Our body’s greatest personal happiness “medications” (aka mood meds) are available for free, in just the right dosage, and with no prescription. Feeding our happiness hormones is easier than you may think and probably a lot more fun, too!
When I start talking about hormones, men tend to reach for the off button thinking it is a topic for the women of the world, but that would be incorrect. There are many chemicals racing through the bodies of both males and females so keeping them happy should be a priority for all human beings.
Endorphins are the symphony of tiny neurochemicals (peptides) responsible for mood, attitude, and even behaviors (positive or negative). These powerful chemicals are produced by our central nervous system and the pituitary gland. The word endorphin comes from the words endogenous, meaning from within the body, and morphine, which is an opiate pain reliever. So you might say, endorphins got their name because they are natural pain relievers for the body. They act on the opiate receptors of our brains to enhance pleasure and reduce pain – this balance results in a feeling of wellbeing.
Instead of being in the passenger seat, there are ways you can intentionally “drive” the flow in a healthy direction! Being in a positive state of mind has significant impact on your motivation, productivity, thoughts, and overall wellbeing.
Here are some simple “meds” to boost your positive neurochemicals:
- Dopamine motivates you to take action toward your goals and gives you a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them.
- Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine. Studies on rats showed those with low levels of dopamine always opted for an easier option, and less reward/food; those with higher levels of dopamine exerted the effort needed to receive double the amount of food.
- Break big goals down into little pieces.
- Rather than only allowing your brain to celebrate when you’ve hit the big finish line, you can create a series of little finish-lines for frequent dopamine release. And it’s crucial to actually celebrate — do something healthy for yourself like getting a massage or buying new shoes whenever you meet a small goal.
- Create new goals before completely achieving your current one. That ensures a consistent pattern for experiencing dopamine. As an employer and leader, recognize the accomplishments of your team. Sending your team an encouraging email or giving a small bonus is a “dopamine-hit” that will increase future motivation and productivity.
- Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important.
- Culture and community facilitate serotonin release. Loneliness and depression are present when serotonin is absent. It’s why people fall into gangs and criminal activity. Unhealthy attention-seeking behaviors are also a cry for what serotonin provides.
- Princeton neuroscientist, Barry Jacobs, explains that most antidepressants focus on the production of serotonin.
- Reflecting on your past achievements allows your brain to relive the experience.
- Your brain has trouble telling the difference between what is real and what is imagined, so it produces serotonin in both cases.
- Gratitude practices are popular for this reason as they are reminders and mental pictures of all the good things you’ve experienced. If you need a serotonin boost during a stressful day, take a few moments to reflect on your past achievements and victories.
- Have lunch or coffee outside and expose yourself to the sun for twenty minutes. Your skin absorbs UV rays which promotes Vitamin-D and serotonin production. Although too much ultraviolet light isn’t good, some daily exposure is healthy for boosting your serotonin levels.
- The release of oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and strengthens relationships.
- It’s released by men and women during orgasm and by mothers during childbirth and breastfeeding. Animals will reject their offspring when the release of oxytocin is blocked. Oxytocin is the glue that binds together healthy relationships.
- Often referred to as “the cuddle hormone,” a simple way to keep oxytocin flowing is to give someone a hug (maybe not now during covid, but that is why we are experiencing greater stress and higher levels of depression).
- The inter-personal touch of a hug or hand holding not only raises oxytocin, it reduces cardiovascular stress and improves the immune system. Rather than just a handshake, go in for the hug. I hear that the "recommended dosage" is eight hugs each day!
- Giving someone a gift will also cause their oxytocin levels rise. You can strengthen work and personal relationships through a simple birthday or anniversary gift.
- Simple acts of kindness create a “helpers high” in the giver.
- Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety.
- The surging “second wind” and the euphoric “runners high” when running are a result of endorphins.
- Like morphine, it acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing your perception of pain.
- Along with 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 are great ways to keep your endorphins flowing.
- Aromatherapies: the smell of vanilla and lavender has been linked with the production of endorphins. Studies have shown that dark chocolate and spicy foods will cause your brain to release endorphins. Keep some scented oils and dark chocolate at your desk for a quick endorphin boost.
- Self-dialog (Talk back to yourself!)
- Take time to 1) Ask yourself - what do I need right now? 2) ANSWER the questions (keep it simple) 3) ACT on it. Treat one thing at a time, breaking things into smaller goals.
- Don't walk away from the questioning process. If we do, it builds frustration, or anxiety. We are intuitive towards the needs of others, but we are working towards being more intuitive towards our own needs. One businesswoman told me, "It not only feels like muscles I don't use, it’s more like limbs I don't have."
- Related: Self Talk & The New You
- Take an honest review of yourself.
- Are you: Stressed. Exhausted. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Happy. Satisfied. Well.
- Take time (5 minutes) each day to ask, answer, and address the question of "how are you?". What bubbles to the surface?
- Remember that multitasking is not a superpower. We assume that is what is expected of us. Is this assumption internal or external? If it is internal. Where did it come from? Are you from a family of achievers? Is that what you want for your family?
- Create a "to-be" list instead of a "to-do" list
- Write down your intentional or unintentional accomplishments. For example, "in 2020, I accomplished things I hadn’t planned..."
- End the never-ending to-do list. It only adds to your anxiousness if you don't get it all done. Go back to the self-talk tip. Ask yourself : What now? What's next? What do I need? We are not used to asking ourselves what we personally need. And then...follow through. And finally...take a break. You have trained yourself to live on the edge of exhaustion, and this is an unhealthy way to live. Cortisol - the stress hormone - loves and feeds on negativity that comes out when we focus on the list unfinished! Next thing, next thing, next thing. Dopamine is all about achievement! What did you do? What did you get done? List them out in your head and celebrate the "to dones!"
I just finished this blog! Let’s celebrate!
Click HERE to learn more about the Wellview services available to you. We can’t wait to work with you!
– Stephanie Wolfe, NBC-HWC
Health Advisor | Email Stephanie