For Mental Well-Being, Live in Moment But Plan For Future
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, according to a new study by researchers from North Carolina (NC) State University.
“It’s well established that daily stressors can make us more likely to have negative affect, or bad moods,” said Dr. Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at NC State and corresponding author of a paper on the recent work. “Our work here sheds additional light on which variables influence how we respond to daily stress.”
In particular, the research team looked at two factors that are believed to influence how we handle stress: mindfulness and proactive coping.
Mindfulness is defined as a mental state in which a person is centered and living in the moment, rather than dwelling in the past or stressing about the future. Proactive coping is when people engage in planning ahead to lower the risk of future stress.
To better understand how these factors influence responses to stress, the research team looked at data from 223 study participants. The study included 116 individuals 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 United States.
All of the study participants were asked to complete an initial survey in order to determine their tendency to engage in proactive coping. They were then asked to fill out questionnaires for eight consecutive days that assessed fluctuations in mindfulness. On those eight days, participants were also asked to report daily stressors and the extent to which they had experienced negative moods.
The research team 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 result 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.
“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.”
Several studies have shown the benefits of mindfulness in daily stress reduction, as well as in reducing cognitive impairment in older adults, helping people in high-risk jobs and those struggling with drug addiction.
The new findings underscore the importance of daily mindfulness coupled with adequately planning ahead for the future, as these may help a person stay in a positive mindset and not succumb to high stress levels or negative moods.
The new paper is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. First author of the paper is Melody Polk, an undergraduate at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Emily Smith and Ling-Rui Zhang, graduate students at NC State. The work was done with support from North Carolina State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Source: North Carolina State University
Pedersen, T. (2020). For Mental Well-Being, Live in Moment But Plan For Future. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/03/29/for-mental-well-being-live-in-moment-but-plan-for-future/155255.html