So it seems timely that a new study looking at the root causes of worry, and the ways in which we can try and stop it in its tracks, has just been published in the journal Biological Psychology.
To learn how to stop worrying, you first need to establish what kind of worrier you are: according to the study’s authors, Graham Davey and Frances Meeten from the University of Sussex. there is a difference between normal and pathological worriers.
For a normal worrier, the train of anxious thoughts will eventually go away on its own, once the worry has served its “purpose”.
And, surprisingly, all worry has a purpose, with the authors writing that worrying can “solve perceived problems of daily living, as an attempt to repair negative mood, or as a means to try and ensure that ‘bad’ things do not happen or to avoid future catastrophes”.
However, pathological worriers have a more “perfectionist approach” to worrying, as described by researcher Christian Jarrett, and this can lead them to obsessively over-analyse a situation.
Thankfully, there is a brilliantly simple solution to this kind of worrying: you need to force yourself to move on from the negative thoughts.
“Thinking about the idea of stopping worrying when you’ve had enough of it, rather than when the worrying is somehow ‘finished’ or ‘complete,’ could be beneficial,” writes Jarrett.
Of course, this can be easier said than done, and those stuck in a cycle of worrying might want to try a more literal approach: writing it down.
Psychologist Sian Beilock, who works at the University of Chicago, told The Wall Street Journal that one way to stop “paralysis by analysis” was to spend a few minutes writing down our worries and getting them out of our minds and onto paper instead.
So, next time you find your thoughts shuttling down a route of worry, try putting pen to paper – it might just do the trick.