The Contemplation of Values

In Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress, she reported on a study from the 1990’s about the contemplation of values rather than good times. The study took place during a break n the school term and many students participated.


Kelly McGonigal“A classic study from the 1990s points to one of the best ways to cultivate a mindset of meaning in everyday stress. A bunch of Stanford students agreed to keep journals over winter break. Some were asked to write about their most important values, and how the day’s activities related to those values. Others were asked to write about the good things that happened to them. After the three-week break was over, the researchers collected the students’ journals and asked them about their breaks. The students who had written about their values were in better health and better spirits. Over break, they had experienced fewer illnesses and health problems. Heading back to school, they were more confident about their abilities to handle stress. The positive effect of writing about values was greatest for those students who had experienced the most stress over the break.
The researchers then analyzed more than two thousand pages from the students’ journals to see whether they could tell what had made the writing assignments so helpful. Their conclusion: Writing about values helped the students see the meaning in their lives. Stressful experiences were no longer simply hassles to endure; they became an expression of the students’ values. Giving a younger sibling a ride reflected how much a student cared about his family. Working on an application for an internship was a way to take a step toward future goals.”

—Kelly McGonigal from The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It

The upshot of the study is that the students who wrote about values did better than students who wrote about good times. This demonstrates that contemplating meaning through examination of values is a way to cope with a stressful life.

What are your most important values? Remember, writing them down is beneficial in many ways.

How do your values affect your daily life?

Books by Kelly McGonigal

The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It

Kelly McGonigal

The author of The Willpower Instinctdelivers a controversial and groundbreaking new book that overturns long-held beliefs about stress.

More than forty-four percent of Americans admit to losing sleep over stress. And while most of us do everything we can to reduce it, Stanfo… [Read More…]

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