Are those doughnuts in the break room calling your name? Then put a smile on your face. Being in a good mood makes you up to 77 percent more likely to eat healthier, says a new study from the University of Delaware.
In a series of experiments, researchers found that when prompting participants to be either upbeat, sad, or neutral, people with more positive thoughts reached for comfort food—like chips, cookies, or candy—less often than negative or neutral-minded people.
“Being in a bad mood triggers a focus on things that are right in front of our noses and provide immediate gratification,” says study author Meryl Gardner, Ph.D. “When we are in a good mood, we tend to step back, and see the big picture—we can afford to.” From this mindset, it’s easier to decide what is your long-term best interest, and you’re more likely to opt for a piece of fruit rather than that candy bar in the snack machine.
Following that line of logic, the scientists found that even a little forward-thinking changed snack choices. In one test, after being told to daydream about their lives in 10 years, people ate fewer M&M’s relative to raisins compared to those thinking of the present.
“Thinking about the future may be easier than thinking yourself into a good mood,” says Gardner. Try letting your mind wander to the future while grocery shopping: thoughts like what will the supermarket look like in five years, how you'll feel after finishing that half-marathon, or what your dream home will look like. But your thoughts don’t have to be goal- or health-oriented—the simplest daydreaming will do as long as it puts some pep in your step. (Need more help? Try these six smart strategies to curb your hunger.)
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