The Institute of Inertia looks at how we deal with things in our life that need tackling

Do you ever worry about money? The state of our finances appears to be front of mind for more and more people. Many of us ‘manage’ these creeping thoughts with a quick reminder to ourselves to live for the moment and accept that money worries are part of everyday life and do not necessarily require action. The idea of accepting feelings in a non-judgmental way, rather than taking action, is known as ‘mindfulness’ and it has become a huge movement in the UK.

Mindfulness, and being mindful is a ‘response focused strategy’ which encourages you to be aware of what is going on around you, moment by moment. Being mindful can be a great way to create a sense of calm. It sounds like the answer to stresses doesn’t it? Well not too fast. There’s a danger that if we simply accept feelings, then we don’t tackle the cause of the problem that we were initially trying to overcome.

One alternative is to focus on the cause of negative feelings and make a plan to deal with that problem – be it worries about money or stresses at work. The advantage of planning is that it’s a ‘problem-focused coping strategy’, which attempts to tackle the cause of something rather than deal with the symptoms of not addressing the issue.

Evidence suggests that a good way to make a plan is using an ‘if-then’ formula. Try to identify an a good opportunity to act (this goes in the if- part of the plan) and also a suitable response to that opportunity (this goes in the then- part of the plan). For example, if the problem is a lack of money at the end of the month then planning ahead would see you commit to the fact that if you’re finances are tight at the end of the month then you will review where you can cut back on spending for the following month. Once you have your ‘if-then’ formula sorted you’ll be in a good place to make changes that can help you achieve your goals and truly tackle your worries.

While mindfulness may help to foster the necessary mind set required for change, problem-focused strategies like planning ahead can be really important if you want to make proper changes. It’s by tackling the situation head on that you can move something from where it currently is to where you’d like it to be in the future. 

So be mindful of mindfulness and ensure that it’s not being used as a distraction technique or to the detriment of achieving those long lasting changes that will feel so good!