A popular 1990s-era Saturday Night Live character, Stuart Smalley, would gaze into a mirror and declare, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

Now, research may have caught up with Smalley’s habit of positive affirmation.

A new study shows that affirming personal values can improve mood and problem-solving skills.

Previous studies have shown that self-affirmation exercises can reduce acute stress, but the link between these improvements and chronic stress-related effects was unknown, according to a press release.

In the current research conducted by investigators at Carnegie Mellon University, a group of students rated their levels of stress over the last month, and half the group then performed a self-affirmation exercise. Students who had completed this exercise scored significantly higher on a subsequent problem-solving task under pressure than those who had not performed the self-affirmation.

“A brief self-affirmation activity is sufficient to buffer the negative effects of chronic stress on task performance and can improve the ability to solve problems in a flexible manner during high stress periods,” the authors said. “Our study suggests that self-affirmation may increase creativity and insight in stressed individuals.”

The research was published May 1 in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

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