DECISIONS, decisions . . .  are you reckless when it comes to taking action or so indecisive you never know which path to take?

Scientists at the University of Dundee have proven that being hungry makes us more likely to make impulsive choices and, perhaps, live to regret them.

Here, psychologist Emma Kenny reveals when you should avoid making a decision.

At night

When you are tired, you are likely to be suffering from a state known as “decision fatigue”, which means you will struggle with even small choices.

For example, when you come home from work, you find it almost impossible to decide what to eat for dinner.

That is down to your brain feeling exhausted.

If you are so tired you cannot decide what to eat, you should not be making important life choices, either.

When you are angry

Anger makes you impulsive, afraid or helpless.

While you may, in the moment, believe the course of action you have decided on is absolutely correct, remember you can still take it after you have cooled down.

When you are calmer you may feel there are better options available.

The saying “act in haste, repent at leisure” rings true here.

…hungry

Ever found yourself paying for your shopping only to discover at the check-out you have filled your trolley with unhealthy food?

That is down to hunger making us more impulsive and less aware of consequences.

Make sure you are full and satisfied before making a change, especially the weekly shop.

…lonely

Loneliness is one of the most challenging emotional states.

It can lead you to feel a sense of longing and, at times, desperation for connection.

This can make you vulnerable. You may agree to help people you should not, or saying yes to things that will cost you emotionally just so you are liked.

Talk ideas through with a trusted third party before committing to action.

…sick

How often have you wanted to do anything when feeling physically or mentally rotten?

Decisions require mental clarity and that can only be achieved when you are firing on all cylinders.

Feeling exhausted, grumpy or in physical pain disables your ability to be fully rational and often you can feel a lethargy and detachment about things you would usually be passionate about.

Make sure you are fully recovered before deciding on anything.

…falling in love

The “honeymoon period” is the initial, all-consuming time when you begin to fall in love. Your brain is flooded with oxytocin and serotonin, the hormones responsible for bonding.

You are also more likely to see the world through rose-coloured spectacles, meaning the decisions you make are not realistic.

Wait until you feel secure with your partner and have moved past this state to make big decisions.

This is often why many relationships break down, when impulsive decisions such as moving in together happen quickly — the crash to reality can make you regret moving so fast.

. . . drunk

Even one glass of alcohol alters thinking and impairs the area of brain responsible for judgment.

It seems like a good idea to book a holiday to Las Vegas when your bank balance is more suited to Blackpool, but when you sober up you have to face facts.

Having a clear head is essential if you want to achieve the best results in life, and it also means you do not end up paying for actions emotionally, or financially.

. . . grieving

When you go through any serious loss, your brain secretes the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin. This makes you feel more anxious and sometimes more depressed than normal.

No big life decisions should be taken during the first 12 months after a significant loss or bereavement.

This is because you spend that period getting over the shock, and then adjusting to your new situation.

Allow yourself a “coming to terms” period. This will make sure you are doing things for the right reasons.

. . .  first half of menstrual cycle

While you have to make decisions at all points of your cycle, science suggests women are at their optimal point after their period, around days 18-22.

During week three of your cycle, your brain is actually bigger than at other stages. At this time, you are better at communicating and empathising with others, meaning that your decisions are able to better understand the consequences for yourself and others.

Maybe wait until this point to think about the bigger life decisions you face.

How to make a decision

FOLLOW the 'RULER' strategy:

  • Recognise
  • Understand
  • Label
  • Express
  • Regulate

If you can say to yourself, 'I am able to recognise, understand and label my emotion, express it appropraitely and regulate it,' you are in a good state of mind to make a positive life choice.

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