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We’ve all been there. You’re trying to get through a dull task or you’re watching something blah on TV. What’s the first thing you do? You head to the kitchen to find something to eat. Are you truly in need of nutrients? Maybe, but likely not. You get hungry when you’re bored, just like most people.
So why is it that you get so hungry when you’re bored? After all, inactivity and a lack of mental stimulation really doesn’t have much to do with whether or not your stomach is full, right? So where is the connection.
There are actually a number of reasons to explain why you become hungry when you’re bored. Most of them have to do with providing you with appealing sensory stimulation at times when you’re not getting enough of it from elsewhere. If you’re doing something unpleasant or monotonous, then your body will start to create signals to provide you with another way to feel happier.
Eating and enjoying food is among the most basic ways for the body to experience pleasure, so it’s among the first signals your brain sends out to correct the unpleasant feeling of boredom and replace it with something more appealing. Moreover, this signal happens very fast. It takes about 15 minutes of a boring activity before your brain starts to send signals to do something – that is, eat – to improve the situation.
Therefore, while there doesn’t seem to be a direct link between watching something boring and digging into a carton of ice cream, your brain sees things differently.
By understanding that it takes only fifteen minutes of boredom for your brain to try to trick you into thinking you’re hungry, you can take action to help to overcome that problem. For instance, you can try to take frequent, small breaks from a boring task in order to gain new mental stimulation and overcome the boredom. Every ten minutes, get up, stretch and use thirty seconds to their fullest potential. Run on the spot as fast as you can or play a very brief mental game with yourself. This can help to regain your interest and focus for the task and distract your brain from wanting to find fresh stimulation.
If you really can’t avoid long and boring tasks that drive you to eat, then at least be prepared. Get out the cucumber slices, carrot sticks and celery pieces and be ready to snack on those instead of something that will hack into your daily calorie total.