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Eat at home for happiness

Every month in our Mind Life Lab Experiment, Martha Roberts invites you to road-test research around feeling good

by Psychologies

happier eating at home

The project

Eating a good, nourishing, healthy meal in your home environment can lead to increased feelings of wellbeing.

The aim

It has long been known that eating well can make you happier but experts have now discovered it’s not just what you eat but where you eat it that counts.

The theory

It’s not just what we eat but where we eat it and who we eat it with that can increase feelings of happiness and wellbeing. We may get excited at the prospect of a lavish restaurant meal but our homes actually give us more succour.

In a recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, 160 women were asked about what they ate for 10 days, contacted every two hours to report what they’d recently eaten and how it made them feel. Researchers also asked them where they were eating it.

The women were significantly happier and less stressed after eating at home – where they also ate more healthily. The study concluded: ‘The home is a privileged environment that nurtures healthy eating and in which healthier food choices trigger more positive emotions.’ When we eat at home, gathering round the table helps us to establish connections that are vital for happiness and a sense of belonging.

Plus, enjoying dinner with friends leads to healthier choices – one study found that kids who ate family dinners rather than meals on the go ate more fruit and vegetables and drank fewer fizzy drinks.

Try it out

  1. Blitz your dining table. Although many of us use our dining tables as dumping grounds for random papers and bits and bobs, it’s worth using them for the purpose for which they were intended – research has shown people eat 44 per cent more if they're eating in a cluttered environment. Also, although a 2013 poll found that fewer than one in five people eat at the dining/kitchen table for one or two meals a week, a study also found that families who ate dinner in a dining room tended to be slimmer and healthier.
  2. Don't indulge in 'mindless eating'. You may be at home but not every place in this environment is equal when it comes to eating and wellbeing. A 2013 study found that eating when we are distracted, like watching TV, means we tend to eat more and get less enjoyment out of it. Turn off the telly and concentrate on your food instead.
  3. Use it as a chance to experiment. The UK’s first ‘Flavour Index’ compiled in 2013 found that, of the nations surveyed, Brits are the most likely to cook international cuisine at home. Get a date in the diary to get friends together, and try cooking something new. Need inspiration? A 2013 UK survey found that 44 per cent of us use digital media as our preferred cooking resource so visit allrecipes.com for some ideas.
  4. Or keep it simple. If, like me, you blanche at the thought of a full-scale dinner party but like home entertaining, don't be afraid to stick to one course, or ask friends to bring a starter or desert. In all likelihood they're coming to your home for your company, not for cordon bleu cuisine.

MARTHA ROBERTS is an award-winning UK health writer and mental health blogger at mentalhealthwise.com

More inspiration:

Join us! Tell us if you feel happier eating at home or eating out at Facebook.com or on Twitter @psychologiesmag

Read 5 ways to feel more balanced, every day by Eminé Ali Rushton on LifeLabs

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