Writing about Stressful Events Using Cognitive Reappraisal: Consequences for Emotional Well-Being
Cochran, Kara A.
- Cognitive reappraisal (CR) is an adaptive emotion regulation strategy that has been shown to be effective at down-regulating the neural and physiological impact of emotional stimuli. Despite its benefits, it seems that people rarely use CR to deal with stressful situations in their daily lives. The current study sought to encourage the use of CR in the context of daily life stressors using an expr... read moreessive writing paradigm. Participants were 61 undergraduate and graduate students. Participants wrote about the most stressful event of their day on three consecutive days. They were randomly assigned to receive either CR writing instructions or Expressive Writing (EW) instructions. In addition, ambulatory physiological signals related to emotional arousal were measured for the duration of the study. It was predicted that participants in the CR group would experience less negative emotions immediately following writing, would show greater reductions in depression symptoms after the three-day writing period, and would experience less emotional arousal over the course of the study. Results show that negative mood increased significantly after writing in the EW group but not in the CR group. Depression scores in the CR group significantly decreased over the course of the study, while the EW group’s scores did not, resulting in a significant difference between the two groups. There were no group differences in average galvanic skin response or skin temperature. The self-report results lend further support to the idea that writing about daily stress using cognitive reappraisal can lead to improved emotional well-being. However, the physiological null effect indicates that more research is needed to better understand the physiological mechanism underlying the perceived benefits conferred by CR writing.read less