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. This study 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. Participants who affirmed their values had significantly lower cortisol responses to stress, compared with control participants. Dispositional self-resources (e.g., trait selfesteem 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. These findings suggest that reflecting on personal values can keep neuroendocrine and psychological responses to stress at low levels. Implications for research on the self, stress processes, health, and interventions are discussed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by a Positive Psychology Microgrant and National Research Service Award (J.D.C.) and by National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH056880. We gratefully acknowledge the efforts of Elizabeth Dinh, Cindy Heng, Suman Lam, Megan Taylor-Ford, Sharon Hayun, Violeta Taneva, and Rachelle Flores. We also appreciate Sally Dickerson's helpful feedback.