Not to brag, but I consider myself an expert in the field of mental health. That’s because I’ve spent two decades attempting (usually in vain) to decipher the complex inner workings of the minds of children – specifically mine. Over their first 18 years of life, I conducted in-depth field research at soccer games, birthday parties, and trips to the mall, in an effort to unlock the mysteries of adolescent behavior. I closely studied my daughters’ elaborate machinations to slowly, carefully drive their father insane. My wife tells me their schemes were wildly successful.
Thanks to my kids, I’ve gained a wealth of insights into what can trigger negative emotions in young people – and their parents. From anger to anxiety to depression to rage to fear to – did I mention anger and depression? I’ve determined that everyone at one time or another struggles with depression, anxiety, or other mental wellness challenge.
If that describes you, take a step back from the ledge. I’m here to help. People battling chronic depression or anxiety typically try a variety of coping strategies. Some turn to psychotherapy. But let’s face it. That can be a long, expensive journey, often taking months or even years to show meaningful results. Others turn to prescription medications. But these often come with serious side effects and worse, the risk of addiction. Still others try to work through their dark feelings by embarking on an arduous, vigorous exercise program like running or swimming. Sadly, this approach comes with one obvious downside, by which I mean having to endure an arduous, vigorous exercise program like running or swimming.
As a nationally admired mental health expert (if you don’t ask my wife), trust me when I tell you that therapy, drugs, and exercise are a waste of time if you wish to overcome your emotional demons. I’ve discovered a much simpler way to find happiness – one that doesn’t require months of working through with a counselor your childhood trauma caused by the time you accidentally killed your pet hamster Bubbles when your tricycle backed over him. No, my solution requires none of that and no sit-ups or treadmill workouts either. My solution? Two words: EAT CHEESE.
That’s right. It turns out that not only is cheese one of the five best foods in the world (the other four being chunky peanut butter, German chocolate cake, Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, and a New York steak, prepared medium rare with Béarnaise sauce) but it’s also good for your mental health.
Harvard scientists have discovered that the human brain reacts to cheese by releasing a feeling of euphoria. A chemical compound found in dairy called casein, when consumed, triggers the feeling that you’ve been rewarded, boosting your happiness hormone levels.
Further research has found that the country whose citizens consume the greatest quantity of cheese per year is France. C’est vrai, mon ami! The typical French citizen consumes on average 55 pounds of fromage a year – more than any other country – even more than is consumed by the residents of Gorgonzola, Italy or Cheddar, Great Britain combined. (Yes, both are actual places.)
Despite all their cheese consumption – or maybe because of it – the current life expectancy of a French person is 82 years – roughly a decade longer than the global average. So, if you want to live a long, healthy life, my recommendation is to start now, with a healthy serving of French Onion soup – with an extra helping of Gruyère cheese.
And check this out. Cheese even has the added bonus that it strengthens your teeth and bones, in part thanks to all that calcium. It also helps you get a better night’s sleep. And we all know how grouchy you get when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Now, just stuff a few slices of Muenster in your pie hole before bedtime and you’ll sleep like a bear. Of course, this same article that proclaimed the many benefits of cheese also went on to list five health benefits of drinking gin each day. So, perhaps take the above advice with a grain of salt – or better yet, with a slice of Provolone.
Another great thing about eating cheese to ward off depression is that it comes in so many different varieties. You can enjoy it with crackers, with a French baguette, on top of a burger, in a quesadilla, or, for the more adventurous palate, by downing a bottle of blue cheese-flavored soda. Hard to believe that’s a thing, I know.
While generally it’s recommended that you eat unprocessed cheese for maximum mental health improvement, in a pinch, if you’ve run out of cheese in your fridge, go ahead and scarf down that family size bag of Cheetos. It pairs nicely with a liter of Mountain Dew Code Red.
If you find yourself packing on a few unwanted pounds, don’t cut back on your cheese consumption. Eat more. That’s because cheese, like turkey, is a great source of tryptophan. After a few slices of cheddar, you’ll be out like a light. And you won’t be fretting over your embarrassing weight gain – until you wake up tomorrow morning and look in the mirror.
Of course, as with any rigorous mental health regimen, there are a few minor potential risks from a diet consisting primarily of mac and cheese and chili cheese dogs – although at the moment none of those risks comes to mind. Oh right, ingesting too much cheese can lead to dangerously high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, increasing one’s risk of cardiovascular disease and possible heart attack. Like I said, minor risks.
Reading about the health risks associated with eating too much cheese has made me terribly depressed and more than a little anxious. I’m noticing that my heart is starting to race from getting all stressed out. But wait. It occurs to me that the quickest way to overcome my sudden anxious, depressed mood and feel happier is to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich (using whole-wheat bread, the healthy choice).
Easy Cheesy! That was yummy. I feel much happier now!
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