Eating for Happiness

Happiness centers around several important neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamaine, endorphins, phenylethylamine, and anandamide. Serotonin is popularly known as the “feel-good hormone,” or your body’s own natural tranquilizer, hence the happiness factor. This is the neurotransmitter that antidepressants target in order to boost overall happiness levels. Up to 90 percent of your body’s total serotonin is located in your gut, where it regulates intestinal movement. The remainder is synthesized in your central nervous system and helps regulate mood, appetite, sleep, muscle contraction, and some cognitive functions including memory and learning. Dopamine is both a neurotransmitter and a neurohormone, produced in your brain. It has many roles in your brain including a significant effect on behavior, pleasure, cognition, sleep, and mood. Endorphins are your natural pain and stress neurotransmitters, which act as natural “happy” opiates and are responsible for the highs that you often feel after exercising, laughing, having sex, or getting good news. They also act as natural pain-relievers. Phenylethylamine (PEA) is a neurotransmitter that is also created within your brain and released when you are in love. It acts as a mild mood elevator and an antidepressant, and it helps increase focus and alertness. Anandamide is known as the “bliss chemical” because it is released by your brain when you are feeling happy. When you are stressed out or depressed, these important neurotransmitters can be deficient or out of balance.

Some general eating tips for increasing your happiness:

  1. Eliminate processed foods. Processed foods are filled with empty calories. Many packaged foods and deep fried foods contain trans fats, one of the unhealthiest substances around. Eliminate cholesterol, and avoid saturated fats and refined oils, especially sunflower, safflower, and corn oil, which can throw your essential fatty acids out of balance. Mood-boosting nutrients are found in whole foods such as nuts and seeds, leafy greenslegumes, whole grains, fruits, and root vegetables. When you start eating a plant-based diet of nutrient-dense, whole foods, your moods will level out, your blood sugar will stop spiking and crashing, and your thinking will get clearer. You will see that food is much more than just fuel for your day.
  2. Buy organic. Many pesticides are neurotoxins. Your liver’s ability to process other toxins, your cells’ ability to produce energy, and your nerves’ ability to send messages can all be compromised by pesticide exposure. Organic food usually costs a little more, but not as much as depression or cancer. It’s smart to start by switching to organic apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, peppers, peaches, nectarines,  and other produce that normally rank highest in contaminants. For a full list, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen. Supermarkets are steadily increasing their organic offerings, and the spread of farmers markets around the U.S. has added to the availability of organic produce.
  3. Embrace healthy fats. Your brain cells are composed of fat, and a diet too low in healthy fats can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. There is a lot of buzz about omega-3 essential fatty acids, and with good reason. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to the healthy development of your eyes, nervous system, and brain. The omega-3 essential fatty acids are great for boosting your mood. Low levels of of the omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been associated with increased risk of suicide. Good sources of omega-3s include flax seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. However, these foods contain the “parent” omega-3 molecule, alpha linoleic acid (ALA). Some depression actually stems from chronic, low-grade inflammation. While ALA is anti-inflammatory, your body must convert it into the even more healthful DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Your body may not be efficient in converting ALA into DHA and EPA, partly due to genetics or age. Fortunately, consuming sufficient protein, vitamin B6, biotin, calcium, copper, magnesium, and zinc can improve your capacity to convert the parent omega-3 into EPA and DHA. Make whole plant foods, including avocados, soy, nuts, seeds, and olives, the major source of your fat intake. If you use concentrated fats and oils in cooking, favor those rich in monounsaturated fats, such as olive, canola, or nut oils. You can also use oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as flax seed or hemp seed, but never heat them. By all means, avoid processed foods and deep-fat-fried foods rich in trans and omega-6 fatty acids. Don’t let foods rich in saturated fats and cholesterol displace those rich in unsaturated fats, particularly omega-3s. Include an abundance of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids in your diet daily, trying for 2–4 g ALA per day.  You can also try adding chlorella, a microalgae high in DHA and EPA, to your diet.
  4. Eliminate sugar and other processed carbohydrates. Your body needs carbohydrates for energy, and it’s difficult to be happy when you don’t have energy. There is a reason that your often crave sugar and other carbohydrate-rich food when you are stressed: this is your body’s way of trying to increase serotonin because eating sugar produces insulin, which helps tryptophan get into your brain to help you create serotonin, which gives you that happy, relaxed feeling you need. However, too much sugar can eventually cause addiction to sugar, insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, and type 2 diabetes. If you experience strong carbohydrate cravings, avoid sugar and processed grains that cause insulin spikes, and choose complex carbohydrates instead. Complex carbohydrates come from whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables like potatoes. The fiber in complex carbohydrates is important for maintaining a healthy gut, which is crucial for the proper absorption of other nutrients. High-fiber, carbohydrate-rich foods have the ability to slow down the absorption of sugar in your blood and therefore, keep energy levels stable throughout the day, lessen mood swings, and keep your hunger satiated for longer. Diets low in fiber have been linked to depression and increased risk of suicide. When you’re feeling down, complex carbohydrates can help improve your mood in a healthy way.
  5. Get a wide variety of micro-nutrients. You need sufficient levels of thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin D, folate, selenium,  calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Chromium also influences the regulation of serotonin, the brain’s so-called happiness chemical.  Vitamin C helps in the production of endorphins. Thiamine is essential for the development of healthy brain cells and cognitive function. The B vitamins work together for energy, digestion, and a healthy nervous system. They also promote healthy cell renewal, which is important for your skin, hair, and nails, which constantly renew themselves to grow. B vitamin deficiencies can lead to feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. Vitamin B6 works as a mood enhancer and is used to treat people with mood disorders. Folate is a B vitamin responsible for mood, the healthy functioning of your nerves, memory retrieval, processing speed, and protecting you from depression. When a deficiency is present, you may suffer from feelings of depression, irritability and mental fatigue.  Studies show that up to 50 percent of those suffering depression have low folate levels. Although researchers don’t yet fully understand the connection, folate deficiency appears to impair the metabolism of serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, neurotransmitters important for mood. Higher concentrations of folate in the blood are linked to a decrease in negative moods and clinical depression. Like tryptophan, folate is a necessary factor for creating neurotransmitters. Low levels of selenium can lead to depression, irritability and anxiety. Magnesium is a nutrient essential for the biochemical reactions in the brain that boost your energy levels. This superstar nutrient is good for fighting depression, healthy bones and teeth, new cell growth and promoting the function of insulin in the body. Calcium triggers the release of neurotransmitters every time a neuron fires, and disturbances in calcium levels can produce anxiety, depression, irritability, impaired memory, and slow thinking. Zinc is essential to maintaining and developing neurological networks, it is also necessary for the effective neural communication within those networks. Like some antidepressant drugs, zinc stimulates the production of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth factor that helps to support the survival and differentiation of neurons in your brain and peripheral nervous system. Communication between neurons in the hippocampus—the area of the brain responsible for learning, memory and emotional regulation—relies upon the presence of zinc. Low levels of zinc increase the incidence and intensity of depression.  Low levels of vitamin D can contribute to mood disorders and depression. While vitamin D can be found in some foods or taken as supplement, one of the best sources of this mood-boosting vitamin is sunshine, which helps your body to create vitamin D.  Iron is vital for a stable mood—its highest concentrations in the brain are located in areas related to mood and memory.  Iodine is critical for the proper functioning of your thyroid gland, which in turn is a mood regulator. One of the first things a psychiatrist checks when evaluating someone suffering from depression is the thyroid. Iodine deficiency is also the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world. Tryptophan is an amino acid that serves as a basis for creating serotonin, your brain’s primary mood-regulating neurotransmitter. Certain forms of vitamin E protect brain fat. The various forms of vitamin E work to relieve brain inflammation and protect neurons. Patients with major depression often have low levels of vitamin E in their blood. You may have heard of the supplement SAMe, which is used for depression , anxiety, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), improving intellectual performance, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and migraine headache, among other disorders. SAMe, also known as SAM (s-adenosyl-methionine) is a substance synthesized in your body and required for cellular growth and repair. It is also involved in the biosynthesis of several hormones and neurotransmitters that affect mood, such as dopamine and serotonin. A complicated chemical cycle called the SAM cycle requires choline, along with vitamin B6vitamin B12, and folate in order to keep your body supplied with adequate amounts of SAM. Vitamin B12 protects your brain by preserving the myelin sheath that insulates your brain cells. B12 and folate help rid your body of homocysteine, a harmful byproduct of protein metabolism that is linked to heart disease, stroke, and depression. Potassium is a natural way to lower blood pressure and help fuel your brain. As a part of the enzyme dopamine β-hydroxylase (DBH), copper plays a role in the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine. When released, norepinephrine has an impact on the “fight-or-flight” response, which is your body’s biological response to stress. In addition, norepinephrine is also involved in pain, cognition, mood, emotions, movement and blood pressure. Niacin also is also a precursor to several neurotransmitters in the brain, which may have an impact on mood. Niacin, along with glutamate, enhances gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) activity in your brain, which in turn helps reduce anxiety and neurosis. Anti-inflammatorphytochemicals can also help prevent depression. The xanthine theobromine has stimulant properties, but it is much milder compared to caffeine and has a mood-improving effect. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that provide neuro-protective benefits such as bolstering short-term memory and reducing mood-killing inflammation. Phenylalanine is a chemical that passes through your blood-brain barrier and makes your brain produce your natural mood stabilizing hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine, which also reduce pain in your body.
  6. Avoid animal protein. Your body breaks down methionine (which is very high in animal protein) into homocysteine, which is a risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, closure of your leg arteries (peripheral vascular disease), blood clots in your legs (venous thrombosis), cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease,  neurotransmitter deficiency, and possibly depression. Meats contain arachidonic acid, which, in your body, is converted to prostaglandin E2, a compound that sparks inflammation, and inflammation can lead to depression. Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that red meat contains a molecule that humans don’t naturally produce called Neu5Gc. After ingesting this compound, your body develops anti-Neu5Gc antibodies – an immune response that may trigger chronic inflammatory response. Processed meat is even worse. In the 2007 report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, processed meat is identified as a cause of cancers of the colon and rectum, and possibly the esophagus and lungs. Processed meat includes animal flesh that has been smoked, cured, salted or chemically preserved. Finally, to make them grow faster and prevent them from getting sick in the deplorable conditions of factory farms, farmed animals are also injected with hormones and fed with antibiotics, none of which you want to be consuming. Dairy products are also inflammatory. As much as 60-75% of the world’s population can’t digest cow’s milk. In fact, researchers think that being able to digest milk beyond infancy is abnormal. Milk is also a common allergen that can trigger inflammatory responses, including stomach distress, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, acne, hives and breathing difficulties, in susceptible people. Dairy products are also packed with hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful ingredients, so avoid them.
  7. Shop at your local farmers market. Getting to know your local farmers can give you added motivation to stay away from a pre-packaged, processed-food diet. Getting to know the people who grow your food also offers you the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what you’re eating. The goal is to make that vital connection between your fork and your feelings and choose foods that support your emotional well-being and enhance your sense of vitality. You can find local farmers easily at Local Harvest.

Foods that can make you happy include:

  1. Spinach: Dark, leafy vegetables are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. In fact, folate originates in the leaves of plants. (Its name comes from the Latin word folium, for “leaf.”)  Folate also promotes healthy red blood cells and a strong immune system, which keep you energized and free of disease. Spinach fights fatigue, and lowers stress and anxiety levels. This leafy green is packed with magnesium. It also contains iodine. As noted above, iodine is critical for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, which in turn is a mood regulator. You can enjoy spinach in a salad or steamed with balsamic vinegar, or chop it fine and stir it into soups, stews, a stir-fry, or  tomato sauce for a nutritional punch that’s good for your mood, too. Eating spinach gives your body the nutrients that it needs to help you feel physically and mentally stronger.
  2. Arugula: Arugula is an excellent source of calcium. Two cups of arugula have just 10 calories but contain 6% of your daily need for calcium, plus two other happy nutrients, folate and fiber. And arugula’s deep green color indicates the presence of yet another of our top happiness nutrients, magnesium.
  3. Peppers: Chile peppers are spicy because they contain a fat-soluble molecule called capsaicin. Your brain is loaded with receptors for capsaicin, and you respond to it by releasing endorphins, natural compounds that have a calming effect. Capsaicin reduces cancer cells, is an antioxidant and a natural aphrodisiac.
  4. Broccoli: Broccoli is packed with quercetin and kaempferol, which help clean up free radicals and reduce inflammation, which is very important to maintaining a healthy brain. Broccoli is full of folate,  one of the vitamins that many of us are deficient in. Snacking on broccoli can help relieve digestive problems as well as giving you a natural mood boost.
  5. Asparagus: If you plan on drinking alcohol, this is the vegetable for you. The enzymes in asparagus are highly effective in breaking down alcohol in your system, preventing a hangover, which in itself can keep you happy. Asparagus is a great source of tryptophan, folate, and thiamine.  Asparagus even helps stabilize mood swings.
  6. Strawberries: Strawberries are full of vitamins and antioxidants which will enhance your well-being and mood, and can help you feel more energetic and promote a healthier brain.  They are also free of sugar and amazing for your skin, hair, and overall health. Strawberries are not only a good source of vitamin C, which helps in the production of endorphins, but they are high in mood-enhancing flavonoids too.

  7. Nori: Sea vegetables contain nutrients such as zinc, iodine, and selenium, important in balancing your mood by keeping your thyroid, your body’s master mood regular, stable. The high concentration of polysaccharides also enhance the level of endorphins in your brain. Nori may also provide brain-protecting vitamin B12, a nutrient a large percentage of the US population is deficient in. Note that nori is not a reliable source of vitamin B12, so make sure you include a supplement in your routine if you are vegan.

  8. Tomatoes: Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a fat-soluble phytochemical that helps protect vital brain fat, and stops the buildup of pro-inflammatory compounds linked to depression. Lycopene is also linked with glowing skin. Because lycopene is in tomato skins, the best way to get it is through cherry tomatoes, whose larger surface area means you’ll eat more skin than if you eat a full-size tomato. And because it’s fat soluble, you’ll absorb lycopene better if you enjoy your tomatoes with a dressing made with ground flax seeds. Just be sure to always choose organic, because organic tomatoes have higher lycopene levels. Tomatoes contain other mood enhancers, such as folate and magnesium, as well as iron and vitamin B6, both needed by your brain to produce important mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

  9. Brazil nuts: Brazil nuts are an extremely rich source of the mineral selenium: just one Brazil nut a day can provide you with your recommended daily intake. Snacking on a Brazil nut could be the perfect healthy way to boost your mood.
  10. Lentils: A member of the legume family, lentils are an excellent source of folate.A cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of the recommended daily allowance of folate. A healthy bonus: lentils contain protein and fiber, which are filling and help to stabilize blood sugar. One cup of cooked lentils also contains 36.6% of your daily value of iron. Lentils also contain the oligosaccharides, raffinose and stachyose, that feed bifidobacteria in your large intestine. Bifidobacteria produce conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. This happy fat beats back stress hormones protecting brain cells and erases dangerous inflammation-promoting belly fat. Toss cooked lentils with cherry tomatoes, sliced bell peppers, and carrots for an easy salad, or try making lentil soup.
  11. Beets: These root vegetables are an excellent source of the B vitamin folate. Beets are also packed with betaine, which your brain uses to form SAM-e, a natural antidepressant. And another important nutrient found in beets—uridine—is as effective as prescription antidepressants when it’s combined with omega-3s. Beets also contain trytophan, which relaxes your mind and creates a sense of well-being. The magnesium in beets can also lower your blood pressure.
  12. Sweet potatoes:

    Beta-carotene and vitamin B6 are abundant in sweet potatoes. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that may help prevent and manage arthritis, and maintain skin, hair, and eye health. Sweet potatoes also provide potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. Baked sweet potatoes are a great example of comfort food that is both delicious and healthy.

  13. Chia seeds: If you thought chia seeds were only for growing chia pets, it’s time to add some to your diet. This zero-cholesterol food is a great source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps your body produce serotonin.  Other sources of trytophan include vegetables, grains, nuts, and beans.
  14. Ground flax seeds: Flax seeds are the best zero-cholesterol source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Have two tablespoon of ground flax seeds every day, and you’ll get 3.19 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, or 133% of the Daily Value.

  15. Sesame seeds: Sesame seeds are packed with mood-boosting nutrients. One ounce of sesame seeds provides 8% of your daily calories, but 10% of your protein, 14% of zinc, 21% of your iron, 25% magnesium, 27% of your calcium, and a whopping 57% of your daily copper.
  16. Garlic: Garlic boosts your mood by increasing blood flow around your body. The more blood flow, the less energy your heart will have to expend pumping, hence more energy. Garlic is a top source of chromiumGarlic is actually used as a treatment against depression. Add garlic to your salads, scrambles, pasta: anything tastes better with garlic!
  17. Oats: Oats may help if you find yourself feeling irritable and cranky. They are rich in soluble fiber, which helps to smooth out blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar into the blood. Oats are also a great food to help you stick with your diet plan, because the soluble fiber in oats forms a gel that slows the emptying of your stomach so you don’t feel hungry quickly. Other foods high in soluble fiber are: beans, snap peas, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries, and apples. Try topping your oatmeal with coarsely chopped apple or unsweetened chunky applesauce with cinnamon or strawberries and sliced almonds.
  18. Pumpkin seedsPumpkin seeds are one of the highest source of folate, along with magnesium and tryptophan. They can also boost your hormone levels, helping regulate your moods. Keep a bag around or add some to your trail mix for a day full of smiles.
  19. Small potatoes: Because we confuse the pure food with the processed version, potatoes have a bad reputation. A potato skin has as many phytochemicals as broccoli, especially if you eat the more colorful varieties. Unusual nutrients found in potatoes, known as kukoamines, can lower blood pressure, which protects the brain. But potatoes are also loaded with folate and iodine. The color in blue potatoes comes from anthocyanins.

    Be sure to eat their skins, too. The potatoes’ skins are loaded with iodine.

    And always choose organic potatoes. Non-organic spuds usually fall victim to multiple toxic chemical sprays that are absorbed into the vegetables’ flesh.

  20. Almonds: Not only are almonds delicious, nutritious and versatile, but they are also proven to enhance your mood. Almond’s high amino acid count will boost your energy. Almonds increase brain power because they contain phenylalanine. This fiber– and magnesium-packed nut also helps converts carbohydrates, protein, and fat into energy, keeping you alert and awake throughout the day. Almonds also contain iodine. To reap the most benefits, avoid roasted or salted almonds, and instead try raw almonds or almond milk for a quick pick-me-up.
  21. Avocados: Folate,  a vitamin that is great at metabolizing proteins and increasing energy levels, is a main nutrient found in avocados. These creamy fruits are also high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Slice it, scoop it, or add it into a salad. This creamy, luxurious food is high in monounsaturated fats, which help keep receptors in the brain awake and ready to react to mood-boosting serotonin.
  22. Walnuts: Walnuts have long been thought of as a “brain food” because of their wrinkled, bi-lobed, brain-like appearance. But now we know that walnuts are brain food. They contain a wealth of trace minerals, macronutrients, and vitamins, including magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, calcium, omega-3s, vitamin E, folate, and other B vitamins. Walnuts are the perfect good-mood food, offering the combined mood-boosting properties of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6 and tryptophan. The polyphenols and other antioxidants in walnuts help strengthen neural connections, improving your memory, organizational and math skills as well as your puzzle-solving ability. Walnuts can help you feel, look and think well. Eating walnuts is another way to get some serious energy to your brain.  Instead of reaching for a muffin as a snack, try walnuts and an apple. The fiber and good fat will also curb your appetite for longer. You can also sprinkle walnuts over salads.
  23. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa: Ever wonder why chocolate makes you feel so good? It’s proven to make you happy! Just a few ounces of dark chocolate a day results in better mood. It helps you feel more vibrant and energetic. Chocolate contains many phytochemicals that can help beat the blues, including relaxing magnesium, calming anandamide and pleasure-inducing phenylethylamine, and has just the right amount of sugar and caffeine to keep you vibrant and energized. Not only that, dark chocolate can improve blood-flow to the brain, helping to calm anxiety, improve concentration, increase your natural feel-good endorphins, and create the beautiful sensation of bliss and euphoria we love so much. Chocolate raises the level of serotonin in your brain and therefore acts as an antidepressant, promoting an overall sense of well-being. It stimulates the secretion of endorphins, which can help to produce a pleasurable feeling. Chocolate contains pleasure-inducing phenylethylamine, and it contains N-acylethanolamines that are believed to temporarily increase the levels of calming anandamide in your brain, along with enzyme inhibitors that slow its breakdown. This promotes relaxation for a longer period of time. Chocolate also contains a high level of xanthines, specifically theobromine and to a much lesser extent caffeine.  Ultimately, the higher the cocoa content, the more mood-boosting compounds you’ll receive! Skip the sugary milk chocolate blends and go directly for the darkest organic (highest percentage of cocoa) chocolate you can (the darker the chocolate, the better). So go ahead, indulge in your daily dark chocolate fix!   To up the mood-boosting benefits further, try snacking on chocolate-dipped strawberries for a healthy treat.
  24. Bananas: The lowly banana has become such a grocery store staple that many people have forgotten about the super powers of this simple fruit. Handy to transport for a snack or a lunch dessert, bananas are packed with potassium and B vitamins. Bananas are a great source of tryptophan, magnesium, and vitamin B6. Bananas are high in natural sugars, making them a great remedy for low energy levels which can leave you feeling down. On top of this they are packed with mood-lifting nutrients to help put a smile on your face. Enjoying a banana instead of a cookie is a great way to give your body lots of energy without creating that sugar-crash feeling later.
  25. Maple syrup. Pure maple syrup contains minerals such as manganese, zinc, and calcium.
  26. Blackstrap molasses: Blackstrap molasses was the most popular sweetener in the United States until the 1880s. It contains vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, selenium, and more iron than a chicken breast.
  27. Green tea: From promoting weight loss to reducing the risk of cancer, it’s difficult to find a reason to not love green tea. When it comes to de-stressing the soul, this soothing drink is rich in antioxidants linked to relaxation and focus. Next time you find yourself nervous, try calming your nerves with a cup of green tea. Tea has a substance called theanine, which boosts serotonin and dopamine in your system. This reduces stress as well as making you feel happier and more upbeat. Theanine has a tranquilizing effect on your brain, helping you to reduce mental and physical stress, improve cognition skills and lift your spirits (by triggering production of feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine). Instead of that second cup of coffee, try making a cup of green tea. You can find it in teabag form in most grocery stores. Another option: chai. It’s an Indian tea made with regular black tea plus spices such as cardamom and cinnamon. The spices also add a natural sweetness to the tea, which may help you cut back on sugar and sweeteners. If you’re in the mood to try a new herbal tea, consider rooibos. Rooibos is a reddish brown tea that tastes more like regular black tea than other herbal teas. Like chai, rooibos also has a hint of natural sweetness, which makes it a good option for people trying to lose weight. Try hot rooibos tea plain, with a wedge of lemon. It also makes a great iced tea. Rooibos can be found in health food stores, some grocery stores, online, and increasingly, in cafes and restaurants that serve herbal tea.
  28. Coffee: Caffeine causes an increase in dopamine, which is how it boosts your confidence, focus, and mood. In addition to its stimulating properties, a cup of coffee has more antioxidants than a glass of grape juice or a serving of spinach. And it contains two phytochemicals, norharman and harman, which function like a class of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors. People who drink a few cups of coffee daily have a decreased risk of brain disorders such as depression and dementia. Although caffeine has been shown to lead to a more positive mood and improved performance, it’s a fine line. Too much caffeine can make you dependent and make you nervous, irritable, hypersensitive or bring on headaches. A good strategy is to limit yourself to no more than one 8 oz. cup of coffee a day.

Other strategies for enhancing your mood:

  1. Get plenty of exercise: Exercise boosts serotonin. Even gentle exercise like walking can boost your immunity and mood. For an instant happiness boost when you’re feeling blue, try hitting the gym or heading out for a brisk walk or run. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain such as endorphins and anandamide which can boost your mood and leave you feeling great. Not only that, exercise is also good for boosting confidence levels and increasing self-esteem.
  2. Get a massage: Massage increases serotonin by 28% and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) by 31%.
  3. Have fun in the sun: Vitamin D may increase the levels of serotonin, and may help to relieve mood disorders. You get vitamin D mainly through exposure to sunlight and in lesser amounts, through food. Early morning sunlight can boost your body’s production of melatonin in the evening. Serotonin converts to melatonin for a great night’s sleep. Getting outside for a 20-minute walk in the early morning sunlight can boost your mood and improve your sleep. 
  4. Reduce stress: Prolonged physical or emotional stress produce adrenaline and cortisol, which interfere with serotonin. Trying to fit an overwhelming amount of work and errands into a day or week creates chronic stress. Shifting your lifestyle and adding more relaxation into your week can make a huge difference.
  5. Use aromatherapy: While you might think of aromatherapy as an aid to relaxation, there are also many oils you can use to boost your happiness and help alleviate depression. Good aromatherapy oils to leave you uplifted include bergamot, geranium, neroli and jasmine. To lift your mood, try adding a few drops of these oils to water and burning on an oil burner, or create or purchase a room spray containing these essential oils.
  6. Find what makes you happy: Make a list of the day-to-day things that make you happy – such as talking with a friend, having breakfast in bed, or listening to music –and make sure you schedule one of these treats into every day. Planning regular treats not only gives you something to look forward to, but it can also subtly improve each day.
  7. Make someone else happy: It is easy to get bogged down in your own problems, so every once in a while it is good to put your issues aside and help someone else feel happy instead. Whether you want to take on a long-term volunteering role, make a donation to charity, or improve the happiness of someone you know with a thoughtful note or gift, making an effort to make someone else smile is a great way to get some perspective, take your mind off your problems and increase your sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  8. Achieve a goal: Whether you want to get fit, obtain that dream job, or learn how to cook, take some positive action and make a plan of how you will achieve your goal starting today. Having something to work towards will not only distract you from your problems, it will also reignite your passion for life and increase your excitement for the future.

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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13 thoughts on “Eating for Happiness

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