Recent research findings suggest that reflecting on personal values can keep neuroendocrine and psychological responses to stress at low levels.
Stress is implicated in the development and progression of a broad array of mental and physical health disorders.
Theory and research on the self suggest that self-affirming activities may buffer these adverse effects.
A recent study, published in the November issue of the journal Psychological Science, reflects on this issue. The researchers experimentally investigated whether affirmations of personal values attenuate physiological and psychological stress responses.
Eighty-five participants completed either a value-affirmation task or a control task prior to participating in a laboratory stress challenge.
It was found that participants who affirmed their values had significantly lower cortisol responses to stress, compared with control participants.
Also, dispositional self-resources (e.g., trait self-esteem and optimism) moderated the relation between value affirmation and psychological stress responses, such that participants who had high self-resources and had affirmed personal values reported the least stress.
The authors suggest a plan to cut out stress, which includes figuring out what aspects of yourself or your life you hold most dear, and reflecting on them when stress comes calling. This research suggests that those thoughts may be a shield against stress, or a "protective resource.
Stress was measured by before-and-after cortisol tests from the participants' saliva. Cortisol is a hormone in your body that becomes elevated during times of emotional or physical stress.
Thus, when in a stressful situation, reflecting on what's most important to you may tame your body's production of the stress hormones.