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Affirming What Really Matters Helps Your Brain Make Sage Choices

An earlier post covered how affirmations increase activity in “goal-achievement” areas of the brain. It also turns out that, according to a recent study, affirming whatever you most truly value levels up your good decision-making ability.

The catalyst for the study was a common observation:

Those who should change their behavior to be healthy and tolerable are often the least open to hearing feedback from others. (smiley faces on post-it notes don’t work, my passive-aggressive friends)

Instead of suggesting that maybe those people should just listen to the damn advice, the researchers had a hunch that if one affirmed his or her core values, he or she would be less defensive when receiving not-cute feedback.

Their hunch was right on. Those who affirmed what they valued actually ended up making healthier choices.

They hooked up these poor participants to fMRI scans and watched as their brains lit up in the “self-related processing and positive valuation” region (specifically the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) when faced with associated scenarios. And wouldn’t you know it, those who talked to themselves like a hype-man for their values lit up that region and actually ended up making healthier choices later.

The power of affirmations can indeed help us navigate life’s challenges and make wise choices.  

Remember to remember your core values and your brain will understand the assignment.


A scuba diver with fish swimming around him, showcasing the mental focus required for this simple yet exhilarating activity.

Dive Deeper

Self-affirmation alters the brain's response to health messages and subsequent behavior change.
Falk EB, O'Donnell MB, Cascio CN, Tinney F, Kang Y, Lieberman MD, Taylor SE, An L, Resnicow K, Strecher VJ. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Feb 17;112(7):1977-82.

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Comments (1)

Great advice backed by science. Love it!

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