Happiness. When you get right down to the bottom of things it’s all that really matters in life. Unfortunately the daily grind doesn’t just pump a constant stream of joy into our lives, but there are things we can do to create our own happiness and the simplest way starts on our plates. Here are five foods to kick the blues and help you feel great all day!
Lavender is well known among herbalists for its aromatherapeutic powers. Add a little lavender to a hot bath or light a lavender candle and the scent will lead you down the road to relaxation. But this powerful plant can be ingested too! Lavender tea has the same relaxing effects as lavender scented products, with the added bonus of warming you up to calm you down. You can also add lavender to desserts, or find lavender candies at your favourite confectionery. Keep a couple in your pocket for relaxation on the go.
Many types of fish like tuna and shellfish contain fatty acids which are important in maintaining good brain health. Your neurons are like hot wires, sending and receiving about 10 electrical signals every minute. The fatty tissue of the brain (called myelin) protects and insulates your neurons like the rubber layer of an extension cord protects the copper wire underneath. Without proper insulation, our neurons can connect in ways they aren’t supposed to, causing our brains to “short circuit”. Since emotions are born in the brain, these short circuits can manifest in many ways including mood swings. Eating foods that are rich in fatty acids will keep your myelin nice and fatty, which will in turn keep your neurons well insulated so you can avoid the electrical blues.
Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 which is necessary for dopamine synthesis in the brain. Dopamine is also known as “the pleasure chemical” because it activates the brain’s reward centre. So basically bananas give you vitamin B6, which leads to dopamine, which leads to feelings of happiness. B6 also aides in cellular metabolism, and a healthy metabolism means more energy for exercise which is another key factor in keeping happy. As an added banana bonus, bananas are a good source of potassium which may help reduce the discomfort of some headaches. Plus bananas have long been a symbol of comedy in western culture, so just looking at a banana might bring about memories of laughter and feelings of joy.
Chocolate contains tryptophan, an amino acid which produces serotonin, another happiness chemical. If you’re worried about the health drawbacks of chocolate (added sugar and fat), there are ways to ingest chocolate that are way healthier than packing in an entire milk chocolate bunny. Dark chocolate has less cocoa fat than other chocolates (stay away from white chocolate which is essentially pure cocoa fat) and it doesn’t take much of it to initiate serotonin production. Or you can stir some pure cocoa powder into a mug of hot milk for a low-fat, sugar free hot chocolate that would send the Easter Bunny back to the drawing board.
Okay, be careful with this one because recent studies have shown that cheese could actually be addictive. Our initial response to that information? “Duh.” Seriously though cheese like all dairy products contains casein, a chemical which binds to opioid receptors in the brain. On a molecular level, opioid receptors have the perfect shape for receiving opiate molecules. So when you ingest an opiate drug the molecules of the drug “lock” on to your opioid receptors, affecting your brain in a way that causes feelings of euphoria. Since casein has a shape which also locks on to opioid receptors the effects can be similar, but scaled down. So have a glass of milk, some yogurt, or a slice of cheesy pizza to get happy as a cow! Just don’t expect to trip out on dairy. You would have to ingest several gallons of milk to get the same effects as you would from opiate drugs.