, some play it cool and do not think much about the results. She found out that the ones who expected the worst of the outcomes did respond well to the negative news and were ecstatic when they got the good news. But the ones who did not ‘worry’ about the results were not able to cope up with the negative news and hence had a much more depressing feeling than the ones who were worried about the results.
Yes, worrying is not comfortable and can make you think about the worst possible scenario, but as per science, it isn’t a bad thing after all.