Guest Blogger Evelyn Robinson shares this article with us today. Let's all four of us give her a warm welcome!
Now that the holiday shopping season is getting under way, we're faced with a myriad of decisions to make. What does that have to do with sticking to our diet and exercise programs and staying healthy? Read on to find out!
Be sure to check out The Girl in Yoga Pants' own special tips for avoiding decision fatigue at the end.
Ruminate Much? The Dilemma Of Decision Fatigue
The world we’re living in is an increasingly high tech one that offers fast-paced living and so much choice. Every day we’re faced with more and more decisions to make about everything from buying the right shampoo, to where to invest our money to get the best return. It seems though, that the more choices we’re faced with, the harder it becomes to make those decisions and indeed, psychologists have given this phenomenon a name: decision fatigue.
Choices, choices…Candy Store (Photo credit: Bart Heird)
What is decision fatigue?
A really interesting article from the New York Times explains all. It’s the notion that constantly having to make decisions drains you mentally as well as physically, meaning that the choices you ultimately make aren’t necessarily always the right ones.
At the start of the day, you are (hopefully) refreshed after a good night’s sleep and ready to face the challenges of the day. When you’re faced with decisions at this time, they are easier to make and require less thinking and deliberating time. However, as the day goes on, the more decisions you are faced with, the more fatigued you become, and all of a sudden, those choices become more difficult to make. It’s your brain’s way of saying “Argh! Enough! I need to stop!”
As a result, what happens is that you either start to make totally reckless decisions because you’re so tired and can’t think straight, or you avoid making any sort of decision at all, which has a temporary calming effect but merely puts off the inevitable. In some ways, the second choice is possibly more acceptable; if it’s a decision you can come back to when you’re revived and fresher. However, stalling on a choice can sometimes lead to further stress.
The Rubicon Theory Of War
In order to try and understand what goes on inside someone’s head when they try and make any sort of decision, psychologists broke down the decision making process. They came up with something they termed the Rubicon Theory Of War to describe this. This theory puts forward the idea of people’s psychological biases before, during, and after the decision making process for any situation.
Before they make a choice, they will weigh the positives and negatives, they will consider a lot of different information. Then they will make the decision, but afterwards resort to a pattern of behavior that means they can sometimes become closed-minded to the implications of what they have done and switch off to any negative complications that arise from the situation.
This type of behavior is most commonly attributed to world leaders in a time of international conflict and can also happen in legal cases where a judge or judges have to make constant decisions all day on how best to punish people. It can also equally be ascribed to someone who is making a life decision of their own, such as choosing a new home, a new car or even deciding on whether to get married or not.
Decision Fatigue and addictions
Decision fatigue also plays a role in serious health conditions, such as recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Someone who has made the decision to quit and is in the process of looking to find a list of detox centers nationwide, or help from a medical professional or other organization, might find that the simple choice of deciding not to use drugs, not to drink alcohol or smoke may cause decision fatigue, because the active choice has to be played out many times over the course of a day and not just perhaps once or twice, as it may do for other situations.
This process may actually add to the stress that causes relapses, in just as many instances as the actual withdrawal itself. Psychologists recommend that anyone who is embarking on a program of withdrawal from alcohol and drugs undergo a process of examining every area of their lives, making sure their diet is up to scratch and that regular exercise and relaxation is included to aid in the distraction process.
Whilst decision fatigue is something that affects the serious elements of life, it also spills over into the smaller, everyday choices we make.
For instance, next time you go to the grocery store, take a look around. Why do you suppose they put candy and chocolate next to the store cash register? Simply because they’re banking on the fact that by the time you reach the till to pay for your goods, you’ll have made so many decisions and feel so fatigued you’ll need a sugary pick-me-up to kick your brain back into gear and get you home.
This is what is known as an impulse purchase and is something that is done when all mental reserves have been depleted and we cannot think straight anymore. It’s also why very often when we go clothes shopping, we get so mesmerized by all the choices, we sometimes end up not always buying what we went for, but end up with something that perhaps is not what we would normally choose.
Ways to combat decision fatigue
These ideas may sound simplistic, but there is a lot to be said for implementing them in your daily routine and seeing how much your thought processes improve:
- Regular working breaks: Take time every so often to get away from your working environment. Walk in the fresh air for five minutes, take time to make a warm drink or get a glass of water. The very act of moving away from work actively stops you from thinking temporarily. It forces you to step back.
- Maintain blood sugar levels: Keep healthy snacks on hand to stop blood sugar plunges, which can cause fatigued thinking or bad decisions. If you’re irritable and unfocused because you haven’t eaten, you’re more likely to make a bad decision or the wrong choice because of it. Choose slow release energy foods, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds.
- Relax: Diaphragmatic breathing can really help to slow you down and focus your mind so that you can concentrate better. Taking some time out every day to practice exercises such as these can make a real difference to your well being and focus.
- Shop online. The benefits of online shopping are manyfold: no stampedes, no old people on scooters trying to run over you, no candy racks to tempt you when you check out, and – best of all – you never have to worry about ending up on peopleofwalmart.com!
- Ask yourself, "What would Scarlett O'Hara do?" The answer is, "I'll just think about that tomorrow." Never make a decision today that can be put off indefinitely.
- Avoid the buffet. Do I even need to explain this one?
- Three words: Black. Yoga. Pants. They go with just about everything – and they're so comfortable! Underwear is optional, but please, do us all a favor and choose a hefty high-quality fabric. I don't care what you've heard – camel toe is ratchet.