It’s pretty regular for someone to be asked what they consider the best things in the world and have them come back with something related to food. What, people don’t just randomly ask you that? Well I’m sure they would if it were on their mind at the moment like it is mine, but the point I’m getting at is that when we think of happy, joyous, or comfortable things, we inevitably turn to food. Something tasty can take a cruddy day and fix it. Something sweet can make all your problems evaporate. Something delicious can take stress and make you forget it. But why exactly is it that we usually turn to food for comfort? Let’s look into that!

The stereotype of the recently dumped individual is to picture them sitting on a couch in their pajamas, watching junk TV while eating junk food, specifically ice cream. You can take the couch, the TV, or the pajamas out of the equation but the ice cream binge eating remains. Why is that exactly? Well part of it is clichés that movies and such like to perpetuate as it’s a very simple shorthand for “someone’s depressed,” but the reason it works as shorthand is because there is some truth to the matter.

As humans, we take stress and unhappiness about as well as you’d expect, which is to say not well at all. Depending on how bad things get, our bodies revert to some more basic needs, the driving forces of our primal selves, specifically the need to eat and procreate. We can naturally assume why one of those two things can make us rather happy and turn a bad day into the best day ever, but with food it’s a bit more complex.

Part of it is that we’re satisfying that base need that says “food good” and by doing so, we can get the most base reaction back from our bodies, in this case “food make happy.” If nothing else, we at least have control over our need to eat, and so satisfying that constant need puts one bit of control back in our hands and then into our stomachs.

But despite being so simple, on a scientific level, food provides us with energy, even junk food. Depending on how much you eat, one of two things can happen. Either you give yourself something high in natural sugars like fruits and your body gets a significant energy boost, or you stuff yourself to the point that you can’t think and your body goes into hyper digestion mode, thus resulting in what is commonly referred to as a food coma, also known as extreme relaxation.

On an even more scientific level, eating releases endorphins that rush out and provide a happy feeling to your brain. With these happy thoughts spinning around, how can you not want to eat more and more and always turn to a box of cookies or rush to the buffet when you’re looking to put yourself in a better mood? Plus, food is typically a social activity, which fulfills another one of our primal needs, that of companionship.

Simply, we like eating because it’s fun, otherwise we wouldn’t bother now would we? It rights our blood sugar level, it fills our stomachs, and it gives us an excuse to focus on friends and food, two of the greatest things in the world. Granted, just like anything that’s essentially a substance, substance abuse is a constant worry. Be sure not to use food as a means of filling a void in your life or just eating because you’re bored, but don’t shy away from a good meal when you’re down. Sometimes that’s all you need to get you back on your feet.