New research says worrying may be good for your health. Here’s how
The next time someone tells you to stop worrying, ignore them. If scientists are to be believed, worrying might actually do you great good. According to new research, the act may help people recover from traumatic events and depression and prompt them to take up activities that promote health.
“Despite its negative reputation, not all worry is destructive or even futile. It has motivational benefits, and it acts as an emotional buffer,” said Kate Sweeny, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) in the US.
Researchers from UCR broke down the role of worrying in motivating preventive and protective behaviour, and how it leads people to avoid unpleasant events.
They found that worrying is associated with recovery from traumatic events, adaptive preparation and planning, recovery from depression and partaking in activities that promote health as well as prevent illness.
Researchers also found that people who report greater worry may perform better in schools or at workplaces, seek more information in response to stressful events and engage in more successful problem solving.
Researchers noted three explanations for worry’s motivating effects.
First, worry serves as a cue that the situation is serious and requires action. People use their emotions as a source of information when making judgements and decisions.
Second, worrying about a stressor keeps the stressor at the front of one’s mind and prompts people toward action.
Third the unpleasant feeling of worry motivates people to find ways to reduce their worry.
“Even in circumstances when efforts to prevent undesirable outcomes are futile, worry can motivate proactive efforts to assemble a ready-made set of responses in the case of bad news. In this instance, worrying pays off because one is actively thinking of a ‘plan B’,” Sweeney said.
Worry can also benefit one’s emotional state by serving as an emotional benchmark. Compared to the state of worry, any other feeling is pleasurable by contrast.
In other words, the pleasure that comes from a good experience is heightened if preceded by a bad experience, researchers said.
“If people’s feelings of worry over a future outcome are sufficiently intense and unpleasant, their emotional response to the outcome they ultimately experience will seem more pleasurable in comparison to their previous, worried state,” Sweeny said.
The study was published in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Compass.
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