Writing about your core values is powerful and beneficial

Writing about your core values is powerful and beneficial

Research tells us that writing about our core values is one of the most effective psychological interventions we can engage in.

In the book The Upside Of Stress health psychologist Kelly McGonigal refers to a 1990s study in which a group of Stanford University college students were given the task of keeping a daily journal over the winter break. Some of the students were asked to write about their most important personal values and then describe how the events of each day connected with those values. Another group of students was simply asked to describe the positive events that happened throughout their day.

When the students returned to University after the break, the researchers discovered that those students who wrote about their personal values were healthier, experienced fewer illnesses, and had better energy and attitude than the students who merely wrote about the positive events in their lives. In the intervening years these findings have been replicated in nearly a hundred additional studies.

McGonigal writes: “It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience.

In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs {grade point averages}, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a one-time mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.”

Researchers believe that one core reason for why this activity is so powerful is that journaling about your personal values and connecting them to the events in your life helps to reveal the meaning behind the events that cause you to experience stress. In McGonigal’s words, “Stressful experiences were no longer simply hassles to endure; they became an expression of the students’ values… small things that might otherwise have seemed irritating became moments of meaning.”

In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after an experience that resulted in stress.

In the long term, writing about personal values has been shown to boost test scores, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing problem drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping.

The research shows that people who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.

To create your mind-set shift:

1. Set aside ten minutes.

2. Identify between 1 and say 8 core values - the things that are most important to you. For some examples of common core values click here.

3. Once you've identified your core values, pick one and write about it for ten minutes. Describe why this value is important to you. You don't have to write about anything that is currently a challenge or threat.  You could simply write about how you express the value you've chosen to write about, in your everyday life, including what you did today that was in alignment with this core value. Or if you are facing a difficult decision, you could write about how this value might guide you.

You may want to repeat this exercise with at least two more of your core values at another sitting, or revisit this exercise when you are feeling especially overwhelmed by stress.

The lasting benefits of this exercise are not the direct result of the ten-minute writing period, but of the mind-set shift that it inspires.

More on the Upside of Stress

Click here for a short video summary of the book - The Upside of Stress and  click here to listen to Kelly McGonigal's TED talk "How to Make Stress Your Best Friend."

What Next?

If you’d like help eliciting and exploring your core values, or you’d like to gain more control over your anxiety or stress, give me a call me on 021 056 8389, email tony@tycoaching.nz and start enjoying the benefits.

 

REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."

Have a marvellous weekend.

Go well

Tony Yuile

 

Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in mind management - helping people to 'change their minds' so they gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress, overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits. Tony’s solution focused approach uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of solution focused coaching, neuroscience, positive psychology, mindfulness and clinical hypnosis.