|Credit: Cristina Gabaldon, US Navy|
The findings suggest that reconnecting with your feelings of self-worth reduces the powerful stigma and psychological barriers that make it harder for low-income individuals to make good decisions or access the very assistance services that can help them get back on their feet.
"This study shows that surprisingly simple acts of self-affirmation can improve the cognitive function and behavioral outcomes of people in poverty," says University of British Columbia Professor Jiaying Zhao and study co-author.
Now, stop and think about this.
All humans run internal scripts in our heads that repeat over and over like a feedback loop. For most people these internal dialogues focus not on past successes, but past failures, While research shows that failure can teach us more than success, dwelling on failures becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Additionally, research into the effects of stress on the mind and body show that dwelling on past failures and shortcomings is stressful in itself, and unremitting unrelieved stress leads to a wide variety of illnesses from Alzheimer's to arthritis.
The main experiments in this study took place in a New Jersey soup kitchen over two years. Nearly 150 study participants were asked to privately record a personal story with a tape recorder before doing a variety of problem-solving tests.
Participants who self-affirmed past success show a 10-point increase in IQ
Compared to a control group, participants randomly assigned to "self-affirm" -- to recount a proud moment or past achievement -- performed dramatically better on the tests, equivalent to a ten-point increase in IQ. They were also more likely to seek out information on aid services from the local government.
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On the practical side, this study clearly shows the power of the mind to help anyone overcome self-doubt and past failure. In this experiment, participants used affirmations based on their own positive past experiences, things that they had achieved.
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So here's an assignment: Make a list of your past successes, then turn each into a one-sentence affirmation. The next time you're taking a test or faced with the big interview or have to deal with any difficult situation, pull one of your past successes out of your pocket and relive it. You'll be smarter for this simple act - and will have set yourself up for a new success to add to your list.