Welcome to the 26 Days of Happiness! Today is day 15. Please meet featured author Ricki McKenna from the soon to be released book: The Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self-Care, 25 Tools for Happiness, sharing their inspiring story!

What are some happy feelings foods? Let\’s explore what they are and why when we eat these foods we get happy feelings!

After three years of studying Nutrition, Health Coaching, and food, I looked in the mirror and saw a new me. The millennium brought me happily into the world of alternative health practitioners, holistic healers and believers in the incredible vital impact of food on the human body and psyche. I’d become a Certified Nutritionist and Life/Health coach. 

Having left Houston, I was encouraged by the community I’d found in Aspen, Colorado, and began manufacturing “liquid nourishment;” 12 organic soups, with Love as the first ingredient. Key here is nutritionally delicious foods, that nourished and helped heal my clients and myself. In addition to the nutrition counseling and coaching, I sold my soups in Aspen and farmer’s markets all through the Roaring Fork Valley under my label of “McHealthy’s Soup’s ON.”

Different Forms of Nourishment

Food does nourish us but in different ways for different people. I learned that what schools us, feeds us and leads to our happiness, is way more than what we put in our mouths. However, food my main approach for feeling good and helping others realize that what they eat matters.

Nourishment influences us in different ways.

It’s those souls we encounter along the journey who nourish us emotionally and physically through their wisdom if our ears and eyes allow us to truly hear and see what is before us. 

It’s the places we find ourselves in, literally.

Since relocating to my new kitchen, from where the knowledge, teaching, happiness, and on-line classes now emanate; I KNOW that food is the key to happily nourishing me and those wonderful souls who follow me on Patreon and Zoom. These are interactive classes where we speak to “food for thought,” nourishing the mind and body, demonstrate food preparation, cooking, (which is a major contributing source of joy for me), and tips for safe shopping and storing of food, and how it all affects us emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Meet The “Happy Chemicals

Food makes people happy, literally! Or it can bring us down. Yes, different foods contain “happy chemicals” that provide our brains and bodies with energy and nourish our happy feelings.

Some foods have inherent fuel for thoughts. Two (2) of the most well-known neurotransmitters, or “happy chemicals,” found in certain foods are serotonin and dopamine. They can satisfy part of our need for a mood boost, contribute to happy feelings and mental health overall.

Or a deficiencyof serotonin in some people’s foods can lead to moodiness, loneliness, and depression. Many anti-depressants focus on the production of serotonin.

Dopamine is another one of the “feel good” chemicals in foods and in our brains. Interacting with the pleasure and reward centers of our brain, dopamine along with chemicals like oxytocin and endorphins, play a vital role in how happy we feel. Dopamine also affects movement, memory, and focus.

“Happy Feeling Foods”

Here are a few of the foods containing serotonin and dopamine that nourish our happy feelings:

  • eggs
  • cheese
  • dark chocolate
  • tofu
  • pineapple
  • salmon
  • nuts and seeds (especially almonds)
  • turkey and all animal products
  • apples and bananas
  • avocados
  • beets
  • coffee

I’ve always intuitively known that food is medicine, happily confirmed by Hippocrates and other brilliant minds throughout history, and through my years of research and working with hundreds of people. Your health and your moods can be transformed for the better and maintained with good food.

If you need a ‘serotonin boost’ during a stressful day, take a few moments to reflect on your past achievements and victories. Grab a hard-boiled egg sprinkled with salt or a piece of dark chocolate (and slowly let it melt in your mouth), or a hand-full of nuts and seeds with a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea.

And, if you need an oxytocin boost, another chemical that’s stimulated by touch, hug somebody! A bit difficult in some cases today, but there’s always the wrap your arms around your shoulders and smile as you savor a mouthful of dark chocolate and think of how wonderful you are.

There are several foods we eat every week that also stimulate the production of oxytocin, especially the ones containing Vitamin D, Vitamin C, magnesium, and dietary fats:

  • fatty fish
  • mushrooms
  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • spinach
  • avocados

Food, Hugs, and Laughter

Oxytocin, according to Paul Zak, known as ‘Dr Love,’ plays an important part in childbirth and breast-feeding, as ‘the glue that binds together healthy relationships…It’s reported to be behind all human virtue, trust, affection, and love.’ Sharing food and hugs, whether virtual or in-person, helps create our happy feelings!

Endorphins, known as the “natural answers to pain,” are “endogenous” or from the body. They are what we need when we’re feeling pain or need to feel pleasure. They are said to work similarly, and sometimes better than, opioid drugs, and since they are naturally stimulated, especially by laughter or sex, are my preference.

Laughing can help cure “what ails ya” according to my grandmother. It’s also been proven to be a part of treatments for cancer and other diseases that may be helped by what’s called “alternative therapy.” Endorphins are released by activities such as exercise, sex, getting a massage, meditating, and yes, laughter.

Familiar foods that help release them are:

  • chocolate
  • chili peppers
  • wine

I’d sure rather savor some dark chocolate and share a glass of wine than take an opioid for a headache or to relieve stress. No wonder there are Chocolate bars with Chili pepper out there!

Comfort and Happiness

Yes, food and my kitchen are two of my favorite forms of nourishment for feeling happy. I believe we all have our own ways to nourish our bodies and souls that bring us comfort and happiness. Yours may be riding a bike and enjoying the beauty of nature, curling up on your sofa and writing in your gratitude journal, or reading a good book. For me, I’ll grab a hot chocolate with cinnamon, or heat a hearty warm homemade chicken soup, enjoy my ‘medicinal’ feast and write in my gratitude journal. Happy eating!

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