Sunday, March 13, 2011


I am worried. I try not to be, but there it is, rolling around in the pit of my stomach.  It tickles at me like an urge to sneeze that never comes.  I dream stressfully, sleep fitfully, and 

 none of this helps to alleviate the worrying at all.

This is why I pursue a happier outlook; I want to prescribe myself a better attitude that will eliminate the unhealthy one.  Sometimes, though, the worry wins, and I need to be even more aggressive in my self-treatment.

I know why I worry: Japan has been shaken literally to its core, with mayhem and terror at every turn. The TV is full of more and more dispiriting statistics and even worse images. My prayers and my donations just don’t seem adequate in the face of that kind of destruction and misery. On my own homefront, as a student, there are always money issues to fret over. Add in a wedding, animals to care for and a kid getting ready (or is he?) to go to college, and there is plenty of fodder to feed anxiety. Knowing the causes does not always equal relief.

I’m actually hoping that bacteria can be the correct teacher for me, as I look to learn how to alleviate my anxiety.  That’s correct: bacteria. Specifically, the kind that habituate your gut. Bacteria got a recent publicity boost when some clever marketer began advertising them as “probiotics,” but make no mistake about it, it’s bacteria, plain and simple. The bacteria that live in the intestines are vital to human life. They metabolize all manner of substances; without them, blood would not clot, we could not metabolize carbohydrates properly, and on and on.  Microbiologists call these friendly bugs “flora,” which again is a much nicer spin. In the body’s census, bacteria in combination with yeast and assorted microorganisms add up to about 750 trillion, more than there are human cells in your body. 

How can bacteria be my teacher? Competitive advantage. No organism, in my opinion, does it better than bacteria. One of the ways that bacteria keeps the bad bugs from getting too cozy in the body is by making sure that the majority of existing resources are not available to an invading microbe.  Without resources needed to reproduce and thrive, a good deal of infectious bacteria simply dies without the host even knowing that it’s there.  It’s a crucial safety net in the body, and it’s not a bad metaphor for life, either.

I figure that the more I can make room for optimism, and the better able optimism is to take root, the less worry will be to flourish when it shows up.  I need to make sure that a healthy outlook gets the majority of my resources, if I want worry to wither.  In life, as in the body, the winner takes all, and I need to be sure that I am nourishing the correct emotion.

Happiness thrives on good works, service to others, self care, sound sleep and nourishing food. Worry expands in the presence of fatigue, over-scheduling, too much TV, and unhealthy or sporadic meals. Optimism is a consistently joyful practice, where worry is often synonymous with wallowing in sadness and defeatism. 

Gandhi said, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” One needs to look no further than a rumbling tummy for a positive example.  In the end, it is what we feed that makes all the difference.

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