Published: 27th March 2020
Living in the moment while planning ahead helps manage stress, says new US study
The researchers found that engaging in proactive coping was beneficial at limiting the effect of daily stressors
People who manage to balance living in the moment with planning for the future are best able to weather daily stress without succumbing to negative moods, says a new study.
According to the researchers, it's well established that daily stressors can make us more likely to have a negative affect or bad moods.
"Our work here sheds additional light on which variables influence how we respond to daily stress," said study researcher Shevaun Neupert, professor at North Carolina State University in the US.
For the findings, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers looked at two factors that are thought to influence how we handle stress: mindfulness and proactive coping.
Mindfulness is when people are centred and living in the moment, rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future.
Proactive coping is when people engage in planning to reduce the likelihood of future stress, the researchers said.
To see how these factors influence responses to stress, the study included 116 people between the ages of 60 and 90, and 107 people between the ages of 18 and 36.
All of the study participants were in the US. The researchers found that engaging in proactive coping was beneficial at limiting the effect of daily stressors, but that this advantage essentially disappeared on days when a participant reported low mindfulness.
"Our results show that a combination of proactive coping and high mindfulness results in study participants of all ages being more resilient against daily stressors," Neupert said.
"Basically, we found that proactive planning and mindfulness account for about a quarter of the variance in how stressors influenced negative affect," Neupert added.
"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," Neupert concluded.