Ahh, the beginning of a new year.
Time to start thinking about making up for recent overindulgences.
Holiday festivities, treats, and good cheer stretching back to November have been chipping away at our rational minds bit by bit. Offering decisive indulgence and immediate gratification in place of impulse control.
Now we start thinking about what the New Year will bring. We imagine the future, and it seems to wake us up a bit, stimulating the rationale centers of our brains to get back on the job of keeping those freewheeling impulses under control.
To keep us practicing a little critical thinking in everyday life.
Does it really work that way?
Does thinking about the future help quell nagging desires, and delay our gratification?
T. O. Daniel and colleagues thought that it might. They tested the idea that imagining future events would help overweight women to boost their impulse control, and eat less in a snacking spree.
Women in the experimental group listed out imagined events that might occur for a series of future time periods. Their reported events were then audio recorded to remind them about their future visions.
The researchers then did their best to prime the impulsivity pump, creating a situation not so unlike some of those holiday parties we’re still recovering from. The women were given 90 minutes of unlimited access to a variety of tasty foods at a time between lunch and dinner.
To increase their craving, temptation, and downright salivation, the researchers had the women first rate the appeal of meatballs, fries, sausages, garlic bread, cookies, and dips without tasting them.
Then, they let ‘em at it.
The overweight women in the experimental group listened to audio recordings of their imagined future during the eating spree. Those in a control group listened to other stories.
Thinking about the future helped control those nagging impulses. Women in the experimental group ate quite a bit less than those in the control group.
You’ve made your New Year’s resolutions.
Now, try imagining what your future might be like in 6 weeks, 3 months, and so on down the road.
Make a list, and think about it in your weak moments.
Put yourself back in control of your life.
Image Credit: Seabamirum
Daniel, T. O., Stanton, C. M., & Epstein, L. H. (2013). The Future Is Now: Reducing Impulsivity and Energy Intake Using Episodic Future Thinking. Psychological Science, 24(11), 2339-2342.