If worrying were a paying job, I would be a rich woman. Somehow during my childhood, I got the idea that worrying could actually stave off future disaster, and as I entered adulthood, I became convinced that if I were to stop worrying, took my eye off the ball, as it were, that something dreadful would happen. If I worried enough about being poor, I wouldn't be. If I worried enough about my partner's safety, nothing would happen to him. If I worried enough about my stepson's health, he wouldn't get sick. There was no room in my heart for happiness because worry took up all the space. (Indeed I was convinced that if I were too happy, it would somehow hex the situation. If I got too happy about love, for example, I wouldn't worry sufficiently and therefore it would be taken away from me.)
In my forties, I have been working on letting go of my compulsive worrying, and I have been amazed at how swiftly a sense of gratefulness banishes the worry warts. And I've tried many other things--asking myself what is the worst thing that could happen and imagining going through that to a new place; noticing without judgment my worry; indulging it; pushing it away. None of these has been as effective as tapping into a sense of appreciation in this moment for what I do have.
Worried about money? I focus on the fact that so far, I have always had what I needed and right now, I have enough. Worried about health? I focus on the amount of good health I'm thankful to be experiencing right now. Worried about--my favorite--a loved one being taken suddenly in an accident? I focus on how grateful I am that they are in my life right now.
I think tapping into the wellspring of gratitude works for two reasons. First, worry is always about the future, if only the next hour of minute, whereas gratitude is in the here and now. Cast over your list of worries. Aren't they always about what might or might not happen? You are worried about the reaction of your boss tomorrow to your presentation. You're worried about how you are going to afford to send your son or daughter to college. You're worried about the test results. In every case, you project yourself into the future and imagine something bad happening. As André Dubus points out, "It is not hard to live through a day if you can live through a moment. What creates despair is the imagination, which pretends there is a future and insists on predicting millions of moments, thousands of days, and so drains you that you cannot live the moment at hand." Gratitude brings you back to the present moment, to all that is working perfectly right now. Tomorrow may bring difficulties, but for right now, things are pretty good.
Gratefulness also eliminates worry because it reminds us of the abundance of our universe. Yes, something bad might happen, but given all that you have received so far, chances are that you will continue to be supported on your journey through life, even in ways you would never have guessed or chosen for yourself.