Food: the delectable road to happiness

4 minutes

At this very moment, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, just try to close your eyes for a moment and think of your favorite delicacy served right in front of you and you get to relish it. Look at its colour, feel its texture, and taste on your palate. Felt really good.. doesn’t it? Food does have that effect on our psyche. It does make us happy. Let us see what really happens, and what is the way for long lasting happiness.

“Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.”                                -Elsa Schiaparelli

Our emotional experiences and mood states are controlled by the release of brain chemicals known as Neurotransmitters. Different neurotransmitters have different roles to play in regulating our mood. For example, eating chocolate is known to release endorphins (chemicals in our body) which react with specific receptors in your brain, you can say, friends of endorphins, and when endorphins meet these friends in the brain, they cause positive emotions, also the emotion known as ‘love’ by us humans. Now you know why chocolates are suggested as gifts for your loved ones!

Taste, texture, presentation are all things we want in our food. However, our body is hungry for only one thing – Nutrients! Numerous types and categories of nutrients, macro as well as micro-nutrients, lead to a chain of neurochemical reactions in our brain which in turn leads us to feel a hike in our mood or a drop down in our state of mind.

Research suggests that specific Nutrients such as Folate, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, Omega 3 Fatty acid, Magnesium, and Chromium are known to cause an increase in the sense of happiness.

Now here is the catch. If we are saying food leads to happiness, why is there so much of turmoil about eating junk food and  all the processed heavy on sugar (hidden or visible) foods? That is exactly where we need to put our thinking hats on and try to understand that Happiness can be Psychological, Physiological or both.

Basically, when you eat junk food or processed foods and feel that sense of happiness, it is psychological in nature while your body says, “I No Get Nutrients, I No Happy!“. That is exactly why you find it difficult to stop eating. It overwhelms you with a psychological sense of happiness and has no nutrients, so the body isn’t able to say it is full and satisfied! But what happens in the long term? These foods are known to cause sadness, guilt, depression, and physical damages like obesity, cardiovascular problems, etc. So, what pulls you might just be a trap of temporary pleasure.

When we take in healthy nutrient packed foods, our sense of physiological happiness goes up. Our body becomes happy and satisfied due to the nutrients. So, it indicates us to stop eating and we are able to exert portion control too. Now you realize why you can’t finish a plate of salad/fruits without feeling ‘oh! am so full!’. In turn, our brain releases neurotransmitters that keep our mood boosted and in turn causes the psychological sense of happiness too.

Try to watch what you eat, and be more aware of whether it is a temporary indulgence, or a source of long term and real happiness. Wholesome, balanced, and nutrient packed food  shall certainly pave the way to a long lasting happiness and good health.

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” – Lewis Grizzard

Gargee Kanhere

Gargee is your special friend from YourDOST team. She is a clinical psychologist and has experience of working with various hospitals in Bangalore and Bhopal. Her areas of interest are Positive Psychology, Psychotherapy, Assessment, Mindfulness, special education, De-Addiction Counselling, Psychoanalysis, Yoga Psychology, Psycho-Oncology. An extremely compassionate person who finds happiness in helping others.