Most of us strive for happiness. But when it comes to trying to eat well, maybe we need to settle on just feeling hopeful. A new study finds that people who are hopeful choose healthier foods than those who are happy. How can this be? I’m no scientist, but when I’m in a good mood I tend to want to do good—for my body, my mind, and everyone I meet on the street. Either my symptoms are atypical, or I’m just not paying attention.
The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, examines why our emotional state of being plays a part in the foods we consume.
Because previous research has explored how feeling sad leads to eating bad, the authors focused on the complicated relationship between positive emotions and food consumption. “We demonstrate the importance of the time frame on which the positive emotion focuses and find that positive emotions focusing on the future decrease unhealthy food consumption in the present,” the authors write.
So hey there “happy lady”, and “Mr. everything is alright”, put down that pint of ice cream and start thinking about the future—your bright, bright future. Feeling like edamame yet? Fresh blueberries? Like a shot of wheatgrass followed by a shout out to all the single ladies? The science says you will.
In the authors’ first study, hopeful participants consumed fewer M&Ms than people who experienced happiness. In a second study, the authors found that consumers who were more focused on the past chose unhealthy snacks, even if they felt hope. In the third study, the researchers shifted the time frame of the positive emotion (having participants feel hopeful about the past or having them experience pride in the future). “That is, if someone is anticipating feeling proud, she prefers fewer unhealthy snacks than someone experiencing pride.”
Kind of reminds me of the days leading up to my wedding. I anticipated feeling proud and hopeful; come to think of it, I was eating a lot of fresh, green things. And on my honeymoon? Nothing was off limits. Hmm, maybe there is something to all of this. Or maybe I was just like any other bride-to-be; making choices that made me look my best in that over-priced, wear-it-once dress. But science is science after all.
With that said, stay hopeful my friends.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Chiot’s Run