Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Change your health behaviour by reflecting on your values

Changing behaviour is not easy.  Often we fall into bad habits such as skipping exercise and eating unhealthy food.
For people at high risk of neglecting their health, often hearing messages about healthy eating and exercise falls on deaf ears, and instead can lead to a fear or avoidance response.  It's all too easy to think "I'll start tomorrow," no matter how often we hear about the benefits of healthy behaviours.

A new study by Falk et al. (2015) showed that focusing on values that are personally important to an individual can help people to then act on health advice which they previously perceived as threatening.

Participants were given typical advice about health behaviour like they would receive from a doctor, and underwent neurological scans.  Prior to receiving advice, half of the participants were lead through a self affirmation exercise where they reflected on what's important to them, such as work or family.  Those who did the self affirmations showed more behaviour change, in a follow up one month after the initial study.

The authors of the study state:
"Neural responses associated with self-related processing and value in response to an otherwise threatening health communication intervention can be changed using self affiramaton....
These findings suggest that affirmation of core values may exert its effects by allowing at-risk individuals to see the self-reference and value in otherwise-threatening messages."

So what does this mean for you?  Are you sitting on the fence of change?  Before you seek out information, why don't you think about your values around the change.  For example - you know exercise is a good thing, but just can't be bothered....why not think about what matters to you first.  Do you value looking after your family?  Think about how change may make you a better parent/sister/etc.  Would better health impact your value of looking after your family?

Think about your values - they might just help you to acheive some serious goals!!

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