Everyone's eager to figure out how to worry less, but it turns out that could be hurting you in ways you don't even realize: A new paper from researchers at the University of California, Riverside found that worrying has real benefits. This is not to say that excessive worrying is your friend, but the right amount of worrying may help you be more successful.
"Despite its negative reputation, not all worry is destructive or even futile," Kate Sweeny, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside and lead author of the paper published in Social and Personality Psychology Compass, said in a press release. "It has motivational benefits, and it acts as an emotional buffer."
It's not the first time psychologists have found benefits to worrying. A 2005 study in Personality and Individual Differences found that high-skilled worriers performed better at their jobs because "anxiety is an important component of motivated cognition, essential for efficient functioning in situations that require caution, self-discipline and the general anticipation of threat."
In other words, instead of pretending you're not a worrier, learn how to channel your anxiety into constructive action. Here are three ways you can worry your way into being richer:
You are more motivated to prevent bad things from happening
The main reasons that worrying can be helpful, Sweeny wrote, is that it can help you stay motivated.
"Too much and too little worry can interfere with motivation, but the right amount of worry can motivate." Sweeny said. For example, "Women who reported moderate amounts of worry, compared to women reporting relatively low or high levels of worry, are more likely to get screened for cancer."
This plays into money, too. Worrying about not getting a job after college can motivate you to meet with a career counselor to figure out how to get started. Fretting about a promotion can inspire you to excel on the job. And worrying about making a mistake can get you to double-check to make sure you paid your credit card bill on time and are socking enough money away for retirement.
You always have a backup plan
Worriers are more likely to think about how things could go wrong, which means they're always prepared for the worst case scenario.
"Constructive worry enables you to develop an adversity plan, in the sense that you're worrying about all the things that could go wrong and how you're going to fix them," Gregg Steinberg, author of a 2009 book on improving work performance called Full Throttle told the Wall Street Journal.
When it comes to your finances, always having a plan B can be as simple as stashing a few month's expenses in an emergency fund in case you are laid off or get slammed with a huge medical bill. And squirreling away that extra cash now makes you richer because it will keep you from racking up huge credit card bills just to make ends meet.
You appreciate your "wins" more — which will inspire you
Worrying kind of sucks. It feels unpleasant, and making that unpleasantness go away is one of the things that makes getting stuff done feel so good.
"If people's feelings of worry over a future outcome are sufficiently intense and unpleasant, their emotional response to the outcome they ultimately experience will seem more pleasurable in comparison," Sweeny said.
Crushing a big pile of bills, or a big pile of student loans, feels extra sweet for worriers. Given that as much as three-quarters of human motivation can be attributed to the pursuit of rewards, that post-bill high is yet another thing you can use to motivate you to reach your financial goals.
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