The power of comfort food on mental health may be surprising, but it is undeniable. Comfort food is often thought of as unhealthy, high-calorie options that bring back fond memories of childhood or special occasions. But research suggests that comfort food has more to offer than just nostalgia—it may actually be beneficial to mental health.
Comfort food is defined as meals or snacks that are perceived as providing emotional, psychological, and physical comfort. These may be foods that remind us of positive memories, like family dinners or favorite childhood snacks. The emotional comfort provided by comfort food is believed to be due to a combination of taste, texture, and emotional associations. Comfort food has the power to evoke powerful emotional responses, giving us a sense of security, safety, and even joy.
Eating comfort food has been found to decrease stress and anxiety, improve mood, and enhance feelings of security. A study by the University of California Berkeley found that comfort food triggers the release of “happy hormones” like serotonin and dopamine. These hormones have been linked to improved mood and feelings of relaxation.
Comfort food can also help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol can cause anxiety and depression, so reducing cortisol levels with comfort food can be beneficial for mental health. Comfort food can also help to make us feel more connected to other people. Eating a food that is associated with a happy memory or with a special occasion can help us to tap into those memories and make us feel more connected to our loved ones.
Another way that comfort food can affect mental health is by providing a distraction. Comfort food can help to take our minds off of our worries and worries, allowing us to focus on the food itself. Eating comfort food can also be a form of self-care, allowing us to focus on our own needs and desires and giving us a break from everyday stress.
Finally, comfort food can help us to practice self-compassion. Eating comfort food can help us to be more forgiving of ourselves and to focus on our own needs and wants. This can help us to cultivate a healthier relationship with ourselves and our mental health.
Comfort food has the power to bring us happiness and joy, and it can also be a beneficial addition to our mental health routine. Eating comfort food can help to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and practice self-compassion. By taking the time to enjoy a comfort food meal or snack, we can give ourselves a chance to improve our mental health.