When you’re having a bad day and everything that you do seems to go wrong, it’s always good to look at the brighter side of things. Self-affirmation helps you recover quickly from your down times, and can actually help reduce stress and anxiety.
According to a study featured on ScienceDaily.com, researchers led by Dr. Lisa Legault from Clarkson University in New York wanted to find out how self-affirmation improves performance. The team worked with 38 undergraduates who were assigned to either self-affirmation or non-self-affirmation trials. Those who did the self-affirmation trial were asked to list and rank positive values from most to least important and were later asked to explain their choices. On the other hand, those who did the non-self-affirmation trial also had to list and rank values, but were asked to explain why their top value isn’t really that important.
After the trials, the participants underwent a “go/no-go” test where they were told to press a button upon seeing the letter “M,” and to refrain from doing so upon seeing the letter “W.” When the participants made mistakes, a strong negative feedback was given. During the test, the participants had their brain activity recorded using electroencephalography or EEG.
After collating data, the researchers found that the participants who did the self-affirmation trial performed better on the “go/no-go” test as compared with those who were in the non-affirmation group. Participants from the self-affirmation group also had higher error-related negativity (ERN), which is a certain neural pulse that acts as a signal of any errors made so that the body can easily apply corrections. This means self-affirmation can actually make individuals more open to mistakes, which in turn, allows them to do the necessary fine-tuning.
So the next time you make a boo-boo, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, know that things sometimes go wrong and move on from there. Once you learn to accept that life throws you lemons more often than you’d like, it’ll be easier to make lemonades.
(Photo by Greg Peverill-Conti via Flickr Creative Commons)