What Is 'Joy Snacking' & Could It Be The Way To Rethink How You Interact With Food?

We could all use a little more joy. That's why trends like dopamine dressing have taken off over the last couple of years, inspired by the brain chemical responsible for boosting mood. For a major dose of joy, you might hold out for a significant life event like a long vacation, your wedding, or the day you land your dream job. However, experts say you don't need to wait until then to experience bliss — you can find it hidden inside small, seemingly mundane moments.

Dr. Richard Sima, a neuroscientist, wrote an article in The Washington Post all about these small moments, calling them "joy snacks." Just like the satiating snacks you have between meals, joy snacks are experiences that are bite-sized yet satisfying. And the good news is that you don't have to wait for them to find you — joy snacks are available to anyone, anywhere, and they can have a huge impact on your well-being.

But what exactly are joy snacks, and how can you start savoring them in your life? Here's what you need to know.

Why joy snacks could be the happiness treat you need

If you start paying attention to the moments between the hustle and bustle of daily life, you'll likely find countless sources of joy. Seeing sunshine first thing in the morning, hugging a friend, or turning on a favorite song during your commute are all examples, and they all count as joy snacks in your happiness diet.

If you believe these little bursts of joy are inconsequential when looking at the big picture, think again. In his Washington Post piece, Dr. Richard Sima cites a 2022 study published in "Nature Human Behaviour" to support his claim that joy snacks are important for our overall happiness. When participants in the study were asked to recall the most meaningful event that occurred in their personal life during the last week, most named a small, everyday moment, such as a fulfilling conversation with a loved one.

Even when these joyful moments are over, their mood-boosting benefits can stick around. "The science behind joy snacking is rooted in positive psychology, which emphasizes the cultivation of positive emotions and experiences," Dr. Carly Claney, a licensed psychologist and Owner of Relational Psych, told The Everygirl. "Regularly experiencing small, positive moments can boost our overall mood and well-being, contribute to resilience, and even counteract the physiological effects of negative events." And once you notice what brings you joy and start intentionally sprinkling it into your days, you might find that savoring joy snacks becomes second nature.

So, what do joy snacks have to do with food?

In case you haven't realized by now, joy snacks aren't literal snacks that you munch on. Though, depending on what brings you delight, they could be. Some TikTokers have started sharing their own joy snacks on the social media platform, and, unsurprisingly, yummy snacks made the list for some creators. In one clip, a user named Yasmin explains the concept of joy snacks, ending the video by saying, "Right now, I'm on the way to my morning joy snack: coffee." In another clip, user Cheralee says that her joy snack of choice is going to the bakery for a croissant, but as a healthier and more cost-effective alternative, she's decided to joy snack on store-bought cookies made of natural ingredients.

Joy snacking can be applied to any meal, as long as you put down your devices and practice mindfulness while you eat. As Dr. Richard Sima explains, part of the joy snacking experience is focusing on the sensations and emotions that surface during your snack. Pay attention to texture, flavors, smells, and how you feel in the moment, rather than mindlessly devouring your food.

Besides the research findings that support joy snacking in general, some studies also support mindful eating habits, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. So far, researchers have discovered that eating mindfully may lead to healthier eating habits, an improvement in mental health, and greater happiness while eating.