chocolate cake
Chocolate releases happy hormonesWikimedia Commons

International Day of Happiness is upon us. March 20 is observed as that one day of the year when all of us deserve an extra dose of laughter and an even wider smile.

We tend to feel happier when our stress levels are low and the brain is relaxed. Food is known to bring joy to one and all. Here are seven food items that will definitely get your happy hormones flowing:

  • Avocado

Avocado.Creative Commons

Protein-rich foods like avocado, which is also known as butter fruit, are considered a powerhouse of the happy hormone serotonin.

Whip yourself up a delicious avocado and tomato salad or an avocado and lemon dip to see your skin glow. Besides, the fruit is also beneficial for your hair and nails.

  • Nuts

Nuts help to keep cortisol (a hormone that caused stress) levels low.Creative Commons

Nuts like walnuts and almonds are rich in B-group vitamins, magnesium, zinc and omega oils that help keep cortisol (a hormone that caused stress) levels low.

Nuts are also energy boosters. So do not hesitate to cut yourself an extra big slice of walnut cake or nibble on some almonds.

  • Spinach

SpinachCreative Commons

Green leafy vegetables contain phenylethylamine, which is an organic compound and also a class of chemicals that are known as psychoactive drugs and stimulants.

Commonly known as love drug, phenylethylamine releases two chemicals called dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals act as anti-depressants and stimulate happy, pleasurable and rewarding sensations in the brain. These feeling are similar to those that occur when one is in love.

So all the vegetarians out there, here is another reason to eat more palak paneer or brew yourself some palak ka shorba.

  • Oily fish

SalmonCreative Commons

Oily fish like salmon, trout, sardines, herring and mackerel have high concentrations of Omega-3. These fatty acids not only boost the functioning of our brains but are also good for your skin, hair and metabolism.

Foods that lack Omega-3 acids don't let blood circulate properly, which in turn leads to stress. As salmon and trout are not easily available in India, fish like Hilsa (Ilish) and pomfret can be eaten as substitutes.

So, a Sorshe Ilish (Hilsa cooked in mustard) or a pomfret fry should definitely be on your menu for March 20.

  • Black and green tea

Chamomile tea
Chamomile teaCreative Commons

People who drink green tea or black tea tend to feel happier as these drinks contain thiamine, amino acids and glutamic acid.

Studies have revealed that these chemicals produce alpha (electrical activity of the brain when conscious and relaxed), theta (electrical activity observed in the brain under certain conditions like oscillations) and beta (electrical activity of the brain when conscious and alert) waves.

These waves enhance attention, provide clarity of mind, and induce relaxation. Chamomile tea also lowers stress levels and regulates sleep.

  • Berries

BerriesCreative Commons

Grab a handful of colorful berries and feel the unique antioxidants melt away your stress.

While a generous helping of raspberry coulis (sauce) on your ice-cream will help eliminate toxins from your body, a blueberry smoothie will help you get rid of oxidants.

  • Dark chocolate

dark chocolate
Dark chocolateCreative Commons

The best things should always be saved for the last. Dark chocolate is indeed the best source of antioxidants. It releases several neurotransmitters like phenylethylamine and serotonin.

Chocolates also contain tryptophan, another chemical that induces serotonin secretion.

But do wait, as the list of reasons to eat dark chocolate is not over. It also contains a fat called anandamide, which is named after the Sanskrit word for "bliss".

This activates a receptor in the brain that results in dopamine production and thus makes you feel happy.