Earworms and Worrywarts

I don’t know about you but there are days when I walk around humming the same tune over and over again for days on end and it drives me (and my long-suffering wife) absolutely mad. I know it’s time for a change when she starts looking up divorce lawyers.

We call these pesky little tunes ‘Earworms’.

Naturally, being the boffin that I am, I started to wonder how big they are, the size of neural circuitry, the chunk of meat involved, anything that would give me an inkling of how to stop the darn things or, better yet, how to use that space in our brain for more useful purposes.

I found out that Earworms live in a small portion of our brains called Broca’s Area, just above and forward of our right ear, the part which responds to voice tones and musical sounds.

I also found out that if you listen closely, you can hear the tail-end of the tune triggering the start of the same tune over again.

Best of all, I found out that you can change the track any old time you want.

The solution is deceptively simple:

Next time you get a tune stuck in your head, pick a different tune, one that’s more pleasing, and begin to hum or sing that tune to yourself four or five times so that the tail-end of the new tune starts the new tune all over again. It may take a few goes to get it to change. And when the new one gets annoying, do the same again.


Because this process disrupts the Earworm neurological pattern and before long the Earworm has gone. Phew! What a relief!

Why is that important?

Because Worrywarts are like Earworms, only even more annoying and very damaging to our physical and mental health.

Worrywarts are those audio tracks you run over and over again in your head when you can’t stop worrying about something. Just like Earworms, you will notice that the tail-end of the Worrywart nag triggers the start of the same nag all over again.

Worrywarts are really hard on your body, not to mention your ability to feel and function normally.

  • They can trigger the release of stress hormones that make you more likely to have high blood pressure, a heart attack, a stroke or kidney disease. 
  • If that happens over and over, your blood vessels may get inflamed, which can lead to hardened artery walls, unhealthy cholesterol levels and other problems. 
  • They can make it harder for you to fend off the flu, herpes, shingles, and other viruses. 
  • They can lead to stomach pain, ulcers and acid reflux.
  • They can also affect your bowel habits — you could have diarrhea or find it hard to go to the bathroom.
  • The resulting tension in your shoulder and neck will often lead to migraines or tension headaches.
  • And of course, we all know from personal experience the toll that constant fretting can have on our sleep, our moods, our happiness and the enjoyment of our life.

Just like Earworms, you can change the track of a Worrywart any old time you want.

Try this:

Pick something more useful to worry about or think about. Deliberately ruminate about this different ‘worry’ half a dozen times.  Soon, your brain will automatically change the track and your old annoying Worrywart will be gone.  Over. Finished. Kaput. Easy Peasy.

You don’t have to believe, you just have to do. Your brain will take over from there.

Oh sure, you’ll have something new to worry about but hey, you can change that track any old time you want too.  And pretty soon, you’ll be looking for something to worry about.  Won’t that be nice?

After all, we can’t get rid of the circuitry but we can utilize it better.

Let me know how it goes for you.

And if know someone you care about who worries a lot (or someone who really gets on your nerves with their incessant fretting), pass it on.  You’ll have one less thing to worry about 😃

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