Bad Choices

A little science for our Foodie Friday Fun this week, and a business point to boot.  I read about a study conducted by some Swedish scientists.  They were trying to understand why people make bad food choices.  You know what those are – the candy bar instead of the apple when we want a snack or the quart of soda when we’re thirsty.  Turns out that there is a scientific reason why we do so, and it’s not just the sugar high:

Scientists believe they have evidence that stressful situations really do affect the self-control mechanisms in our brain, making us more prone to unhealthy choices. In a small study, Swiss researchers at the University of Zurich found that people who were exposed to an unpleasant experience prior to making a food choice were more likely to go for the unhealthy, but tastier option. Scientists also analysed the brain patterns of people in the study and saw that exposure to stress altered connections between brain regions in a way that may have affected capacity for self-control.

That is from The Independent’s report on the study.  So stressful situations really do make us more likely to eat unhealthy food, but it appears that they cause bad decision-making overall as well.  That’s kind of scary when you think about it.  After all, how many of us lead completely stress-free lives when we’re at work?  There is always a deadline or a revenue goal looming on the horizon.  How does that affect our ability to make good choices?

There are some things we can try that might help.  First, stop beating yourself up.  No one dies when most of us fail.  I hate to get all Stuart Smalley on you, but we ARE good and smart enough.  Next, allow yourself more time – get to bed a little earlier, have more time in the morning to ease into the day, get to the office when it’s quiet and use the time to plan ahead.  Get up from your desk and stretch.  Walk around. Breathe, and remind yourself that this storm will pass.

You may think that maintaining a high level of stress keeps you energized, but you’re wrong.  It’s clouding your judgement and hurting your success.  Choosing the wrong snack is bad and it might hurt you in the long run.  Making bad business choices is worse and could hurt many more people than just you.

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