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Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff may have started as a self-help book by Dr. Richard Carlson, but it’s become a mantra for just about every stressful situation in life. Now, however, it seems that the small stuff is very important, indeed.

Researchers from the University of California have found that the small stuff – the traffic during the daily commute, the rude cashier at the supermarket, the malfunctioning computer at work – can have significant long-term effects on our mental health (telegraph.co.uk).

Now and Zen

Every time we overreact to little annoyances or get embroiled in petty conflicts, we increase our chances of suffering from mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, later on in life.

The key to emotional good health, now and later, would appear to lie in the new trend epitomised by Eckhart Tolle in his book, The Power of Now. Essentially, it’s a philosophical blend of mindfulness and Zen, designed to lead to spiritual enlightenment. But it’s also about living in the now, appreciating every moment, and accepting that there are many things in life that are beyond our control.

In a way, it’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff 4.0.

Taking care of the short-term takes care of the long-term

Professor Susan Charles, one of the lead researchers in the study from the university, says that modern living places so much focus on long-term goals that we forget to be in the here and now. We’re so caught up in working towards attaining upper management positions at work that we get easily annoyed with anything that distracts us or makes us wait, like the crying kid in the supermarket and the person who jumps the queue at the ticket office.

If we would only pay more attention to the now and how we react to it, we could save ourselves a lot of emotional grief.

Charles likens the importance of regulating our emotions and our responses to stress to the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Unfortunately, while it’s a good comparison, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans for most people, who struggle with diet and exercise anyway.

And, how do we take care of the short-term?

Meditation is a good place to start.

Drinking is not.

Another article for The Telegraph reports that six out of 10 people in the UK drink after a hard day’s work. Work stress doesn’t just lead to chronic drinking; it can also lead to over-reliance on sleeping pills, anti-depressants and, the old favourite, cigarettes.

Which brings us back to meditation.

There is a common saying that if you can breathe you can meditate. This doesn’t just imply it’s easy to meditate; it also implies that you can meditate anywhere you happen to find yourself. The easiest form of meditation is to concentrate on your breath. Become aware of it going in and out of your nostrils, down your throat and filling your lungs.

It’s something that you can do when you want to tear out your hair in an unexpected traffic jam, or when your partner starts to nitpick at some minor issue.

No one is saying that you have to become a Zen master and attain the kind of enlightenment that puts you alongside Buddha. But, if you can simply find your breath in the few moments before your jaw clenches and you start grinding your teeth, you could add years to your life.


About Author

Sandy Cosser writes for Skilled Migrant Jobs, a job board for immigrants that helps professionals in the healthcare industry find jobs in Australia.



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