Cortisol, the major physiological end product of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, is usually associated with stress and negative affect. However, a new body of research highlights the complex, adaptive significance of elevated cortisol within individuals in everyday life. Whereas most studies do not have the power to test the dynamic transactions between cortisol and affect within a person throughout the entire waking day, we employed an intensive study protocol analyzing hourly diary reports of affect in relation to hourly salivary cortisol samples among 24 healthy adults from morning to bedtime, across 2 consecutive weekdays (N = 862 total samples). Utilizing multileveling modeling and focusing on within-person effects, we examined whether momentary increases in cortisol could be mood protective, or energy enhancing, in everyday life, supporting the cortisol boost hypothesis. Results revealed no significant associations between cortisol and current affective state; however, within-person increases in cortisol were significantly associated with subsequent rises in activeness, alertness, and relaxation, and trend-level reductions in stress and nervousness. This study adds to growing evidence that cortisol plays a positive role in regulating affect in everyday life.
- Cortisol boost
- Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis
- Negative affect
- Positive affect
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