why delayed gratification is the key

Nutritious food, regular exercise and proper sleep: we all know the components of a healthy lifestyle, but putting them into practice isn’t always as easy as we might hope.

At a time when many of us are feeling increasingly overwhelmed, it can be hard to keep up a healthy routine – and seeking pleasure in a sweet treat or glass of wine can be a lot more tempting than cooking a freshly prepared meal full of vegetables and fibre.

Of course, one of the best ways to look after your body and mind is to live in moderation, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with practicing ‘unhealthy’ habits alongside healthy ones. But if you’re struggling to make those healthy moments a reality, you’re probably on the hunt for some tips on how to make things a little easier – and that’s where this article comes in.

According to new research, there’s a really simple way to help yourself make more healthy choices, and it’s all to do with your mindset. The review of relevant literature published in the Journal Of Happiness Studies found that the ability to delay gratification – by focusing on the long-term rather than short-term impact of your choices – can make healthy habits feel more satisfying.

The term ‘delayed gratification’ may sound complicated, but it’s a concept you’ve probably come across before. One of the most common studies used to explain the concept is the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, in which a group of children were each given a marshmallow and told that they could either a) eat the marshmallow or b) wait 15 minutes and get another.

Because delayed gratification is a skill we learn as we grow up, many of the children gave in and ate the marshmallow in front of them – but a few were able to wait and reap the reward of a second marshmallow.

A woman cooking a healthy meal
Focusing on the long-term benefits of healthy living can make healthy choices feel more satisfying.

While the delayed gratification we experience from making healthier lifestyle choices may not be as tangible as an extra marshmallow, the principle is the same. By practicing mindfulness and focusing on the long-term benefits of making healthy choices, the short-term gratification offered by participating in an unhealthy habit quickly becomes less appealing.

It may seem simple, but shifting your mindset to think in this way not only has the power to make healthy choices seem more appealing but also increase your overall life satisfaction. And what’s not to love about that?

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