People With Strong Life Purpose, Easily Make Healthier Choices, Say Experts

NDTV Food Desk (with inputs from ANI)  |  Updated: May 15, 2019 13:29 IST

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People With Strong Life Purpose, Easily Make Healthier Choices, Say Experts

People with stronger life purpose are more likely to accept messages promoting health behaviour change.

In the battle between us and that stubborn belly fat, many of us try hard to win the battle at any cost, and when we say at any cost, we mean it. There are many people who spend hundreds and thousands on money on gym, fitness classes, Pilates, yoga classes, et al to lose weight. Everybody wants to stay fit. However, for some, achieving their fitness goals seem like a cakewalk mainly because they love eating healthy food and constantly maintain a healthy eating habit. The real struggle is for them who are not able to do so. Ever wonder why? According to the recent findings, people with “stronger life purpose” understand the importance of promoting health behaviour change than the ones with a weaker sense of purpose. The findings suggest that this might be because they face less decisional struggle, especially when it comes to health advice. 


"Purpose in life has been robustly associated with health in previous studies. But the mechanism through which life purpose may promote healthy living has been unclear," said Yoona Kang, lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Health Psychology.


Kang and her fellow researchers chose to test out a theory: that making health decisions might take less effort for those with a higher sense of purpose in life. According to her, “health decisions, even those as simple and mundane as choosing between the elevator and the stairs, involve some amount of decisional conflict.” 

(Also Read: Ideal Balanced Diet: What Should You Really Eat?)

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Making health decisions might take less effort for those with a higher sense of purpose in life. ​


But what about people who experience less conflict than others while bearing these options in mind, maybe because they have a “stronger guiding purpose”, which helps resolve the conflicts?
To examine this, Kang and her co-authors analysed people with sedentary lifestyle who needed to workout more. Participants completed a survey about their life purpose by indicating the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with statements like "I have a sense of direction and purpose in my life" or "I don't have a good sense of what it is I'm trying to accomplish in life." 


Further, they were shown various health messages promoting physical activity. Their responses to these messages were monitored by an fMRI scanner, focusing on brain regions that tend to be active when people aren't sure what to choose or when they feel conflicted. 


The people who developed a stronger sense of life purpose agreed with the health messages and to have less activity in brain regions associated with conflict-processing. Moreover, Kang and her fellow researchers were able to predict how likely it was that a person would agree with health messages based on the degree of brain activity in these regions. 


"We conduct studies both to understand how different kinds of health messaging can help transform people's behaviours and why some people might be more susceptible than others. This study does a nice job starting to unpack reasons why people who have a higher sense of purpose in life might be more able to take advantage of this messaging when they encounter it," said Emily Falk, director of the Communication Neuroscience Lab. 

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