This Is the Absolute Worst Time to Make a Decision, Study Says

Research shows you may end up making the wrong choice if you do it at this time.

circle

Many people find making decisions to be a challenging task. After all, it can be difficult to narrow down your choices, leaving people stuck for quite some time. But it turns out that you might be making things even harder on yourself depending on when you opt to make your choice. According to research, the worst time to make a decision is when you're hungry. Read on to find out why, and for more activities you're timing wrong, You're Showering at the Wrong Time Every Day, Experts Say.

A 2019 study published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review found that hunger significantly affected someone's ability to make a decision by making them more impatient. When making a decision while hungry, people were more likely to settle for a smaller reward that would arrive sooner rather than a larger one that would arrive at a later date.

"We found there was a large effect, people's preferences shifted dramatically from the long to short term when hungry," study author Benjamin Vincent, MD, a psychology lecturer at the University of Dundee, said in a statement. According to Vincent, the findings didn't stop at food-related decisions either. Hunger could have an affect on other types of choices, including financial and interpersonal ones.

"Our research suggests this could have an impact on other kinds of decisions as well. Say you were going to speak with a pensions or mortgage advisor—doing so while hungry might make you care a bit more about immediate gratification at the expense of a potentially more rosy future," he said.

Shot of a young woman searching inside a refrigerator at home
iStock

Jennifer Weaver-Breitenbecher, LMHC, a psychotherapist and owner of a private practice in Rhode Island, says that the idea that we shouldn't make a decision when we're hungry is based on the fact that our basic needs aren't being met at the moment.

"We can become emotionally vulnerable when our basic needs aren't met," she explains. "For example, if you're low on sleep or in need of food, you're more likely to be impulsive when making a decision because your brain doesn't have the energy to spend on things it considers non-life threatening."

She explains that when you take care of the "life-sustaining criteria in your life" through something like feeding yourself, then your brain is able to free up some energy and expend it on other things like really reflecting and thinking through a conundrum.

But if you're still finding it hard to make a decision, read on for more help. And if this is a common problem for you, you'll recognize these Signs You're Terrible at Making Decisions.

1
Narrow your decision down to just two choices.

Shot of a mature businessman looking thoughtful while working on a laptop in an office
iStock

If you're finding yourself having a hard time making choices, you might just be giving yourself too many options. A Feb. 3 study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior concluded that the best way to make a quick and efficient decision was by narrowing things down to only two choices. And to learn more about how this works, discover The Easiest Way to Make a Decision, According to Research.

2
Write your decision down on a piece of paper first.

Mature woman working from home
iStock

In an article for Psychology Today, Marcia Reynolds, PsyD, wrote that the best tip she could give for making a decision was to sleep on it. She advises that people write their "decision on a piece of paper and stash it away without implementing it." They can then look at that paper the next day or in a few days and see if the decision they chose was something they still feel comfortable with. And for more things you should do before going to bed, Writing This One Thing Down at Night Will Help You Sleep, Study Finds.

3
Label your emotions surrounding the decision.

Thoughtful anxious asian business woman looking away thinking solving problem at work, worried serious young chinese woman concerned make difficult decision lost in thought reflecting sit with laptop
iStock

Your emotions can easily cloud your decision-making process, psychotherapist Amy Morin, LCSW, explained in an article for VeryWell Mind. However, many people don't truly know what their emotions are because they haven't labelled them—which may make people incorrectly assess their feelings, and that can change the decision they make. Morin says you should "make it a daily habit to label your feelings," and then "take a minute to consider how those emotions may be influencing your decisions." And for more on processing your emotions, This Is the No. 1 Mental Health Mistake You're Making Right Now.

4
Talk it through with someone you trust.

Cropped shot of two colleagues having a discussion in an office
iStock

Going outside yourself could be the key to helping you make a decision, Reynolds said. She suggests finding someone who you feel has your best interests at heart and laying out the pros and cons to that person. Talking this through can help you get an outside perspective, as well as give you a "chance to think things through." And for more useful content delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
Filed Under
Best Life
Live smarter, look better,​ and live your life to the absolute fullest.
Get Our Newsletter Every Day!
Enter your email address to get the best tips and advice.
close modal
close modal
GET YOUR FREE GIFT
SUBSCRIBE