An Accidental Experiment In Elevating Happiness

Recently, I had an unusual experience. I was at work and, for reasons I could only guess at, instead of feeling the effects of too much gravity and too little sleep, I was completely alert and steady. I had plenty of energy and also felt a greater level of focus than usual. The odd thing was, I wouldn’t have known that my level of focus (or my clarity of mind) was running higher than its usual level until I experienced this unexpected contrast.

When something unusual happens, I like to examine it, try to understand what is normal and what the variables are so I can determine what was different. This particular morning seemed normal in every detail, except one: I took a cup of coffee to work. Normally, I don’t drink coffee in the mornings until the weather starts to get colder. Since it was a little chilly, I thought a cup of coffee sounded like a good idea. And since I hadn’t been drinking coffee in the morning for months, I suspected that this may have been the cause of my alertness and clear mind.

You might be thinking, “Duh!” Okay, me too. But there’s more to it than that. Of course I realize that coffee causes, shall I say, heightened alertness and elevated energy. But more than this, I felt happy…really happy! I wasn’t jumping-off-the-walls wired, but I just felt great. You see, I usually drink so much coffee that the caffeine in the coffee doesn’t noticeably touch me. I can be cranking through my 6th cup of coffee and fall asleep while holding my cup. I’ve always assumed that when you consume high levels of caffeine, eventually your body just gives up…or gives out. It’s like you’re body is saying, “Hey….tough guy! What are ya tryin’ to prove? Enough java already!!” But even then, I’m not usually that wired (but I guess my wife might disagree).

What was so different, this time, that the coffee affected me so dramatically? I wasn’t entirely sure, though I had some ideas. So before I settled into a hypothesis, I decided to conduct an experiment. The first time I drank coffee in the morning on a work day for a long time and it seemed as though I had a caffeine jump-start. So what would happen if I drank coffee in the morning again? Would the results be the same or is there, perhaps, another unidentified factor at work here?

The next day, I took another cup of coffee to work. My results were similar, though not quite as strong or dramatic. A couple days later, I took another cup of coffee to work and the effect was milder still. So what should I make of this?

I can’t be certain that the coffee was the culprit, but I think it was. My caffeine consumption has gone down a lot over the past year. This includes caffeinated Coke Zero, which is usually my pop of choice. I’ve swapped it out for water, instead. I still drink a cup or two every evening, and I drink coffee all day long on most weekends. I know that caffeine is a stimulant and it also helps with enhancing our mental capacities for a period of time after drinking coffee. So perhaps, this jolt of caffeine had a perking effect on me.

Aside from the coffee and figuring out if it was the true cause, right now, I’m actually more fixated on the fact that this was such a perfect example of how our nutrition effects us. This subject has been on my mind a lot lately, especially since I had a run-in with some information that so shocked me that I’ve decided to quit eating sugar. You can read more about that on my other blog, Quitting Sugar. It’s a work-in-progress, but I’m going to publicly journal about my experience of cutting sugar out of my diet.

If caffeine can do what it did to me, then how many other foods, good and bad, are changing our moods, irritating us, making us lose or gain focus? How do our food choices effect our ability to get a good night sleep, make decisions, appreciate other people? Do you get angry easily? Do you sometimes have a short fuse? Ever feel like you’re suffering from too much gravity and you can’t seem to get moving?

The sudden appearance of my enhanced focus and elevated mood makes me wonder how many depressed people are depressed because they’re over consuming sugar and junk food. The connection between vitamins and minerals, and the importance of proper nutrients is not a news-flash. But it isn’t normally so obvious to me, either.

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Has something like this ever happened to you? Do you find yourself affected by energy drinks, chocolate,  pasta, grains, or any other foods? Ever find your level of happiness mysteriously elevated or deflated and you think it’s because of something you ate? I’m really interested in hearing about your experience.

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