It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“Mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf…they may be bad for your arteries, but according to an upcoming study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, they’re good for your heart and emotions.” (“Chicken Soup for the Soul: Comfort Food Fights Loneliness,” Science Daily, 3/23/2011)
This is both awesome and dangerous news.
It’s no surprise that we turn to food when we feel lonely… or sad, or angry, or frustrated, or happy, or celebratory. We reward ourselves with food and sulk with food. But now the research is here: Eating comfort foods (for me: french fries!!) is helpful. It staves off loneliness, and makes us feel more connected on the days when we’re feeling uber-BFFless.
The truth is, I don’t need any more excuses to eat fries. Seriously. If given a reason why I should inhale them, I will take them down one handful at a time. So as soon as I finish this blog post I am going to erase this memory from my brain.
But until then, it’s worth noting that on the days when you’re feeling isolated, eating your favorite warm-and-fuzzy dish could erase your sense of aloneness. “We have found that comfort foods are foods which are consistently associated with those close to us,” said one of the study’s authors. “Thinking about or consuming these foods later then serves as a reminder of those close others.” (Um, just thinking about the food does the same trick? Where’s the fun in that?)
Back pre-search, when I had moments of loneliness, I usually drowned my sorrows in a TV marathon rather than a food binge. But it’s the same concept really—I indulged in the activity that reminded me of my pals. As the authors of this study said regarding TV. I “bonded with a favorite TV show” rather than a favorite person.
What surprises me is that I figured this kind of behavior—basically wallowing in negative feelings—would make a person feel worse. Shouldn’t doing stuff that reminds you of loved ones make you miss them more? Feel more alone?
Nope. “Comfort food can serve as a ready-made, easy resource for remedying a sense of loneliness. Keeping in mind this new research, it seems humans can find a number of ways to feel like we’re connected with others.”
So next time you’re missing your cross-country BFFs, a burger or chicken nuggets or, yes, fries might be the pick-me-up you need.
I’ve admitted my vice, now it’s your turn. Which comfort food would pull you up from the dumps?