Why Does Chocolate Make You Happy?

There are several things that can affect people’s mood at any particular moment. The environment and the people around you are well-known components that contribute to mood as external stimuli. There is also the chemical balances to consider inside our bodies that can easily sway our mood in one way or another. Many people suffer from clinical depressions due to this sort of cause in the form of chemical imbalances. However, many people also find the opposite effect to be true as well, that certain chemicals can contribute to pleasant or joyful moods. Some people associate these with narcotics or other stimulants while other people find the pleasure in a much simpler (and legal) form: chocolate.

So, what is it exactly that makes chocolate such a mood-booster? Apart from being sweet and somewhat addicting in its own right, chocolate also contains a variety of chemicals in it that activate certain neurotransmitters. For example, one chemical commonly found in chocolate is tryptophan – the same chemical often associated with Thanksgiving Day turkeys and the reason that we generally feel like a good nap after that Thanksgiving Day dinner. The reason being that tryptophan, when introduced into the body, triggers the production and release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter strongly associated with mood balance and reduction in anxiety. This combination of effects is what may give many people such a calming, relaxed feeling after eating turkey – or chocolate, as the topic pertains, should they eat enough of it.

Another contributor within chocolate is a fat compound called anadamide. Anadamide is responsible for the release of dopamine into the human body, which is responsible for  feelings of positive well-being and even a feeling of being “high” similar to the effects of THC in marijuana, although much less intense. This is because anadamide triggers the same neural receptors as marijuana’s THC. Dopamine is also said to be strongly associated with addiction and addictive tendencies through its association with the concepts of reward and reinforcement – possibly one of the many reasons people claim chocolate to be so addicting.

Chocolate also triggers the release of endorphins, which is a body’s natural happiness inducer. Endorphins, like dopamine and serotonin, also contribute to mood balance on top of reducing stress and temporarily decreasing our sensitivity to pain.

Last but not least, chocolate also encourages the release of a neurotransmitter called phenylethylamine, a long word that has also gone by “the love drug.” This is because phenylethylamine is often associated with inducing feelings of happiness and excitement as well as generating a quickened pulse rate: feelings and sensations that are often linked to someone who finds him or herself in love.

Finally, for anyone who has been keeping track, two of these chemicals – serotonin and dopamine – are not only ever-present when consuming chocolate. These two neurotransmitters are but a slew of chemicals also released in heavy doses into the brain immediately after sexual climax. Which might explain why so many people are usually inclined to compare sex with chocolate – anecdotally, at least.