Have you got a go-to calming mantra when life gets tough? No? Go. Get one and repeat it often; it’ll do you the world of good in stressful situations. A new study confirms that self-affirming words really do have a calming effect on you when you’re feeling under pressure.
Whether there’s a quote that always gets you over that hump of fear – mine are ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’, ‘What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?’ and in general just counting to 10 and breathing – or you prefer to while away a few hours on Pinterest, the hub in which all life-affirming mantras can be found, positive words have a powerful effect on your mind and body.
The study, published online in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, took form across three experiments, with a particular focus on the well known stress of a job interview. In the first experiment, participants were paired with someone of the same sex and asked to role-play a job interview scenario in which they had to negotiate. Those who took the role as ‘potential employee’ were either told that they were being judged on their negotiation skills or that this was just for fun. Needless to say, those who were given the low-pressure scenario performed far better than those in the high-pressure (negotiation skills) category.
For the second experiment, participants were paired and either of two would be buying or selling a biotechnology plant. The person who was buying (high pressure) performed worse than those who were on the selling end of things (low pressure).
It was the third experiment, however, where things got interesting. It was a repeat of the second experiment but this time around, the buyers and sellers were first asked to spend five minutes writing down their best or their worst negotiation skills, depending on which they’d been asked to do. Now, those who were doing the buying who had written about their positive attributes performed much better than before. And those who focused on their negatives faired far worse.
So there you have it, another reason to *sings ‘accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative’. Lead author Sonia Kang tells Science Daily: “You should reflect on things that you know are good about yourself… Anytime you have low expectations for your performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations. Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize that threat.”
Instead of being your own worst enemy, be your very own cheerleader. You could even play that annoying song on the radio right now, if it’s a help. Failing that, here’s a gif of Chris Hemsworth smiling.