To cope with stress and avoid bad moods, try this combo

A balance between living in the moment and planning ahead is the best way to cope with stress and negative moods, researchers say.

March 26, 2020 | Original article
Matt Shipman-NC State | futurity
3 mins

A man has his face on a mirror so that it looks like one half is smiling and the other half looks worried

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, researchers report.

“It’s well established that daily stressors can make us more likely to have negative affect, or bad moods,” says corresponding author Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University.

“Our work here sheds additional light on which variables influence how we respond to daily stress.”

Specifically, the researchers looked at two factors thought to influence how we handle stress: mindfulness and proactive coping.

“…a combination of proactive coping and high mindfulness result in study participants of all ages being more resilient against daily stressors.”

Mindfulness is when people are centered 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.

To see how these factors influence responses to stress, the researchers looked at data from 223 study participants. 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 United States.

Researchers asked all the study participants to complete an initial survey in order to establish their tendency to engage in proactive coping. The researchers then asked them to complete questionnaires for eight consecutive days that explored fluctuations in mindfulness. On those eight days, they also asked participants to report daily stressors and the extent to which they experienced negative mood.

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 result in study participants of all ages being more resilient against daily stressors,” Neupert says. “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.”

The paper appears in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. Support for the work came from NC State.

Source: NC State

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