A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Kent and the University of Reading explored how sticking to healthy habits can improve consumers’ moods.
“There has been a bigger shift in recent years for healthier lifestyle choices,” said researcher Uma Kambhampati. “To establish that eating more fruit and vegetables and exercising can increase happiness as well as offer health benefits is a major development. This may also prove useful for policy campaigns around environment and sustainability.”
Making healthier choices
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 40,000 households involved in the U.K. Understanding Society Data study. Every year, the participants would respond to questions about their lifestyles and habits, including their diets, sleeping patterns, mental health, and exercise routines, among other topics. Using a mathematical model, the researchers analyzed what effect the participants’ habits had on their overall moods.
Ultimately, they learned that following a healthy lifestyle is likely to lead to more happiness. Specifically, participants who regularly ate fruits and vegetables and consistently exercised were the most likely to reap the mental health benefits of these healthy habits.
The researchers also determined that participants with the greatest self-control were the most likely to adhere to these healthy habits. While it’s no secret that eating fruits and vegetables and exercising are beneficial to the body, it can be difficult for consumers to stick to a healthy lifestyle. However, prioritizing the long-term benefits of following through with these healthy habits made participants more likely to stick to them. This also, in turn, made them happier.
For consumers who want to be healthier but find themselves struggling, the researchers recommend adopting planning strategies that can be helpful in maintaining healthy habits long term.
“Behavioral nudges that help the planning self to reinforce long-term objectives are likely to be especially helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” said researcher Dr. Adelina Gschwandtner. “If a better lifestyle not only makes us healthier but also happier, this is a clear win-win situation.”