This was first published in Affintity Magazine but I think its helpfulfor evry one to know a bit about the hormones that impact our happiness.
Our state of happiness depends on a whole range of factors, some would say genetic predisposition plays a part as well as our current situation, but it’s probably fair to say that most of us want to be happy and if there were steps we could take to be happier we’d at least consider them.
I acknowledge that of course there are some people who struggle with specific mental or physical illnesses which may have an impact on the biochemistry of the brain but for the rest of us understanding our happy hormones and what we can do to boost these will almost certainly have a positive impact on our mood and sense of well-being.
What are our Happy Hormones?
Strictly speaking happy hormones aren’t all hormones. One of the chemicals you will have probably heard of as being responsible for happiness is Seratonin which is a mood boosting neurotransmitter and dopamine, another neuro transmitter which drives our brains rewards system.
Then there is Oestrogen and progesterone, you’ll all have heard of those hormones and know that an imbalance of these can cause irritability. Specifically Oestrogen is responsible in part for the formation of serotonin and it helps to keep our mood steady. Good levels of oestrogen protect us from irritability and anxiety. Progesterone too protects us from irritability and is also thought to have a role in helping us sleep well. Then there is something called oxytocin which is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter and seems to have an impact on our levels of satisfaction, this particular one seems to have more of an impact on women than men. In addition there are endorphins which can dull pain and increase our feelings of pleasure.
But it is also worth knowing about Cortisol – often called the stress hormone – it is released in response to fear and stress and prolonged high levels of this can have numerous negative effects on the body, such as lowering the immune system, increasing weight gain, interfering with learning and memory and also increasing the risk of depression and mental health problems.
But before you start feeling gloomy because your state of happiness is at the mercy of chemicals – let’s stop with the science and see what we can do to give ourselves the best possible chance of happiness.
The Food we eat
There is a growing body of evidence that shows that what we eat has a powerful impact on almost every aspect of our bodies functioning. I know that sometimes the advice can seem contradictory but actually there are only a couple of very simple guidelines to follow. Try to avoid processed food – basically it will be full of heaven knows what and introduce lots of negative toxins to the body. Eat fresh food whenever you can and include at the very least five portions (new research indicates seven or even tem portions a day may be better) of fruit and vegetables each day and try to include an array of colours – that way you can make sure you’ll be getting all the vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients, probiotics etc that you need.
Specifically carbohydrates boost serotonin but it’s best to use high fibre sources which are more long lasting – but it also explains why crave sweet starchy comfort food when we feel low. To boost progesterone and oestrogen levels include spinach, asparagus eggs, salmon – oh and don’t forget dark chocolate in your diet. Eating spicy foods can also help as they can trigger endorphin production. You can read more about mood boosting foods here
It will come as no surprise that exercise is good for us. Exercise is one of the few things that can release serotonin and unless we have driven ourselves into the ground we nearly always feel better after we have exercised. For some simple exercise you can start today have a read of this article
Enjoy a good laugh
Actually enjoying a good laugh will also help with endorphin production – so if you are feeling down watch a comedy not a weepy, read a funny book or spend time with that friend who you always have a laugh with.
Feel Good Activities
Oxytocin production is increased when you are doing pleasurable things – so enjoy time with friends or family, indulge yourself in some way perhaps with massage – or even a spot of retail therapy. We all know we enjoy a hug and actually physical contact like that is good for us so give you partner or family members a hug and enjoy the boost that will give to your happy hormones.
Keep Stress in Check
Learning how to manage our stress is important for each and every one of us not least because it can keep our cortisol levels in check, so a long walk or a relaxing bath will help and try adding some aromatherapy, a scented candle or bath oil as these can help to stimulate endorphins. As can listening to music and singing which will also give a release of Dopamine. There is also evidence to suggest that being outdoors in the sun is beneficial for boosting our mood – we might not get as many chances as we’d like but a bit of sun will definitely be a mood boost.
Get something done
Anything that we achieve can give us a sense of satisfaction, especially when it is something we have worked towards. So completing a task, whether it’s a craft project you started months ago or a work related task you’ve been putting off, will definitely boost your mood.
There are lots of things that we are not able to control in life but when it comes to being happy there is in fact a lot we can do to help ourselves and boost our happy hormones.
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