How to Stop Worrying About Things That Don’t Matter

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So many of us worry about all kinds of things: Am I saving enough for retirement? Will he ever propose? When is my health going to give out?

Sure, some concerns are completely valid, but stressing over them is not doing you any favors.

Here are four ways to stop worrying about the things that don’t matter right now:

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Stop Playing The Comparison Game

Listen, you are invited to play this game every time someone shares good news with you, your neighbors buy a new car, a friend gets a promotion.

It’s up to you to whether or not you participate.

Social media is another slippery slope. Can you look at someone’s success without questioning your own?

Can you acknowledge that other people may be getting the very things that you want without berating yourself?

Then, by all means, go ahead, log in, and commence the scroll. But if you can’t, then maybe it’s time to press pause before swiping open any apps.

Scrolling through the endless feed of carefully curated glimpses into strangers’ lives can add to your self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy.

Matthew Crawford, author of The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction, points out that, “Attention is a resource—a person has only so much of it.”

The social media abyss is no place to spend your precious time if you’re prone to playing that comparison game every chance that you get.

Do you swipe out of social media feeling anxious and criticizing yourself more?

Then stop. Put down your phone. Spend a few days away from all of those platforms and take the time to reconnect with yourself.

Return to it with a fresh perspective and maybe even purge accounts that always leave you feeling less than awesome.

And please keep this in mind when you do decide to start double tapping pictures of engagement rings on perfectly manicured hands and cute babies sound asleep on hand-stitched blankets: You are a human.

You don’t see a whole lot of inspirational quotes about how epic fails can leave you bummed out for days and that it’s all just part of life.

There aren’t too many memes reminding you that when you get everything you think you want, it might not make you happy after all, despite what those well-filtered selfies of strangers living their #bestlives implies.

Change The Narrative

Drown out the negative voices in your head.

You know the ones. They sound like: You can’t possibly do it all, You’ll never accomplish that, There’s too much to do, But what will happen if … and the list goes on.

Try writing down a reality check. Something like:

What my brain says: I will never reach my goal.

What’s true: I got this. It may be difficult, but it is not impossible.

Doesn’t the second one make you feel better? Then why waste any time thinking that you can’t if it’s just as true that you can?

Let go of the destructive ideas that just don’t serve you.

Dan Harris is a correspondent for ABC News, an anchor for Nightline and co-anchor for the weekend edition of Good Morning America.

He’s also a guy that suffered a severe panic attack on live national television, then went on to use meditation as a way to deal with his depression and anxiety.

In his book 10% Happier, Harris writes:

“…the internal narrator is the most intimate part of our lives. For most of us, it is our lives. It chases us out of bed in the morning, and then heckles us all day long with an air horn. It’s a fever swamp of urges, desires, and judgments, a frittata of toxic impatience, anticipatory annoyance, and outdated assumptions. It’s fixated on the past and the future, to the detriment of the here and now.”

Dan Harris

The University of Toronto published a study that showed how practicing mindfulness meditation reduced activity in the part of the brain associated with that very internal narrator.

Try spending a few minutes every day in whatever mediation practice works for you.

Quit Seeking Approval In All The Wrong Places

Facebook likes, Instagram follows, the singles on the other side of the dating apps, your son’s new girlfriend, the other parents in the PTA … they aren’t the ones you should be looking to for validation.

Begin by checking in with your own thought process. Happiness is an inside job, so try developing a more stable relationship within yourself. Here are a few tips:

  • Focus more on what makes you happy and less on what others think.
  • Practice self-care.
  • Learn to trust your own intuition.

According to the psychology theory Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, esteem, love, and belonging are all crucial components of what motivates us.

You just have to make sure that they aren’t the only things motivating you.

Sure, it’s important to have a group of loved ones in your life that you can always turn to for advice, pep talks, and the tough love we all need from time to time.

Identify those people who really matter and make it a point to spend quality time with them.

These are the people whom you respect and who also respect you. They love you unconditionally and only want what’s best for your wellbeing. They are the only ones who should matter to your sense of self.

It’s utterly exhausting trying to be everything to everyone. But more importantly, it’s just not sustainable.

Feeling confident without anyone else’s approval means loving yourself first and knowing your own self-worth.

Shift Your Perspective

Try your best to stay positive about things. There are endless benefits of looking on the bright side.

Research shows that optimistic people tend to enjoy increased marital satisfaction, better physical health, and higher incomes.

Practice gratitude.

What are you grateful for right now? That’s what matters.

If you aren’t sure, then put your pen to paper and make a gratitude list. Studies on gratitude cite a variety of benefits, including greater life satisfaction, stronger cardiovascular health, and better sleep.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology looked at the benefits of a gratitude journal as well as verbally expressing gratitude to friends and family.

Participants who journaled their gratitude improved their mental health, and those that verbally shared their gratitude showed greater improvement overall.

Sometimes, all you can control is your reaction to things. When you accept that, then you’ll be much more effective (and a lot less stressed).

Until then, here are 15 things you can quit worrying about ASAP:

  • The money that’s not in your savings account.
  • Your parent’s health.
  • The wrinkles on your forehead.
  • Anything that may take place in the future. Sure, plan. But worry? Nope, it won’t help a thing.
  • How this moment will look on social media.
  • What other people are thinking of you right now.
  • What would people say if …
  • What will happen when …
  • Anything that took place in the past. Need to make amends? Go ahead. Want to ruminate? It’ll only make it worse.
  • Being perfect. There’s no such thing.
  • How many likes or follows you have on social media.
  • Whether your child is developing like the other children.
  • If your brother will ever quit smoking.
  • If your dog may actually run away for good one of these days.
  • Anything at all that you can’t do anything about.

What do you do when you find yourself worrying about the “small things” in life? Leave your best tips in the comments below!

Additional Resources

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About the author

Lexi Weber
Lexi is a contributing writer for

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