Thinking beyond yourself makes you open to healthy lifestyle choices

on 16 January 2019
Laughing our way through life

Hopefully, you will not be reading this blog while puffing away at your favourite "Death Stick," or laying on your sofa eating your fast food, slowly? Because this research is seriously trying to reach out to you, trying, because it has proven to be very difficult to get people to take life seriously. . . . 

This research is both remarkable and unsurprising because it has long been considered a mystery why people know that something is bad for them, yet do it anyway. For example, every smoker I have ever worked with knew it would likely cause their early death, they also know that they should exercise but they don't and they definitely know that the fast, in fast food, alludes to the speed at which they will reach their grave! So, it is encouraging to know that, if you change your perspective, see the bigger picture, look beyond the self; all of these things can be changed. No more illusory relaxation, that you think you get from smoking, feel better and fitter as a result of relaxation and have more energy because you are putting good and healthy fuel into your body!

Sounds great, doesn't it? So, what's stopping you? Actually, it is most likely your brain or at least the way it has been wired. From the day we are born our brain is creating circuits, mostly in the form of memory and it is the way these circuits wire and fire, that determines your behaviour and your behaviour leads you to smoke while laying on the couch, nibbling away at your burger or pizza. . . . So, what can you do? Fortunately, there is hypnosis. Through hypnotherapy, all the steps outlined in the research below can been fed into your subconscious, leading you towards a healthier, more productive and, definitely(all things being equal) a longer and happier life 

So, to get your life on track, to be smoke-free, healthy and eat well, why not book your appointment for a "Free, no strings attached, Hypnotherapy Consultation (book from the link below)! 

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little sleep and too little by way of clarity! So, to take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious mind's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want to make your life feel better,  then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life! 

The objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research: 

Public health messages often tell people things they don't want to hear: Smokers should stop smoking. Sedentary people need to get moving. Trade your pizza and hot dogs for a salad with lean protein. For many people, these messages trigger our natural defences. They make us feel bad about ourselves and our choices, leading our subconscious to reject the healthy encouragement. However, a new study published in PNAS found that a simple priming exercise in which sedentary people think beyond themselves before viewing health messages can make those messages more effective. Not only did participants' brain activity show that they were more receptive to the messages, but they actually became more physically active in the weeks that followed.

The study involved 220 sedentary adults who were either overweight or obese -- people whose lack of physical activity puts them at increased risk for a variety of negative health outcomes.

"One of the things that get in the way of people changing their behaviour is defensiveness," explains senior author Emily Falk, Associate Professor of Communication, Psychology, and Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. "When people are reminded that it's better to park the car further away and get in a few more steps, or to get up and move around at work to lower their risk for heart disease, they often come up with reasons why these suggestions might be relevant for somebody else, but not for them."

To combat those defensive feelings, researchers engaged the participants in one of two self-transcendence tasks and compared their responses to those in a non-transcendent control group. Self-transcendence tasks required participants to think about values bigger than themselves -- such as people they loved and cared about -- and did so while the subjects were in an fMRI machine, allowing researchers to see their brain activity in real time.

The first self-transcendence group reflected on things that mattered most to them. If they chose "friends and family," they might be asked to think about times in the future when they might feel close to their friends and family. If they chose "spirituality," they might be asked to think about times when they might connect with God or other sources of a higher power.

A second self-transcendence group was asked to make repeated positive wishes for both people they knew and for strangers. These included hopes that your friends would be joyful or that others would be well.

Meanwhile, a control group reflected on their least important values.

Then all the participants viewed blunt health messages that encouraged them to be more active or explained why their current behaviours put them at risk. For example:

  • Getting more active will strengthen your muscles. Stronger muscles will make it easier for you to get around and do the things you enjoy for longer.
  • Make a habit of walking up and down the stairs whenever you can. Avoid taking the elevator as often as possible.
  • The American Heart Association says sedentary people like you are at serious risk for heart disease. This means more pills and higher risk of sickness and death.

In the month that followed, participants received daily text messages that repeated the experiment in miniature, priming them to think self-transcendent thoughts (or neutral control thoughts) before they received health messages. The also wore fitness trackers to monitor their activity.

Those who had completed either of the self-transcendence tasks were significantly more active in the month that followed, with less time spent being sedentary.

In addition, the researchers found that during the self-transcendence tasks, people showed greater activity in brain regions involved in reward and positive-valuation, when compared to the control group.

"People often report that self-transcendence is an intrinsically rewarding experience," says lead author Yoona Kang, a postdoctoral fellow with the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. "When you are having concerns for others, these can be rewarding moments." These rewarding feelings, the researchers believe, can lead people to be more open to hearing otherwise-unwelcome health advice. "If you let people first 'zoom out' and think about the things and people that matter most to them," says Falk, "then they see that their self-concept and self-worth aren't tied to this particular behaviour -- in this case, their lack of physical activity."

Kang also points out that allowing people to feel part of something larger than themselves can have positive health effects. "People are capable of doing things for their loved ones that they'd probably never do for themselves," she says. "The idea of self-transcendence -- caring for others beyond one's own self-interest -- is a potentially powerful source of change." 

The researchers are currently testing a phone app for the general public which delivers daily pairs of self-affirming and health messages, like those used in the study. Click here to download the app from the iTunes store.

"Effects of Self-Transcendence on Neural Responses to Persuasive Messages and Health Behavior Change" was published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Authors on the paper include Yoona Kang, Nicole Cooper (University of Pennsylvania), Prateekshit Pandey (University of Pennsylvania), Christin Scholz (University of Amsterdam), Matthew Brook O'Donnell (University of Pennsylvania), Matthew Liberman (University of California, Los Angeles), Shelley Taylor (University of California, Los Angeles), Victor Strecher (University of Michigan), Sonya Dal Cin (University of Michigan), Sara Konrath (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), Thad Polk (University of Michigan), Kenneth Resnicow (University of Michigan), Lawrence An (University of Michigan), and Emily Falk.

This research was supported by NIH/National Cancer Institute Grant 1R01CA180015-01 (P.I. Emily Falk) and NIH New Innovator Award 1DP2DA03515601 (P.I. Emily Falk), as well as funding from the John Templeton Foundation, U.S. Army Research Laboratory under cooperative agreement W911NF-10-2-0022, and HopeLab.

Story Source:

Materials provided by the University of PennsylvaniaNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Yoona Kang, Nicole Cooper, Prateekshit Pandey, Christin Scholz, Matthew Brook O’Donnell, Matthew D. Lieberman, Shelley E. Taylor, Victor J. Strecher, Sonya Dal Cin, Sara Konrath, Thad A. Polk, Kenneth Resnicow, Lawrence An, Emily B. Falk. Effects of self-transcendence on neural responses to persuasive messages and health behavior changeProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201805573 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1805573115

Cite This Page:

The University of Pennsylvania. "Thinking beyond yourself can make you more open to healthy lifestyle choices." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 2018. <>.