Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

Let’s Talk About … Brain Chemistry

With Nicole Hawkins, PhD, CEDS-S

Researchers have long known that affirmations can decrease stress, increase well being and improve academic performance. We now know that affirmations can also change our brain! Christopher Cascio and colleagues from University of Pennsylvania used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and found that self-affirmations activate well-known reward centers in the brain. These areas —the ventral striatum (VS) and ventrimedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) —are the same reward centers that respond to other pleasurable experiences, such as winning a prize or performing well on a test. Specifically, the researchers found when participants were focusing on future positive affirmations while their brains were being scanned, these areas had increased activity. What are future focused self-affirmations? These are statements that affirm one’s self-worth by having individuals reflect on core values and on what type of person they want to strive to be in the future.

Some examples:

Today, I abandon my old habits and take up new positive ones.
I love and accept myself and my body.
I am worthy of great things.
I like the person I’m becoming.
The past has no power over me anymore.
I am in charge of my life story. I will be a better me.
Every day, in every way, I am getting better.

Practice daily affirmations, you are worth it and you deserve recovery and a better you.

Dr. Hawkins is a clinical psychologist and is the Chief Executive Officer at Center for Change.  She is a specialist in eating disorders and body image and has provided clinical expertise at Center for Change since 1999. Dr. Hawkins developed a comprehensive body image program that focuses on the media, diet industry, plastic surgery, childhood issues, and learning to appreciate one’s body, and she leads these groups for the Inpatient and Residential patients at Center for Change.  She is a Certified Eating Disorders Specialist (Supervisor), has published several articles, and presents regularly at national and regional conferences.

Center for Change is a place of hope and healing that is committed to helping those suffering from eating disorders break free and fully recover.  The Center offers intensive treatment for eating disorders and co-occurring issues, including a specialty program for co-occurring diabetes (ED-DMT1), and provides a full continuum of care: Inpatient, Residential, Partial Hospitalization Program, Intensive Outpatient Program, and Outpatient services. Located in Orem Utah, Cottonwood Heights (Salt Lake City) Utah, and Boise Idaho, serving females in Inpatient and Residential, and all genders in PHP, IOP, and Outpatient.  Accredited by The Joint Commission, AdvancED, and TRICARE® certified.