Mashed potatoes and a roll in the hay? Yes, please! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that pleasing the senses can make us feel good–but is there more at play than just pure pleasure?
According to researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC), the answer is a pleasing-to-the-ears “yes.” Pleasurable pastimes reduce stress by inhibiting anxiety responses in the brain. Hello hedonism, good bye nerves.
The findings were published online this week in PNAS, the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Our research identifies key neural circuits underlying the comfort food effect,” notes the study. “Further research is needed, but identification of these circuits could provide potential strategies for intervening to prevent or curtail increasing rates of obesity and other metabolic disorders.” Food, sex and other pleasurable activities actually work to inhibit stress for up to 7 days.
The findings present a clearer understanding of the motivation for consuming ‘comfort food’ during times of stress. Interestingly, the research show that even small amounts of tasty foods can reduce the effects of stress, indicating that the pleasurable properties of foods, not the caloric properties or nutritional elements, were sufficient for stress reduction.
So the next time you’re feeling anxious, reach for some pie or your honey (or some pie and your honey) and give your nerves a nice pleasant break.