Mind & Body

Spill your coffee this morning? Here’s why you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff


Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. There are plenty of idioms about turning minor annoyances into a much bigger issue. But a new study says this could impact your long-term wellbeing.

So, you’re in your car sitting in traffic on your way to work. You’ve just crossed the intersection when some asshat from the left lane has skirted around the parked cars to cut in front of you. You’re fuming.

When you finally get to work and your co-worker says hi, do you grumble an obligatory greeting, or do you smile cheerfully?

Turns out, a new study from the University of Miami has found that how you react to fleeting negative emotions can rather drastically impact your long-term wellbeing.

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“One way to think about it is the longer your brain holds on to a negative event, or stimuli, the unhappier you report being,” Nikki Puccetti, lead author of the study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, told Science Daily.

“Basically, we found that the persistence of a person’s brain in holding on to a negative stimulus is what predicts more negative and less positive daily emotional experiences. That, in turn, predicts how well they think they’re doing in their life.”

It’s not the first time something like this has come up in psychological studies and it can affect us physically, too.

In 2014, research out of Oregon State University found that old men who dwelled on everyday annoyances actually tend to live shorter lives.

“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems,” Carolyn Aldwin, the director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at OSU, said in the study.

“Taking things in stride may protect you.”

So, the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, or you spill coffee all over your white shirt, acknowledge the annoyance, take a few deep breaths, and just let it go. You might live longer for it.