Nothing is quite as comforting as the smell of fresh coffee in the morning. Whether you prefer a cappuccino, a latte, or just a little cream and sugar, we can all agree that a smooth, warm cup of joe makes us feel energized and even a little happier. For many of us, it can turn a crabby morning into a good one. Interestingly, there may be a scientific reason for that. The benefits of coffee aren’t all in your head – metaphorically, that is. Coffee can literally affect your brain in a positive way.
New research from a survey funded by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) found that coffee improves mood, especially as the cold months settle in. Unfortunately, many adults suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is characterized by a poor mood, lack of pleasure or interest in day-to-day activities, and low energy. A daily cup of coffee may help ease the symptoms of this disorder.
Why the Benefits of Coffee Include Happiness
Over 5,000 adults across the U.K., Italy, Finland, Germany, and Poland took the survey funded by the ISIC. About 28 percent of the respondents said they experience depression and increased feelings of sadness as the hours of daylight decrease. In addition, 21 percent reported higher levels of anxiety, 24 percent said they found it harder to concentrate, and 25 percent said they lack the motivation to exercise in the darker months.
However, coffee seemed to help participants who experienced these symptoms of SAD. About 29 percent of the participants said they mainly drink coffee to feel more energized in the months with less daylight, 20 percent said they drink coffee to boost their mood, and 21 percent said it helps them feel alert and improves their ability to concentrate.
The link between coffee and energy is very straightforward. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it works by blocking adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical in your body that makes you feel sleepy. But why might coffee boost your mood?
“There is evidence that coffee polyphenols may pass the blood-brain barrier, exert anti-neuroinflammatory effects and even promote neurogenesis [the formation of new neurons], hence resulting in decreased risk of both cognitive and affective disorders,” Giuseppe Grosso, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical and Biotechnological Sciences at the University of Catania, told Coffee & Health.
Polyphenols are a class of plant-based compounds with anti-inflammatory properties. They work as antioxidants in the body. Coffee is rich in polyphenols, which explains why it may reduce inflammation in the brain. Another explanation is that the caffeine in coffee boosts serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain that can improve your mood and promote healthy sleeping patterns.
Don’t drink too much.
While coffee can give you a pick-me-up when you need it, it’s not good to drink too much of it. If you drink a lot of coffee and then stop, you can go through caffeine withdrawal. Your brain will act as though it’s deficient in serotonin because it’s used to very high levels of it. This can lead to headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, and an increase in other symptoms of SAD. Caffeine tolerance can build up in as little as three to five days. To combat this, try to drink only decaf coffee on the weekends.
You can also improve your mood by switching up your diet, investing in warmer bulbs around the house, and listening to music. Whether you try other remedies or not, it’s good to know that coffee can spark happiness in your day.