Comfort Food is GOOD for our Mental Health? Say what now?
Our Registered Psychologist (Prov) Murray Heintz gives us the very good news in his article below. 🙂
Comfort Food And Good Mental Health
Besides being fuel for the body, food has always had a close connection to memories, emotions, and self-soothing. As it turns out there are also positive mental health outcomes from eating comfort foods. Dietician Sue Mah has identified four reasons why comfort foods benefit our mental health.
1 – Comfort foods trigger dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends messages between the brain cells. Dopamine is all about motivation, reward, and pleasure. It gives us a feel-good sensation. So, when you eat comfort food that tastes good and is rewarding, you get a rush of dopamine. Your brain remembers this connection between your behaviour (the comfort food you ate) and the reward (the positive feeling). You may be more motivated to continue that behaviour i.e. eat a comfort food because it gives you that feel-good reward. Some psychology researchers think that even ANTICIPATING eating certain foods generates dopamine. So just THINKING about eating a cinnamon bun or chocolate cake can trigger dopamine!
2 – Comfort foods give us social connection
Research from the Universities of Tennessee and New York State in 2015 found that comfort foods remind us of our social relationships / and help us feel less lonesome especially when we are isolated. Comfort foods offer a sense of belonging. So, it makes sense that we’re turning to comfort foods during times of physical isolation. Baking and cooking together offer psychosocial benefits, they keep us feeling connected.
3 – Comfort foods are associated with positive memories and nostalgia
Very often, comfort foods remind us of our childhood or home or friends and family. Comfort foods may also be linked to special people. When we eat comfort foods, it brings back happy memories from our past. Sometimes even the SMELL of comfort foods can trigger these positive memories. Psychological research shows that smells are powerfully linked to areas in the brain that are associated with memory and emotional experiences.
4 – Comfort foods can give us a little more certainty and routine.
In these times of uncertainty, making and eating comfort foods can offer a sense of structure and control. We have control over the foods we are making and eating, and we also have a little more control over how we feel. Our brain tells us that eating that piece of homemade bread or pasta will make us feel good.
If you’re eating for comfort, that’s completely OK. Be mindful of how often and how much. Practice other healthy lifestyle habits to beat stress – try yoga, meditation, a walk with the dog, listening to music, or calling a friend. Stay safe and stay well!
Thanks, Murray! This is the best news ever!
Murray works with adults. He’d love to work with you.
Murray does excellent work with:
– Anxiety (Generalized & Social Anxiety)
– Panic Attacks & Disorders
– Depression (Major Depressive Disorder current/past/recurrent and Persistent Depressive Disorder)
– Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
– Substance Use Disorder
– Stress / Coping Skills
– Mental Health Issues
– Manic disorders including Bi-Polar Disorder 1 and 2;
– Psychotic Disorders – Schizophrenia
– Grief & Loss
– Anger Management
– Emotional Regulation
– Managing Change
– Behavior Management
– Problem solving
– Crisis Management
– as well as many other issues
Murray works with adults offering individual sessions Monday – Friday.
Cheers to mashed potatoes, pasta, chocolate chip cookies and so much more goodness 🙂