Baku, June 4 (AZERTAC). A recent survey by Harvard professor Robert Epstein found that 25% of our happiness hinges on how well we`re able to manage stress. The next logical question is, of course, how best can we reduce our stress?
Epstein`s study, which he presented last month at the Western Psychological Association meeting in Los Angeles, was intended to help answer that question. It involved 3,000 participants in the U.S. and 29 other countries, who responded to an online questionnaire. Participants` stress-management skills were gauged by asking them to rate their level of agreement with 28 items, such as “I frequently use breathing techniques to help me relax.” The volunteers were also asked about how happy they were and how successful they were in their personal and professional lives.
The stress management technique that worked best, according to the survey: planning. In other words, “fighting stress before it even starts, planning things rather than letting them happen,” says Epstein. “That means planning your day, your year and your life so that stress is minimized.”
Epstein points to his friend, the late Harvard behaviorist B.F. Skinner, as a master organizer. (To the rest of us, Skinner is probably better known for his highly influential research on the effects of reinforcement on behavior.) “Skinner was amazing at managing stress. He was quite a planner. Not only did he plan his day every day, but he had a 10-year planner,” says Epstein.
Epstein`s survey was also able to track stress management with participants` overall levels of happiness. “The association was very strong,” says Epstein, “suggesting that nearly 25% of our happiness is related to our ability to manage stress.” (Incidentally, he remembers his former colleague Skinner as having been a genuinely happy person.)
But the bad news is that, in general, people are really bad at managing stress. “The mean score on our test was 55%. In a course, that would lead to a failing grade: F,” says Epstein.
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