Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Reflecting on personal values offers protection from effects of stress

07.11.2005


Reflecting on meaningful values provides biological and psychological protection from the adverse effects of stress, UCLA psychologists report in the November issue of the journal Psychological Science.



"Our study shows that reflection on personal values can buffer people from the effects of stress, but the implications are broader than that," said Shelley E. Taylor, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology, and an expert in the field of stress and health. "Any positive self-affirmation can act as a buffer against stressful events; that can include values, personal relationships and qualities that are a source of pride."

In the study, 80 UCLA undergraduates completed stressful tasks. They delivered five-minute speeches about their qualifications for an office job in front of "speech evaluators" trained to be non expressive, who would coldly tell them during pauses, "You still have time remaining. Please continue." After a short break, they were instructed to subtract 13 from 2,083 under harassing conditions. They were told to go faster and at each mistake, they were told, "That is incorrect. Please start over from 2,083."


Prior to these stress tests, one group of students (a randomly assigned "value affirmation" group) reflected on values they had identified in advance as especially meaningful to them, answering 10 written questions. These could have been religious values, in which case they were asked a series of questions about their religion, the Bible and God. In other cases, they reflected on meaningful secular values -- such as their political beliefs or social values -- answering questions about, for example, Abraham Lincoln or community service work.

The other students were randomly assigned to a control group where they answered questions before the stress test about values they had identified as unimportant to them.

Those who reflected on values they consider meaningful, regardless of what those values were, had significantly lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone released during stressful events; when stimulated excessively over time, cortisol can lead to cognitive impairments and increased risk for physical disease.

Eighty-two percent of the control subjects had an increase in cortisol after the stress task, compared with only 51 percent of the value-affirmation participants, said David Creswell, an advanced UCLA psychology graduate student and the study’s lead author.

"It’s remarkable that such a brief, subtle value affirmation has the ability to mute cortisol responses and serve as a buffer against stress," Creswell said. "This is the first finding showing that reflecting on one’s personal values reduces cortisol responses to stress. The implication is that value affirmation may make a stressful experience less so and, over time, this could potentially benefit one’s cognitive functioning and physical health."

Forty-five minutes after the stress test, the researchers still saw differences in cortisol levels between the two groups. The two groups had the same levels before the stress test.

The researchers measured the students’ responses to stress, including cortisol levels, heart rate and blood pressure.

"This study provides evidence for a novel, but effective method to combat stress, showing that thinking or potentially writing about important values can be stress-reducing and health enhancing," Creswell said.

"Stress-management interventions may benefit by incorporating value-affirming activities in the arsenal of weapons to combat stress, potentially in combination with other techniques," he added.

Can affirming values also help with chronic stress, such as that experienced by people coping with a serious illness, the death of a loved one or a difficult divorce?

Creswell’s preliminary answer is that value-affirmation will produce beneficial health effects in those cases, and he said that is an important question for future research.

"Self-affirmations can be a very good stress-combater, especially under conditions of chronic stress," Taylor said. "It’s helpful to remind yourself you’re a good person with talents, and remind yourself what is important to you; that can be hard to do when you’re going through something that’s really awful."

The research team is conducting a follow-up study with people who have chronic illnesses, to assess how reflecting on personal values affects health. Preliminary evidence suggests that these patients do benefit, Taylor said.

Stuart Wolpert | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.college.ucla.edu

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New measure for the wellbeing of populations could replace Human Development Index
07.11.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Because not only arguments count
30.10.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>