While you may look ridiculous doing the potty dance and crossing your legs back and forth, holding it in can be worth the discomfort when you've got an important decision to make.
While it's well known that we make more impulsive decisions when under visceral states, such as when we're hungry, Dr. Mirjam Tuk (while on the faculty of behavioral sciences at the University of Twente, Netherlands) and her colleagues wondered if the a visceral state associated with inhibition instead of drive, such as holding one's bladder, might spill over (no pun intended) into other decisions we make.
She theorized that ignoring one's impulse to pee might shift the entire the mind's tendency to make other impulsive decisions. To prove this theory, they tested several individuals' decision-making abilities while under the influence of a full bladder. Participants first drank glass after glass of water, then sat down to tackle tasks. After, the individuals were asked if they wanted to receive a small amount of cash on the spot, or if they wanted to wait a month for a larger payment.
Interestingly, those who felt the strongest need to pee chose to wait it out. Those in the group who hadn't ingested any water were more impulsive, jumping on the offer for less money immediately.
This experiment indicates that, when faced with the urge to urinate, we are more capable of reeling in our impulses. The visceral drive to immediately relieve ourselves is a strong one, but also helpful.
Typically, visceral feelings such as hunger lead us to make more irrational, spur of the moment choices because we cannot avoid their pull. When our bladders are full, however, we behave in an opposite manner. Impulses no longer tempt us because we're actively working to restrain our urges.
Have you ever had to sit through an extremely long car ride with no bathroom breaks? As someone who can never make it through trips without at least two pit stops, I know firsthand how hard it is to keep your bladder under control. Yet it's exactly that control that helps us make better decisions.
Think about it this way: what would happen if you simply gave in and stopped holding it? Peeing in public isn't exactly socially acceptable. Because we understand that there are consequences, we exert a great amount of effort in an attempt to keep ourselves from losing control.
That same control works in our favor when making decisions while needing to pee. We are already restraining ourselves, in a sense, so it's easy for our minds to apply that control while facing different options. As a result, we're more likely to choose the smarter, better alternatives rather than ones that excite us immediately.
After all, if you've turned down one impulse, what's another few?
Yes, resisting the urge to pee and keeping your bladder full can have detrimental side effects if you take it too far. If you frequently delay nature's call, you could over-inflate your bladder. Our bladders are designed to expand and contract based on our body's needs, but if you constantly keep yours stretched to the max, it might one day become unable to snap back into shape.
So, if you're facing a tricky decision, try waiting until you feel the need to pee. The control you utilize to keep your bladder in line will help you make a less impulsive choice. Otherwise, keep hitting the bathroom as needed!