Have you ever found yourself reaching for the bowl of chips during a mind-numbing meeting or empty afternoon? Or had a sudden craving for ice cream when facing a tedious task? Scientists don’t blame you. Boredom, it turns out, can make your taste buds restless. That’s the conclusion of a recent study showing that people who are bored tend to crave ultra-processed, high-fat and sugary foods — and eat more of them than when they’re mentally engaged. Researchers theorize that it may boil down to dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter that’s involved in pleasure, reward, and motivation. The ultraprocessed, high-fat, sweet edibles cause dopamine levels to spike. For a more wholesome approach, tune in to how you’re feeling before your fingers start drifting toward the cookie jar. Shift tasks if you can or mix in more engaging activities. When you listen to music you love, your brain releases dopamine, so plug in your iPod and crank some of your favorite tunes. Or take advantage of the fact that exercise releases dopamine, and go for a quick jog or a walk around the block. Meditating regularly may help in two ways: by boosting your dopamine levels and helping you get distance between your emotional state (boredom) and your automatic reaction (eating). Goodbye boredom, hello healthier habits.
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