Can you put yourself there? You can smell what’s cooking before it reaches the table, you hear the chatter of loved ones around you, and see your bright shiny plate before you as you wait to fill it with the goodness of the season.
If you concentrate on striking the mental image of the holidays, there’s a good chance that you can vividly replicate the senses you’ve experienced. This is because holiday meals and foods are very much a sensory experience. Our brain is activated in several ways by the consumption of a delicious holiday spread. Here’s how it works.
The Brain Goes on Holiday, Too
Our digestive tract processes the food through a communication beginning at the tongue, gut, and the brain. Before the physical digestion, the sensory overload begins with the holiday gathering itself. There are the bright, neon lights, colorful bulbs, rich decorative tradition, table settings, and glowing faces of those we care for.
Memory and Taste
Then there are the smells that trigger our memory of the taste, along with previous associations of holidays. I don’t even need to remind you of the tastes. You catch the drift. From beginning to end, the brain is triggered by all of these senses, which enables the release of dopamine.
Of course, it is possible to have a negative association with such events. And another downside is the tendency to overeat from the positive effects. Let’s say, for example, you’re too full for dessert, but you find that you’re somehow able to make room (you know what I’m talking about). Your brain is actually becoming overstimulated and re-excited to prepare for additional consumption. This, in some cases, is the same principle that can lead to obesity.
So whether your brain is on the holidays or you’ve got the holidays on the brain, understand it’s a remarkable trip for the noggin.