Our mind and body are clever and complex. In evolutionary terms, the processes that are necessary for our survival are programmed to feel good. Our brain produces a plethora of neurochemicals that help us feel good in the day to day struggles of life.
Here we will look at four of the better known ‘Happy Hormones’, how they effect us and natural ways to boost their production. Dopamine: The Reward Molecule Also known as the ‘feel good hormone’, Dopamine is linked to the brain’s reward response. The expectation of a reward triggers Dopamine in the mammal brain, which in turn releases the energy you require to reach your reward. For example an animal will experience a dopamine surge on simply smelling their food, and the resulting energy surge will fuel reaching their goal. When dopamine is released in large amounts, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivates you to repeat a specific behaviour. Trigger Dopamine By:
Embracing a new goal, and take small steps towards it every day.
Prioritising a good nights sleep. Dopamine regulation is adversely affected by poor sleeping patterns.
Listening to instrumental music.
Oxytocin: The Bonding Molecule ‘The Love Hormone’ plays an instrumental role in the bond between parent and child. Oxytocin can help promote empathy and trust in relationships. Studies have shown if a couple is separated for a long period of time, the lack of physical contact reduces oxytocin and triggers the desire to bond with that person again. Cuddling your dog was shown to increase in Oxytocin in both owner and dog in a 2003 study! Don’t let digital communication entirely replace face to face contact. Create community, whether joining a gym or a class, finding a walking buddy, or even stopping to chat to your neighbours. Trigger Oxytocin By:
Giving someone you care about a gift.
Hugging it out. Researcher and Oxytocin expert Dr. Paul Zak recommends 8 a day, and as mentioned above pets count too!
Getting a massage.
Watching a 'feel good' movie.
Serotonin: The Confidence Molecule This neurotransmitter helps regulate your mood and maintain healthy self confidence, it also supports appetite and social engagement. The soothing effects of Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilises our mood, feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Trigger Serotonin By:
Eating Happy Foods. Bananas, beans, eggs leafy greens, nuts and seeds, oily fish, probiotic/fermented foods and turkey are good sources of serotonin supporting nutrients.
Getting Outside. Sunlight boosts Serotonin and Vitamin D production. Aim for 10-15 mins a day.
Breaking a Sweat. Exercise is shown to boost serotonin levels in your brain.
Endorphins: The Pain Killing Molecule Endorphins are released in reaction to stress or discomfort, and act as your body’s natural pain reliever. They are the neurochemical responsible for ‘runner high’, making you feel amazing after a workout. They act on the opiate receptors in our brain, reducing pain, boosting pleasure, and leading to an overall feeling of wellbeing. Trigger endorphins by:
Exercising: Any will do but group exercise is best!
Eating Dark Chocolate or Spicy Food
Getting creative. Playing music or pursuing artistic activities boost endorphins.
Trying a Sauna
References: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/the-athletes-way/201211/the-neurochemicals-happiness https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-dopamine https://medium.com/thrive-global/the-brain-chemicals-that-make-you-happy-and-how-to-trigger-them-caa5268eb2c https://www.healthline.com/health/happy-hormone#sunlight https://www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/your-neurochemical-self/201212/five-ways-boost-your-natural-happy-chemicals https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jul/15/interview-dr-love-paul-zak https://brainmd.com/blog/4-ways-to-boost-your-serotonin/ https://www.healthline.com/health/endorphins#natural-boosts https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-serotonin-425327 https://www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/the-athletes-way/201211/the-neurochemicals-happiness
Article by @Wrkit POWR