Karl Pillemer is a professor at Cornell University who asked thousands of Americans over 60 years old, one simple question : "What do you regret?"
How would you answer that question? Do you regret not taking that chance on love, or that affair that broke up 10 years of marriage? Not spending enough time with your kids?
Their answers were not what Pillemer expected - in fact, almost everyone said a variation of the same thing:
"I regret that I worried so much about everything."
Simply put, over 1,200 elders from the Legacy Project wished that they hadn't spent so much time worrying about the choices they were making, or what would happen in the future.
Pillemer writes, "from the vantage point of late life, many people felt that if given a single "do-over" in life, they would like to have all the time back they spent fretting anxiously about the future."
Pillemer's life experts - the 1,500 elders he interviewed for his book "30 Lessons for Living" - tell us that time is our most precious resource and worrying is an inexcusable waste of this resource.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States - over 40 million people are affected by anxiety. About 7 million of them suffer from General Anxiety Disorder, a condition that causes sufferers to spend over 300 minutes a day worrying.
So how do we avoid this big regret and eliminate worry?
Dr. Wayne Dyer offers a few simple tips for dealing with worry :
View all of your present moments as times to live, rather than to obsess about the future:
When you find yourself beginning to dwell on the negative or to frightening possibilities, bring yourself back to the present moment - concentrate on what you are doing NOW.
"Well, I think that if you worry, and you worry a lot, you have to stop and think to yourself, 'This too will pass.' You just can't go on worrying all the time because it destroys you and life, really...So the most important thing is one day at a time." - Eleanor Madison, 102 years old from"30 Lessons for Living."
Recognize the uselessness of worry.
When you realize how useless it is for you to be worrying about something, it becomes easier to let go. Challenge your worrying thoughts with questions like, "Will my worrying actually change this situation?"
Give yourself shorter amounts of "worry time."
Allow yourself 10 minutes in the morning to worry - set the alarm, and when it goes off, get on with your day. If you need to, set another 10 minute alarm for when you come home from work. Taking control of how often you worry could reduce how much worry has control over you.
74 -year-old Joshua Bateman from "30 Lessons for Living" suggests taking time to prepare for your worry. If it's a legitimate concern, you can take control of your fear by planning for how to deal with it.
"If you're going to be afraid of something, you really ought to know what it is. At least understand why..."
Make a worry list
List everything that you stressed about the day before and go over it - how much of it really came true? If some of the worrying events really did happen, how did you deal with them? Did worrying about them really affect their outcome?
Sometimes having proof that you really can handle things is a good way to reduce your worry over upcoming stressful events.
Remember, this too shall pass.