RALEIGH, N.C. — Living in the moment may be the key to peace and happiness, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider future stressors. Researchers at North Carolina State University say both play a role in managing negative thoughts and feelings. Their study finds striking a balance between mindfulness and a method called “proactive coping” can keep daily stress away, no matter your age.
The report in the journal Personality and Individual Differences examines 223 U.S. residents, 116 between 60 and 90 years-old and 107 people between 18 and 36.
Mindfulness focuses on present moment thinking, instead of dwelling on past or future problems. Proactive coping is the act of planning, in order to avoid future stress.
“It’s well established that daily stressors can make us more likely to have negative affect, or bad moods,” says study author Shevaun Neupert in a university release. “Our work here sheds additional light on which variables influence how we respond to daily stress.”
How proactive coping pairs with mindfulness to fight stress
Participants first completed a survey to gauge how often they engage in proactive coping. The study then follows the group for eight days as they complete questionnaires judging how mindful they are. At the same time, the participants were asked to report daily stressors that could impact their mood.
The NC State team finds proactive coping helps prevent daily stressors. Despite this benefit, on days where people report minimum mindfulness, the benefits of proactive coping disappear.
“Our results show that a combination of proactive coping and high mindfulness result in study participants of all ages being more resilient against daily stressors,” the professor of psychology explains. “Basically, we found that proactive planning and mindfulness account for about a quarter of the variance in how stressors influenced negative affect.”
Stay in the moment
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress can cause changes in sleeping or eating patterns, trouble concentrating, and can even cause other health problems to worsen. While there is a help coming from proactive coping, mindfulness is at the core of limiting stress. So the more you can focus on the “here and now,” the less stress will continue to bother you.
“Interventions targeting daily fluctuations in mindfulness may be especially helpful for those who are high in proactive coping and may be more inclined to think ahead to the future at the expense of remaining in the present,” Prof. Neupert concludes.