Practicing self-affirmation linked to psychological well-being

People who regularly practice self-affirmation may be better off emotionally, as suggested by a new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology.

People generally tend to view themselves positively, but what happens when someone or something threatens that positive self-perception?

“One coping strategy is self-affirmation, or focusing on one’s personal values and strengths,” said Amber Emanuel, corresponding author of the study.

“When people self-affirm, they…focus on the “big picture,” and appreciate the context of the threat as well as approach it more effectively,” Emanuel continued.

Scientists have hinted that self-affirmation may positively affect well-being, but most previous research has focused on “induced” affirmations. Few have examined spontaneous self-affirmations that come naturally.  Also noteworthy is the fact that there is little demographic information regarding self-affirmation.

3,185 participants completed a health information survey as well as a series of questionnaires about spontaneous self-affirmation and demographic information.

The results showed that overall, many participants reported spontaneously self-affirming at least some of the time. The respondents who regularly self-affirmed were more likely to report “better mental and physical well-being including greater happiness, hopefulness, optimism, personal health efficacy, and subjective health, and less sadness and anger,” according to Emanuel.

Data also showed that African-American and Hispanic participants were significantly more likely to engage in spontaneous self-affirmation than White participants.  Additionally, older participants self-affirmed more frequently than younger participants.

“These results are promising,” said Emanuel. “The present research links prior work suggesting that self-affirmation is an effective psychological threat-management strategy.”