Should You Live In The Moment Or Plan Ahead?

Misplaced keys, running late or dealing with a kid having a sudden meltdown. For those of us living typical modern lives, these are just a few of the stressors we face daily. And what follows, just as typically, are bad moods.

Is there a way to keep the stress from these everyday setbacks from getting to us? Looks like there is!

Mindfulness and Proactive Coping

In a recent study conducted by professor Shevaun Neupert and his team at the North Carolina State University, researchers looked at how mindfulness and proactive coping, two seemingly conflicting behaviors, can influence how people deal with daily stress.

  • Mindfulness is when we are living in the present moment and not worrying about the past or the future.
  • Proactive coping, on the other hand, is when we plan ahead for the future, and be better prepared.

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The study included 223 participants aged between 18 – 90 years, who were first assessed on their tendency for proactive planning. They were then asked to complete questionnaires for 8 days that explored the variations in their mindfulness, all day long. They were also asked to report daily stressors and how they impacted their moods.

The researchers found that:

  • Engaging in proactive planning helped limit the effect of daily stressors, but this advantage disappeared on days when participants showed low mindfulness.
  • People of all ages, who used a combination of proactive planning and mindfulness showed much more resilience in the face of daily stressors.

Our best bet then is to strike the delicate balance between the two – have some plans in place for the future, but don’t get preoccupied with those plans thereafter. Give every moment your full attention.  

The Bhagwad Gita has some great insights on mindfulness: “Think holistically before you act. While doing, don’t think about what you are going to get out of it.”

Yoga for Mindfulness

Canva - Woman Practicing Yoga on the Beach

Yoga can help you get better at being in the present moment, especially these three parts of Yoga:

  • Pranayama (focusing and controlling one’s breathing),
  • Dharana (focusing one’s mind), and
  • Dhyana (meditation – emptying one’s mind).

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In the present-day scenario, while we are all indoors, striking this balance would mean – planning on and taking all the necessary steps to stay comfortable and safe, but not worrying about the future and making the most of this time that we’ve got with our loved ones at home,

References

Polk, Melody G., et al. “Thinking ahead and staying in the present: Implications for reactivity to daily stressors.” Personality and Individual Differences 161 (2020): 109971.