Some of my happiest memories are of times I spent sitting around the table with my family—as a child, with my brothers, sisters, and parents; now, with my own wife and kids. Laughing, talking, telling jokes, fighting, food fighting, enjoying delicious food: all these things are just part of what make meal times with others special.
Humans are incredibly social creatures, despite the fact that we sometimes like to tell ourselves we’re better off alone. We are influenced by the presence of other people. We tend to enjoy food more and we end up eating more when we are around others.
But what do you do if you spend most of your mealtimes alone?
Whether you’re a busy student or a hardworking professional, it can be difficult to find time to eat with friends or family.
According to a new Japanese study, eating in front of a mirror can improve the enjoyment of your meals. Both older and younger adults were set to eat in front of a mirror, and the reflection triggered the perception that they were eating among others—what is known as the “social facilitation of eating”. But even when the mirrors were switched to portraits, both older and younger adults enjoyed their food more and ate greater quantities.
Previous studies have discovered that eating alone can lead to higher rates of depression, as well as appetite loss. This is particularly true for older adults. However, adults who enjoy their meals tend to have a better quality of life. If all you have to do to enjoy your meal more is to eat with others, it’s a simple way to combat depression rates among older adults.
But the benefits extend beyond just senior citizens. By eating in the company of those you love, your mood is elevated. This elevation of your mood can make food taste better, encouraging you to eat more and derive more pleasure from the meal.
Eating with others truly is a wonderful part of life. Family dinners, dinners out with friends, or meals at a cafeteria table are a perfect chance for you to interact with your loved ones. You can laugh, talk, tell stories, and enjoy the company of the people who matter in your life. But even if you’re alone, you’ll find that eating meals in front of a mirror or a picture of the ones you love will improve the enjoyment of your meals.
1.Ryuzaburo Nakata, Nobuyuki Kawai, “The “social” facilitation of eating without the presence of others: Self-reflection on eating makes food taste better and people eat more.” Physiology & Behavior 179 (2017): 23-29, Published by Elsevier Inc. 1 October 2017.