There is a thought which keeps coming back to my mind for last few days so I decided to search for some answers.
Why do we need stimulants in order to feel happy and content? Why do we think this is not something we can achieve on our own? Or we just don’t even try and always chose the easiest way?
The reason why I started to question that is my obsession with sweets. I don’t like many things but I can’t stop eating the ones I enjoy. So if you put in front of me Bajadera ( https://www.kras.hr/en/products/boxes-of-chocolates/bajadera ), Vego chocolate (http://www.vego-chocolate.com/) or Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (https://www.benjerry.co.uk/flavours/peanut-butter-and-cookies-non-dairy), before I even taste it my brain will send me a signal that I will feel happy if I eat it. When the taste buds get involved you realise that you can’t stop so you find yourself in a circle and the mind is completely in charge.
If I feel sad, stressed, unpeaceful or anxious I will always reach for the sweets hoping that it will instantly help me to feel better. And sometimes it really helps. But it doesn’t last for a long time.
So what is actually happening in our brain when we eat chocolate?
Apparently, in small amounts, chocolate contains components similar to ecstasy, morphine and marijuana. Whilst eating the chocolate our body releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter which affects our feelings of pleasure, it helps us focus, to strive, awakes our interest in the world around us. It also increases level of serotonin which assist us to feel happier and calmer and helps women in PMS feel better as their serotonin levels during that period are low. Oxytocin (“love hormone”) will also be released as well endorphins which are a pain reliefer.
It seems that the chocolate is quite a powerful stimulants, right? But we shouldn’t forget that the main ingredient of sweets is processed sugar which is an energy source but doesn’t contain any nutrients for the body. Whilst eating sweets we will feel instantly better as the sugar will stimulate release of the above mentioned hormones and we will feel really good. The effect on our brain it will be similar to the one when one is consuming drugs. But our body always wants to be in equilibrium and in this case our pancreas will send out insulin to absorb the excess of glucose. And our feeling of happiness will be gone.
Naturally, this made me think why do we put our body to this kind of stress for a very short feeling of contentment?
As I have similar but much longer lasting results from practicing yoga I wanted to explore the connection further. And you know what – yoga practice releases exactly the same hormones plus GABA, a neurotransmitter which prevents our brain to get overly excited and accordingly controls our fear, stress and anxiety.
This facts made me think about it even deeper. It absolutely doesn’t mean I will never eat sweets again. But it made me realise that when I feel truly down excessive amounts of sweets will not have a long term positive effects I am aiming for, but my yoga practice will.