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Don’t worry. Be happy.

Don’t worry, be happy. Once said a wise man.

And no, I am not talking about that wonderful fountain of good vibes Bobby McFerrin Be Happy song nor of that cute Pumba Hakuna Matata advice.

I am talking about a pastor. Equally wise, and recommended, although surely not as well versed in musical whimsical lyrics as good old McFerrin or our dear Disney’s duo.

A Christian pastor named James Gordon Gilkey, amidst of his God-heavy writings, did indeed call attention to what it can be the best well put list of anyone’s main worries. He presents the “Worry Table”, from an unknown source yet nonetheless relevant for it, designed to distinguish between justified and unjustified worries, in such a manner that they fall into 5 fairly distinct classifications:

  1. Worries about disasters which, as later events prove, never happen. About 40%.
  2. Worries about decisions made in the past or decisions about which one could do nothing. About 30%.
  3. Worries about possible sickness or a nervous breakdown, neither of which materialize. About 12%.
  4. Worries about one’s children and friends, worries arising from the fact that one can forget that these people have an ordinary amount of common sense (to live their lives on their own). About 10%.
  5. Worries that have a real foundation and reason to be. Possibly 8% of the total.

Gilkey then prescribes: “What is the first act in the conquest of anxiety? It is to limit one’s worrying to the few perils in the fifth group. This simple act will eliminate 92% of fears. Or, to figure the matter differently, it will leave one free from worry 92% of the time.”

But good Pastor Gilkey, happy Mcferrin and chubby well lived Pumba, are not alone in the daunting task of convincing us mere mortals, not to worry. In a 1933 letter to his 11-year-old daughter Scottie, F. Scott Fitzgerald produced a poignant and wise list of things to worry and not to worry.

“Things to worry about:

Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship
Worry about…

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions.”

So why is worrying so negative or so undesired when one pursues and aims to achieve happiness?

Because unneeded worrying brings anxiety and adds surplus amounts of fear and doubt to one’s mind and therefore, to one’s life.

Luisa Baltazar

I hereby leave, written for posterity, or at least while this blog lasts online, the 5 main solutions and steps I found for myself from the wisdom of others and from going through the challenging year of 2020…

1. Take in less news and more solitude

“… most of us spend swaths of our days worrying about the prospect of events we judge to be negative, potential losses driven by what we perceive to be “bad news”. (…) A twenty-four-hour news cycle that preys on this human propensity has undeniably aggravated the problem and swelled the 8% (of justified worries and concerns) to appear as 98%, but at the heart of this warping of reality is an ancient tendency of mind so hard-wired into our psyche that it exists independently of external events.”

Maria Popova from her BrainPickings Blog, my main origin of inspirations and source for continuous inspiration for some of my favorite writers, poets and philosophers and used in the writing of this article.

“One must possess oneself, and be alone in possession of oneself.”

D.H. Lawrence, after barely surviving the deadly Spanish Flu and living in exile in the mountains, wrote on how supreme challenge of human life is reconciling the longing to fulfill ourselves in union, in partnership, in love, with the urgency of fulfilling ourselves according to our own solitary and sovereign laws.

“Truth is the offspring of silence and meditation.”

Sir Newton on his most intellectually fertile period, during the Plague Year and his transfiguration. Solitary and almost incommunicado, he became the world’s paramount mathematician.

2. Do not give in to anxiety nor fear

There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.

What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come. Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow.

Seneca, on Overcoming Fear and the Surest Strategy for Protecting Yourself from Misfortune.

“When hope is so strong that it altogether drives out fear, its nature changes and it becomes complacency or confidence. And when we are certain that what we desire will come to pass, even though we go on wanting it to come to pass, we nonetheless cease to be agitated by the passion of desire which caused us to look forward to the outcome with anxiety. Likewise, when fear is so extreme that it leaves no room at all for hope, it is transformed into despair; and this despair, representing the thing as impossible, extinguishes desire altogether, for desire bears only on possible things.”

Descartes, on the Vital Relationship Between Fear and Hope

“Anxiety, makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you.”

Anaïs Nin from the article, Thin Slices of Anxiety: An Illustrated Meditation on What It’s Like to Live Enslaved by Worry and How to Break Free

3. Don’t question life, fate or destiny

The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

Alan Watts on how Not to Think in Terms of Gain and Loss  and the Chinese farmer parable illustrated video

“I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Rilke on Embracing Uncertainty and Doubt as a Stabilizing Force

We should make ourselves stop trying to explain our own difficulties. Our first impulse is to try to account for them, figure out why what has happened did happen. Sometimes such an effort is beneficial: more often it is distinctly harmful. It leads to introspection, self-pity, and vain regret; and almost invariably it creates within us a dangerous mood of confusion and despair. Many of life’s hard situations cannot be explained. They can only be endured, mastered, and gradually forgotten. Once we learn this truth, once we resolve to use all our energies managing life rather than trying to explain life, we take the first and most obvious step toward significant accomplishment.

Pastor James Gilkey on How Not To Worry: Timeless 1934 Advice on Controlling Anxiety and Mastering Life

4. Live life with purpose and in the present

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” 

Annie Dillard on Choosing Presence Over Productivity

“If to enjoy even an enjoyable present we must have the assurance of a happy future, we are “crying for the moon.” We have no such assurance. The best predictions are still matters of probability rather than certainty, and to the best of our knowledge every one of us is going to suffer and die. If, then, we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen, and where death comes at the end.”

Alan Watts on Happiness and How to Live with Presence

5. Have the courage to be yourself

“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life.”

Nietzsche wrote as he contemplated what it takes to find oneself.

“Blessed be he who has found his solitude, not the solitude pictured in painting or poetry, but his own, unique, predestined solitude. Blessed be he who knows how to suffer! Blessed be he who bears the magic stone in his heart. To him comes destiny, from him comes authentic action.”

Hermann Hesse on Solitude, the Value of Hardship, the Courage to Be Yourself, and How to Find Your Destiny

Oh my, oh my…

Now, after reading this somewhat long article, you may find yourself thinking: “Could all this be yet just another “be happy by being yourself” type of article in the disguise?”

Maybe so.

And if that is the case and that is the major take you got from this dissertation of mine, well then… So be it. Preferably at the sound of Chris Cornell’s, Be Yourself music vídeo. Because with his history it seems fit and because his deep voice brings lightness through sexiness, even to the most somber of topics.

“Don’t lose any sleep tonight, I’m sure everything will end up alright.

You may win or lose.

But to be yourself is all that you can do.”

Chris Cornell’s, Be Yourself refrain

But hey… ultimately, who am I to be giving advice?

Me… the one who still struggles to control her own fears, self doubt, occasional anxiety and daily works on the ability to fully live in the present and not in the unknown future.

You may just be better off listening to someone else’s advice. Such as Baz Luhrman’s, Wear Sunscreen Advice