Imagine a time when you experienced a simple moment of joy. Did you feel contentment and well being? A spark that elicited a response and brought what appeared to be what everyone is searching for...happiness? It is amazing how something so simple as eating together can elicit such profound effects in the body, but it does. And it’s free!
Chemicals released in the brain in response to a moment of happiness include endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Endorphins help us to mask pain, dopamine provides motivation, serotonin enhances our social bonds and oxytocin fosters connection.
While the medical world has created drugs to target these receptors in the brain to create happiness- there are natural, deeply satisfying ways to activate these parts of the brain; particularly, oxytocin. I invite you to explore this with me by coming back to the table.
Oxytocin is the feeling we get from emotional bonds and physical touch. A rush of oxytocin can be described as that feeling you feel when you’re spending time with someone you enjoy being around, even if you are not doing anything particularly special. You are having a moment of connection. When you engage in preparation or eating of a meal together (with people you love), your brain naturally releases this drug of connection. This moment of joy. The happiness.
In addition to this, more and more medical research is proving the connection between a healthy gut and a healthy brain. There is a connection so powerful to nourishing our bodies in order to meaningfully nurture our minds. Eating together around the table fuels the sense of joy and happiness through connection and a sense of belonging by being part of something greater than ourselves. It is also healthier as the food is more wholesome and we eat more varied food groups and moderate amounts. All in all a healthy thing to do!
Studies also show that when children (and teenagers) eat with their parents regularly, they are more likely to be emotionally strong, feel safer to be vulnerable and have better mental health. I believe this is serotonin at work- strengthening the social bond between a parent and child. In addition to that, as a mother, cooking for our families is love in action-creating moments of joy and connection around the table. The other night we had tacos and nachos, a simple meal that my kids always love. Not only did we enjoy the food but we ended up sitting around the table talking long after the food was gone. Not only did we eat together but we also cooked and cleaned together. This is glue for our family.
As you envision connection and happiness for yourself and your family- what do you need to be committed to? What small moments around the table could you create this week that may spark some joy?
Blog Contributed By: Torill Myre + Jaralyn Monkman, mynourish.co