Research has found that our mood affects the way we perceive time, causing us to think more long-term about the health benefits of eating well when we are happy, and seeking out the instant gratification of calorie-laden snacks when we’re sad.
The study by University of Delaware associate professor Meryl Gardner found that a ‘perspective of time’ helped people make better choices when it came to food.
Participants were investigated to see whether those in a positive mood would choose healthy food with those in a negative mood making unhealthy choices for instant reward.
According to the team, an upbeat state of mind means you are more likely to consider your future and as a result the long-term health benefits of eating healthily.
Professor Gardner added that when people are in a bad mood they focus on ‘what is close physically and what is close in time’, and that ‘if people in a bad mood choose to eat foods to have an immediate, indulgent reward, it might be more effective to think of non-food ways that can enhance their mood.’
The study found that people in a positive mood favoured nutritious options and also liked the idea of staying healthy in their old age.
‘In an evolutionary sense, it makes sense that when we feel uncomfortable or are in a bad mood, we know something is wrong and focus on what is close to us physically and what is close in time, in the here and now,’ said Gardner.
‘It suggests that positive mood makes people think about the future, and thinking about the future makes us think more abstractly’.
So, next time you’re drowning your sorrows in a tub of Ben and Jerry’s take a step back, think about the long-term implications of your calorie rich blues banisher and try to find reward elsewhere. Healthista suggests phoning a friend, doing ten minutes of mindfulness meditation, watching a feel good film or listening to some favourite music.
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