Life isn't always easy. People get sick, things break down and mistakes get made, not to mention the unescapable reality that every creature eventually dies. As such, everyone is going to have their share of bad days. But according to new research, a few mental habits can help you more effectively deal with stress, feel more resilient and assess your life as better, regardless of the bad things happening around you.

Give yourself a break.

Meaning, give yourself the same compassion you'd afford someone else. Canadian researchers have found that people who possess a healthy amount of self-compassion are better at proactively coping during hard times. It turns out that individuals who are mindfully kind to themselves are better able to anticipate stressors and take actions to mitigate them. Conversely, people who are hard on themselves tend to feel alone and overly emotional, states of mind which never help.

Make gratitude a habit.

Dr. Grant Hilary Brenner, writing for Psychology Today, cites a recent study in which researchers polled 131 participants who rated their levels of gratitude, stress and several other factors as well as daily events affecting various spheres of a person's life. They found that feelings of thankfulness were highly correlated with feelings of well-being, with gratitude working to lower stress and increase resilience. On bad days--those with fewer positive events--participants who identified being grateful for things felt more positive about their lives.  

Stop striving for perfection.

While the term may bring to mind traits like meticulousness and high achievement, it's actually really bad for people. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill. discuss their research which analyzed data collected from 41,641 college students and found a marked increase in levels of perfectionism from 1989 to 2016. This is not a good thing. Perfectionists have a strong need to avoid failure and hold irrational and excessive standards for themselves, often resulting in mental health problems including increased anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

If irrationally high standards cause a problem in your life, try reframing your thinking. If you're annoyed with someone else's imperfections, understand you don't know the whole story. It also helps to reframe demands into preferences by banning the word "should" from your vocabulary. You'll be more likely to be merely disappointed--and not pissed off--when you state that you prefer that something be a certain way, instead of saying it "should" be. Also, ask yourself if the pressure, annoyance or anxiety you're feeling will matter in a year. Chances are, it won't.

Published on: Mar 23, 2018
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