You are much more likely to indulge in junk food when you descend into a bad mood, say researchers.
And when you are feeling good, you are far more inclined to plump for healthier options.
According to the American research team, an upbeat state of mind means that you’re more likely to be thinking about your future and, crucially, recognising the long-term benefits of consuming nutritious food.
Research by University of Delaware associate professor Meryl Gardner concluded that a ‘perspective of time’ helped people make better choices.
Her team conducted experiments to examine whether people in a positive mood would choose healthy food while those in a negative mood would make indulgent choices for immediate reward.
Professor Gardner said that when people are in a bad mood they focus on ‘what is close physically and what is close in time’. She added: ‘If people in a bad mood choose to eat foods that have an immediate, indulgent reward, it might be more effective to call their attention to more innocuous ways to enhance their mood.’
She said that they should try finding an alternative reward, such as ‘talking to friends or listening to music’.
‘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. ‘We’re seeing the trees and not the forest, or how to do things and not why to do things.’
Researchers found that people in a positive mood liked the more nutritious options and also liked the idea of staying healthy in their old age. ‘It suggests that positive mood makes people think about the future, and thinking about the future makes us think more abstractly,’ said Gardner.
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