Recently, a diner at USS Nemo Restaurant asked a simple but profound question: “Can dining out make you happier?” It’s an intriguing query, and one that researchers have taken seriously. According to Elizabeth Somer and other researchers, what and how we eat can have a significant impact on our happiness and our moods.

You may already recognize the connection between food and mood. Eating your favorite dishes, for example, can result in a type of euphoria, while eating something because you “have to” can bring about feelings of dread and resentment. There’s a reason we all have “comfort foods.”

Can Eating Out Make You Happier?

While we recognize food can affect our moods, just how much of an impact does it have? Does dining out, specifically, have an impact? According to many sources, the answer is “yes.” Here are some of the reasons that can explain how eating out makes you happier:

1) Dining out is an experience.

According to a 2012 study published in “The Journal of Positive Psychology,” people are happier when they spend money on experiences rather than things. The great thing about dining out is you get that experience. You can enjoy some time in a new place, soak in the atmosphere and try new foods.

2) You are hardwired to love food.

Not only is dining out an experience, but it’s also associated with food, which our bodies are programmed to respond to very strongly. According to Dr. Laura Pawlak, our bodies respond on a basic level to foods with dopamine-producing neurons, which encourage us to notice and relish food. We’re designed this way to ensure we seek out food and survive.

3) Restaurant food may have a different response in our bodies when compared with home-cooked food.

Foods that taste good are more likely to trigger dopamine release and the release of other neurotransmitters linked to pleasure. Quite simply, we have a more visceral reaction to tasty foods rather than blander, healthier foods. It’s why the idea of an amazing dinner at a restaurant like USS Nemo seems like a treat, while a cold peanut butter sandwich eaten alone at home has less appeal.

4) Dining out gets you out of the house.

Getting out of the house is positively associated with mental health. In fact, a key symptom of depression is difficulty getting out of the house and completing everyday tasks. Mental health professionals agree that getting out and interacting with others is important in making us happier and healthier.

5) Eating out lets you try new things.

According to research from Winston-Salem State University, people who seek out a variety of experiences and try out different things are more likely to minimize negative emotions and make the most of positive emotions when compared with people who try fewer things. If you’ve ever experienced the joy of trying something new, you can affirm this research is based on fact.

When you dine out at restaurants such as USS Nemo, you can try out new dishes, cuisines and foods. This allows you to expand your palette and maybe even find a new favorite food.

6) Eating at a restaurant lets you socialize.

According to researchers, having a strong network of friends and family can help you live longer. In fact, it can have the same impact as avoiding cigarettes. Many health experts talk about the importance of strong social networks and the health dangers of loneliness, but many people struggle to find time to spend together.

Dining out at a restaurant like USS Nemo can be one solution. Since everyone has to eat, it can be easier to get groups together to dine out.

While dining out won’t cure all ills, there’s plenty of research to suggest there is a link between food and happiness and between dining out and joy. Getting to socialize with others, experience new things and eat delicious foods can have a big impact on your mood and even your health.