Diet & Nutrition
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Diet & Nutrition

4 Happy hormones and ways to boost them naturally

One simple question we all fail to answer however is, “How does one be happy?” It seems simple, yet, there’s nothing more challenging than to be simple. We’ve all heard about great concepts of ‘living in the moment’, ‘gratitude’, ‘habit’, ‘focusing more on the happiness of others’ and some others besides. While there’s a lot of truth to all the advice, we never really understand that these are techniques to achieve ‘something’, and not that ‘something’ itself.

So, when we practice all the techniques to become happy, what is really happening at the level of our minds? What’s signaling it to become, simply happy? Why are we melancholic sometimes, and charged up the other times?

The simple answer to all these questions: Happy chemicals. Everything happening inside the brain is a game of transmission of messages through neural connections. You’re happy or sad because the brain has gotten a signal. Nothing more. Nothing less. Knowing this is liberating, your emotions are nothing but a game of chemical interplay. They sure do make human life wonderful and worth living, but their management can be really problematic.

So, can we, by controlling this flow of cellular matter inside the brain, promote happiness? Absolutely. And that is precisely what the long pioneered techniques do. They boost our happy chemicals!

There are 4 types of these happy chemicals-

Dopamine

Dopamine motivates us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them. Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine. Studies showed those with low levels of dopamine always opted for an easy option and less food; those with higher levels exerted the effort needed to receive twice the amount of food.

Serotonin

Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. Loneliness and depression appears when serotonin is absent. It’s perhaps one reason why people fall into gang and criminal activity — the culture brings experiences that facilitate serotonin release. Unhealthy attention-seeking behavior can also be a cry for what serotonin brings. Most antidepressants focus on the production of serotonin.

Reflecting on past significant achievements allows the brain to re-live the experience. Our brain has trouble telling the difference between what’s real and imagined, so it produces serotonin in both cases. It’s another reason why gratitude practices are popular. They remind us that we are valued and have much to value in life. If you need a serotonin boost during a stressful day, take a few moments to reflect on a past achievements and victories. The sun is said to boost Serotonin levels, so get plenty of sunlight.

Oxytocin

Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust and builds healthier relationships. It appears to play a larger role in women’s physiology and happiness than men’s. Oxytocin is mainly correlated with a loving touch and close relationships. It’s released by mothers during childbirth and breastfeeding. Animals will reject their offspring when the release of oxytocin is blocked. The cultivation of oxytocin is essential for creating strong bonds and improved social interactions.

This hormone provides a multiple hit, by stimulating serotonin and dopamine, while lowering anxiety. The easiest way to boost Oxytocin is to hug someone, give someone a gift or a nice compliment.

Endorphins

Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression. The surging “second wind” and euphoric “runners high” during and after a vigorous run are a result of endorphins. Similar to morphine, it acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing our perception of pain.

Along with regular exercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release. Even the anticipation and expectation of laugher, e.g., attending a comedy show, increases levels of endorphins. Taking your sense of humor to work, forwarding that funny email, and finding several things to laugh at during the day is a great way to keep the doctor away.

Natural Ways to Boost Your Happy Hormones

While there’s no surefire way to get your feel-good hormones circulating, there are activities you can add to your day to naturally boost all four happiness hormones. Here are some-

  • Listening to music is a fabulous way to get a hit of dopamine: According to a study, listening to music you love (especially if it gives you ‘chills’) creates a boost in feel-good dopamine
  • Carbohydrates increase serotonin levels, which partly explains why we crave sweet, starchy foods when we are feeling down. For the best mood boost with the least negative impact, choose healthy, high-fibre sources of carbs such as dense whole-grain bread or quinoa
  • Get a boost of oxytocin by doing pleasurable things such as spending time cuddling with your partner, your kids or your pet
  • Increase estrogen with stress-relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, taking a hot bath’ or whatever works for you
  • Keep progesterone levels at optimum levels by eating well and avoiding saturated fat and sugar, getting regular physicals and avoiding stress

Hormones are chemicals produced by different glands across your body. They travel through the bloodstream, acting as messengers and playing a part in many bodily processes. One of these important functions? Helping regulate your mood. Certain hormones are known to help promote positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure. Follow the above tips to boost your mood with these natural mood-boosters.

References-

  1. https://www.parkinsonsnsw.org.au/four-happy-hormones
  2. https://www.mariongluckclinic.com/blog/12-ways-to-increase-your-happy-hormones.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4449495/
  5. https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/musical-chills-why-they-give-us-thrills-170538

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