Oscar Wilde wrote in the Picture of Dorian Gray that we should “teach man to concentrate himself up on the moments of life that is itself but a moment”. But unfortunately too many of us let the beauty and fragility of the moment be spoiled by minor stresses and annoyances. And those daily stresses can add up to longer-term mental health problems, according to a psychology study by UC Irvine.
The researchers set out to discover whether “everyday irritations add up to make the straw that breaks the camel’s back, or make us stronger and ‘inoculate’ us against later tribulations”. They looked at how 711 men and women in the US reacted to daily stressors, such as being stuck in traffic or arguing with a partner. They found that negative emotional responses today can accumulate into anxiety or mood disorders 10 years later. And it was the little things, and our responses to them, that could be more damaging than major psychological upsets.
Susan Charles, UC Irvine professor of psychology & social behavior, says: “It’s important not to let everyday problems ruin your moments. We’re so focused on long-term goals that we don’t see the importance of regulating our emotions. Changing how you respond to stress and how you think about stressful situations is as important as maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.”
Sounds like a strong argument for daily mindfulness practices – observing our feelings but not reacting to them – to stop those little things getting to us.