There's A Healthy Upside to Feeling Busy, Study Shows

A jam-packed calendar might not be such a bad thing.

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Photo by: webphotographeer/iStock

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Back-to-back-to-back business meetings, 752 unread emails, afternoon soccer carpool…busyness is a badge of honor these days. And while it has long been believed that vending machine grabs go hand-in-hand with stacked schedules, new research suggests otherwise.

A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that keeping busy can spark healthy lifestyle choices, while managing impulse indulgences.

“Feeling busy makes one exercise greater self-control,” says co-author Amitava Chattopadhyay, a professor of marketing at the international graduate business school INSEAD. “Perceiving oneself as busy makes the person feel self-important. That in turn helps exercise self-control.”

In a series of experiments, researchers created busy mindsets across volunteers ranging from asking participants to list what has been keeping them occupied lately to posting “busy” messaging in a cafeteria.

Participants were then asked to make lifestyle decisions about food, exercise, etc. Those who had perceived themselves as busy exhibited greater willpower and made more “virtuous” decisions. In the cafeteria experiment, for example, “busy” messaging reduced higher fat food sales.

Your bustling belief does not necessarily mean having a lengthy to-do list in tow, though. According to Chattopadhyay, “It’s a mental thing.” So what happens on our down days? Beware of a confidence crash — and consequential munchies. Keep yourself mentally in the game by pursuing a new hobby, signing up for a volunteer group or trying a new workout class.

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