Help yourself to a plate of happiness

Jan 02, 2018 08:45 AM EST

Part of being human is about experiencing a whole range of different emotions. We laugh, cry, feel sad, feel down, feel elated - and we never know what emotions we'll face on any given day. We'd all like to find the secret to leading a happier life but, with the stress and strain of daily life, it's not always easy to achieve it.

It's difficult to know, too, what would actually make us happy. There are the basics, such as good health for you and your family, being able to afford the necessities of life, and to have a comfortable home.

But what else beyond that? We might think a win on the lotto would put us in a permanently good mood, and having no financial worries would certainly be a good thing. But, in fact, according to an article in Lottoland magazine, only 10% of our happiness is dependent on external factors such as material possessions and home comforts; 90% comes from within.

Research has shown that genetics have a lot to do with our happiness, and there's not much we can do to influence our genes. However, you might be surprised to learn that certain foods can play a part in dictating what kind of mood we are in - as they affect how much serotonin (aka the "happy hormone") is released into our bloodstream.

Taking charge of our diet is a relatively straightforward change to make and it's not difficult to ensure that we are supplying our body with the right ingredients to encourage a positive frame of mind. For starters, simply eating on a regular basis can help keep us cheerful. This is because regular meals mean there is less chance of our blood sugar dropping, which can lead to feelings of depression.

What is it in food that improves our mood?

Seratonin is a hormone produced by the body that has a positive effect on mood, sleep patterns, appetite, and emotions. In order to trigger our brain to produce serotonin, we need to consume foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid. Tryptophan is found in many different foods including walnuts, fish, poultry, milk, eggs, cheese, bananas, and sunflower seeds.

B-vitamins also have a role to play in optimising our mood, as they enable our bodies to maximise the energy gained from food, preventing lethargy and depression. Fish and seafood, poultry, meat, eggs, and milk, leafy greens, beans, and peas are all rich in B-vitamins.

Mood-boosting dishes

It's good to know that most of the basic food groups will help raise our levels of tryptophan and B-vitamins but what about some cheer-inducing meal suggestions to make life simple?

  • There's a reason that mac 'n' cheese is one of the world's favorite comfort foods. Not only is it easy to make but it also contains three tryptophan-rich foods - milk, eggs, and cheese.
  • All soy products are good sources of tryptophan and, along with some leafy greens such as cabbage, a tofu stir-fry can be a great vegetarian option for those times when you want to encourage a serotonin boost. The great thing about a stir-fry, of course, is that you can adapt any recipe to include whatever veg you happen to have in your fridge.
  • Clams are an excellent source of B-12 vitamins, which are vital for assisting the brain in the creation of serotonin. Eat them fresh, in a spaghetti vongole, for instance. But it's also handy to know that canned clams, like the ones you'd get in a ready-made chowder, will also boost your B-12 levels.
  • If you don't feel like cooking a meal but want a boost, a banana smoothie is the way to go. Blended with some milk and red fruits, the tryptophan-rich banana will trigger the releases of serotonin and put a smile on your face!
  • A good old cup of Joe can also improve one's mood. The caffeine in a cup of coffee can lead to serotonin being released into the bloodstream within 30 minutes. A ten-year research study revealed that women who drank 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day were about 15% less likely to suffer from depression compared with those who didn't.

If you feel like you're approaching life from a glass-half-empty point of view, try making a few changes to your diet, increasing the amount of tryptophan-rich foods that you eat. It certainly won't hurt trying out a few different meals and it just may lead you to have a more glass-half-full approach to life!


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