6 Foods that Boost Happiness and Taste Great

Shake Shack burgers and cupcakes may be on your personal list of in-the-moment mood-boosting foods. We get it.

But it’s also possible to find (longer-lasting!) happiness via healthy foods. (And the aforementioned will likely bum you out over the long-term, thanks to inflammation and gut-brain communication.)

These foods are all great for your body overall and contain nutrients with research-tested mood benefits, like compounds shown to reduce the risk of depression and vitamins that stimulate neurotransmitter production.

Of course, when you’re not sitting down to eat, you’ve got to adopt happiness-promoting habits like endorphin-stimulating exercise and consistently getting enough sleep.

But your plate is a great place to start when it comes to working on that smile. Bonus: Eat these foods in the company of a friend who makes you LOL non-stop.

6 Mood-Boosting Foods for Happiness

1. Walnuts

While the research isn’t definitive, several studies have shown omega-3s can help relieve symptoms of depression, and walnuts are a great source of the healthy fats.

RELATED: How to Incorporate Omega-3s Into Every Meal

2. Lentils

Lentils are rich in folate, which helps maintain normal levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is seriously linked to mood.

3. Mango

Mangoes contain more vitamin C than oranges, and that’s not just good for your immune system (although who’s happy when they’re sick?!). Vitamin C may also fight depression by helping the body recover faster from stress.

4. Oysters

Mmm…summer on the half shell. These delicious, nutritious bivalves are one of nature’s richest sources of zinc, and some research has shown the mineral may help your body manage stress and improve mood among people suffering from depression.

5.Yogurt

Guys, you’ve heard about the gut-brain connection, right? Maintaining a thriving microbiome is key to happiness. Recent studies have shown mice given probiotics were able to handle stressors while remaining calm, and probiotics reversed symptoms of depression in mice. Yogurt (ideally organic!) is a great source of probiotics (and of course a morning protein-boost).

RELATED: The Gut-Brain Connection and How It Impacts Your Health

6. Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitakes are linked to reducing inflammation, a condition linked to depression. They also contain selenium and magnesium, two minerals closely tied to mood.

Start adding these foods to your diet alongside stress-fighting foods, and you’ll be calm and content 24-7.


How Gratitude Transformed One Woman’s Relationship (and Could Do the Same for You)

Bestselling author Jo Piazza traveled to 20 countries on five continents during her first year of marriage to try to figure out how to craft a happier marriage with her new husband right from the start. The following is an adapted excerpt from her new book How to Be Married of what she learned from interviewing dozens of women during a month-long trip to India to discover how to maintain gratitude following her own terrifying health diagnosis.

I was finding it really hard to be grateful for just about anything. I’d been married just six months when my doctors gave me a terrifying health diagnosis. They informed me I had the same gene that caused my dad’s muscular dystrophy, a disease that crippled him in his forties and led to his death in his early sixties.

I was told I would show signs of the disease within a few years. I was only thirty five and I had just married a man who loved climbing mountains and skiing and hiking and doing anything at all with a pair of strong legs. We’d fallen in love on an adventurous trip in the Galápagos Islands, hiked a small mountain to get engaged and had plans to spend the rest of our lives chasing after one another through rugged terrain around the globe. As we shuttled in between doctors’ appointments and saw specialists who drew what felt like a pint of blood at a time, I had a hard time looking at the bright side of things and enjoying my year as a newlywed.

Sometimes the universe has a better idea of what you need than you do. Just as I was at my lowest, I received an assignment to travel solo to northeastern India on a reporting trip—a voyage that would last almost three weeks.

RELATED: How to Stick to Your Workout Routine While Traveling

Did I need to go all the way to one of the least-traveled areas of India to find out how important gratitude is for my marriage? Did I have to travel thousands of miles from home, in cars, trains, planes, and boats to figure out that despite a shitty medical diagnosis my life was pretty goddamn sweet and that I should appreciate it?

It turns out I did.

Cultivating Gratitude

The concept of gratitude weaves its ways into almost every facet of Indian culture and relationships. This doesn’t mean that Indians go around thanking everyone for everything all the time. Rather, the concept of gratitude in many Indian traditions is about giving earnest thanks, expressing humility towards someone and letting go of your own ego in order to cultivate more bliss and joy in our own life and in the lives of others. It’s about feeling grateful instead of talking about it.

RELATED: These Simple Positivity Practices Are Linked to Better Health

gratitude

As soon as I landed, I immediately fell in love with India’s riot of colors and smells and her warm and welcoming people. Everything was brighter and more intense. It was hot and dirty and beautiful and exotic all at once.

I was quickly welcomed into a traditional home of a woman who belonged to the Mishing tribe, an Assamese farming and fishing village where the houses stood on tall stilts to keep them safe from the frequent floods of the Brahmaputra River.

I stumbled, trying to climb the narrow ladder that led into the raised hut, using a long bamboo rod for balance. The simple room was meticulously neat, sarees carefully folded on a shelf over the bed, pots and pans precisely stacked in the corner.

Lae, a forty-five-year-old woman with small eyes and a broad face offered me tea. We began talking about life and the weather, politics and kids, and, husbands and marriage.

“What does it mean to be happily married here?” I asked her.

Lae squinted at me and laughed from her belly. “You westerners make marriage too complicated. Be happy for the things marriage gives you. We have our husbands. I trust my husband. We have our pigs and our goats. We have our children. We are happy. You want too much. Be thankful, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.” Strong words coming from a woman living on the banks of a river that regularly sweeps away entire villages in the blink of an eye.

“How do I show I’m thankful?” I asked Lae.

She looked at me as though she didn’t understand the question and I repeated it for the translator. Lae gave a small shake of her head. “You just feel it.”

RELATED: How to Create a Mindful Morning Routine (No Meditation Required)

gratitude

Over and over the women I met in Assam kept telling me I had to seek a blessing for my new marriage and offer thanks for my husband at the Kamakhya Devi Temple in Guwahati, a sacred place of pilgrimage for India’s 830 million Hindus, particularly women. It was early in the morning when I began my walk to the temple, perched high on a hill. We passed women in brightly colored sarees walking to work, beggars laying prone and naked in the streets and boys play cricket in the gutter with a stick and a deflated tennis ball. Street dogs with peculiar poise and confidence pushed their way past us as if they had somewhere very important to be. Voices and sounds blended together in a frenetic jumble that echoed through the narrow streets.

I asked one of the temple priests, a bald and spectacled man with a calming demeanor, what most women who came to the temple asked the goddess for. Were they very specific?

“Most ask for a long and prosperous marriage and then give thanks for it,” he said with a wide smile.

“That’s it?”

He laughed. “What else do you need?”

To make my blessing, I was given two small terra-cotta pots with candles in them and two sticks of incense. It was imperative, the priest told me, that I light two candles, one for my husband and one for myself. It was so dark inside the temple that I needed to use my bare toes to grasp for the edge of the next stair to keep from falling. My hands began to shake. I wanted to get this right. I wanted to truly give thanks for all of the wonderful things in my life. I wanted to mean it. I felt a tugging in my stomach and a stinging behind my eyes as though I’d burst into tears at any moment. When a baby goat nuzzled my foot, I stumbled and dropped one of my candles, watching as the terra-cotta shattered onto the hard stone floor. A woman behind me clapped her hand on my shoulder and stuttered in broken English. “No. You cannot use that. No. Bad.” I squinted through the darkness and the smoke at the priest. “Just light one and think of two,” he whispered. “Feel gratitude. Don’t think about it.”

Closing my eyes, I steadied myself. Light one and think of two. Light one and think of two. Light one and think of two. I thought about all of the times Nick took off work to come with me to my doctor appointments. I thought about the long nights where he held me as I cried, scared about how long I’d stay healthy. Sometimes things don’t turn out as you imagined them and no marriage is without its flaws, but in the grand scheme of things mine was pretty wonderful.

As I moved the single flame closer to the inner sanctum the hairs on my arms stood on end and the single wick broke apart. It became two tiny flames flickering around one another.

Excerpted from How to Be Married: What I Learned from Real Women on Five Continents About Surviving My First (Really Hard) Year of Marriage.

 

These Simple Positivity Practices Are Linked to Better Health

The idea of using “positivity practices” can sound a little cheesy.

Are you just putting on a unwarranted happy face? Or could seeing the glass as half full actually make a meaningful difference when it comes to your health and happiness?

Thankfully, science is increasingly providing us with some exciting (and easily actionable) answers.

RELATED: 7 Small Lifestyle Changes With Big Health Benefits

First off, research shows positive thinking comes with very real benefits. One study found people with a family history of heart disease who had a positive outlook were a third less likely to have a heart attack than their gloomier counterparts. Others have shown that older people with a positive view of aging actually end up living longer (which is a good excuse to make every birthday celebration a blowout, right?).

Here’s the news you can use, now: According to the New York Times, Northwestern University professor Judith T. Moskowitz developed a set of eight skills that lead to more positive thinking.

Her research team found that people with new diagnoses of HIV who practiced the skills were more able to cope with the illness and even carried a lower load of the virus (mind-body connection, guys!). In another study, 15 months after a diagnosis, those who used the skills maintained a more positive outlook than those who didn’t. Other studies have shown patients with diabetes and patients with advanced breast cancer had lower rates of depression after learning similar positivity practices online.

While there aren’t large scale studies on how these skills fare in terms of helping healthy people maintain a sunny outlook, they’ve got a pretty good track record so far, so you may want to start working these into your routine, stat.

positivity practices

8 Positivity Practices for Better Health

1. Recognize a positive event each day.

2. Savor that event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it.

3. Start a daily gratitude journal.

RELATED: Are Food Journals Actually Helpful?

4. List a personal strength and note how you used it.

5. Set an attainable goal and note your progress.

RELATED: 3 Goal-Setting Tips That Work

6. Report a relatively minor stress and list ways to reappraise the event positively.

7. Recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily.

8. Practice mindfulness, focusing on the here and now rather than the past or future.