How your Diet can Increase your Pleasure in Life
You may not believe it, but your diet can seriously affect how much pleasure you get out of life.
I’ll say that again. What you eat affects your mood.
The science behind the claim
There are chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters which pass on information between parts of the brain. One of the most important neurotransmitters for transmitting pleasure, motivation and excitement is dopamine.
Dopamine also helps to control motor functions, hormone regulation, the immune system, and blood circulation, so it is essential to our general well-being. A low level of dopamine can cause a number of medical and psychological problems including lack of motivation, anhedonia (loss of feelings of pleasure), fatigue, bad circulation, weight gain, apathy and depression. Dopamine deficiency is sometimes treated with anti depressants, which may in themselves cause further problems including manic phases, suicidal thoughts, sleeplessness or drowsiness.
However, there is an alternative. Studies have shown that some foods are dopaminergic, in other words they increase the levels of dopamine in our system. So besides a generally healthy diet, there are specific foods you can eat which will increase your mood because they increase the levels of dopamine.
Food for your mood
To increase your mood, you should focus on foods from ALL of the following groups. If you only focus on foods from one group, it could be detrimental to your health, and it will also make your diet extremely boring.
1. Dopaminergic foods – Foods which contain high levels of tyrosine are dopaminergic. These include soy products such as miso, tempeh, natto and fuyu, as well as products such as avocados, almonds, spirulina and organic eggs and dairy.
2. Whole foods – Whole grains such as whole wheat, barley, oats etc. These are much better for you than refined grains. If you eat bread or cereal for example, check that the grains used are whole grain. Also, use unrefined, whole rice and pasta. It should say on the packaging if the product is made from whole grain. Manufacturers are starting to realize the importance of whole grains now so tend to advertise this fact more.
3. Fruit and vegetables – These are really important in a diet. Try to include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in your diet, and buy organic where possible. Organic products will not have used any harmful chemicals in the growing or production process so are generally much better for you.
Fruit and vegetables are rich in fiber, and also in vitamins. It is important to remember that many nutrients can disappear if you overcook them so try and eat raw or lightly steamed vegetables rather than ones which have been cooked for a long time.
4. Protein – Everyone needs protein in their diet, but not everyone wants to eat meat. There are other sources of protein available which are also mood enhancing foods, such as lentils and beans. If you are unsure what to do with these, then there is a vast range of recipes on-line for you to try.
5. Supplements – There are some supplements which specifically treat low dopamine levels, such as L tyrosine, Mucuna pruriens, Rhodiola and Green Tea. Omega 3 fats are also needed by the body to produce neurotransmitters. One popular way to get Omega 3 is in fish oils, but it can be taken as a supplement if you don’t get enough Omega 3 in your natural diet, or you don’t want to eat fish.
Other ways to improve your mood
Besides a healthy diet, one of the most important ways to improve your mood and increase the amount of pleasure you can get from life, is by exercising.
Exercise releases a chemical similar to dopamine, and this is why people often feel on such a “high” when they’ve been to the gym or participated in sport or exercise.
There are so many different exercise programs available but I personally found that the p90x DVDs were fantastic. I couldn’t believe how good I felt afterwards. And with my healthy diet, I’ve noticed a difference physically as well as mentally.
Of course if you are going to invest in exercise equipment to use with an exercise program then you want to make sure you are getting the most suitable equipment. I looked at a few adjustable dumbbell reviews to find the most suitable ones to use with the DVDs in my home gym, and was really pleased with what I got.
Relaxation is also very important to keep yourself on an even level mentally and physically, and it shouldn’t be neglected. Whether you take time out to have a long hot bath with candles and soft music, or whether you meditate, paint, or cook to relax, you should take time out every day to forget whatever troubles you have.
I hope this article has given you some good advice, and that you can help yourself to enjoy life a little more. After all, life is there to be enjoyed, and always remember the old saying: “variety is the spice of life, and the mother of enjoyment”, keep a broad mind for new experiences too.
Have you got any tips to share?