by  Dr. Reetu Verma

Do you sometimes feel low in energy? lethargic? despondent?

Would you like to feel more energetic, vibrant and joyful instead?

Has it occurred to you that your hormones could be playing a part in the way you feel?

Today we look at the relationship between hormones and happiness and my tips to tap into this natural pharmacy inside our bodies.

The Four Happy Hormones

We have four “happy hormones” within us that help us to regulate our mood, reduce stress and increase energy. These are Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins, Oxytocin

Dopamine (the motivator)

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter sending messages between neurons. It is released with the anticipation of a reward and increased levels of dopamine can help with focus, memory, motivation and happiness.  It motivates you to take action toward your goals, gives you a boost and reinforces pleasure upon completion.

In contrast, research shows that low dopamine is linked to poor concentration, self-doubt, procrastination, and lack of enthusiasm.

Ways to increase dopamine include:

  • eating a balanced diet containing enough protein, vitamins and minerals, probiotics and low levels of saturated fat
  • getting enough sleep
  • exercising
  • listening to music
  • meditating
  • spending time in the sun
  • completing a task and celebrating your wins

For instance, dopamine helps motivate me to write this happiness blog which is taking action towards my goals. On completion, I have achieved a task and can genuinely feel good about my accomplishment – yahooooo! There is no shortage of potential “highs” for me today with all the housework I need to finish!

Endorphins (the pain reliever)

Endorphins are our body’s natural pain reliever and are released in response to pain and stress helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Research shows that like morphine, endorphins act as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing our perception of pain. Endorphin levels also tend to increase when you engage in reward-producing activities.

Ways to increase endorphins include:

  • regular exercise
  • laughter, watching comedy, sharing funny jokes, laughing with friends, laughing yoga
  • eating spicy foods, dark chocolate or drinking red wine
  • aromatherapy especially the scent of vanilla, light a scented candle or take an aromatherapy bath or massage
  • having sex
  • dancing to your favourite music
  • random act of kindness or volunteering
  • meditating

Oxytocin (the love hormone)

Oxytocin is often called the “love” hormone because it is released when people connect socially, emotionally, physically and sexually. It is important in creating intimacy, trust, and building healthy relationships. It’s released by men and women during kissing, cuddling and orgasm, and by mothers during childbirth and breastfeeding. Studies have shown it can also help with the prevention of destructive and addictive behaviours and other mental disorders.

Ways to increase oxytocin include:

  • giving someone a gift or a compliment
  • loving-kindness meditation, focusing on your good feelings and well wishes towards others
  • stroking a pet
  • kissing or hugging someone
  • tell someone you love them
  • doing something exhilarating like riding a roller coaster or skydiving
  • having sex
  • watching an emotional movie

Serotonin (the mood stabiliser)

Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer and a key hormone for feelings of happiness and well-being. It also helps with digestion, sleep and motor skills. Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid must enter your body through your diet and is commonly found in foods such as nuts, cheese, and red meat. Tryptophan deficiency can lead to lower serotonin levels. Normal serotonin levels make you feel happier, calmer and focused. Research shows that serotonin flows when you feel significant and feelings of loneliness and depression arise when serotonin is absent.

Ways to increase serotonin include:

  • reflecting on past significant achievements
  • practising gratitude
  • kindness
  • spending time in the sun
  • walking in nature
  • meditating
  • getting enough sleep

Dopamine, Endorphins, Oxytocin, and Serotonin are the quartet responsible for your happiness. Many situations can trigger these, but instead of waiting for them to flow, the trick is to be pro-active by incorporating simple practices in your daily morning routine, so you can intentionally cause them to flow in a natural way. Once again remember that BALANCE is the key!

My experience had been that feeling good on the inside will definitely show on the outside 😍

References

Scaccia, A (2020). Serotonin: What You Need to Know. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin#mental-health

Berry, J (2018). Endorphins: Effects of How to increase levels.  Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320839#1 

Cedars-Sinai Staff, (2019). The Science of Kindness. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from
https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/science-of-kindness.html

McIntosh, J (2018).  What is serotonin and what does it do?  Retrieved August 25, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248

Park, A (2017). Why Sunlight  Is So Good For You.  Retrieved August 26, 2020, from
https://time.com/4888327/why-sunlight-is-so-good-for-you/

Zak, P (2013). The Top 10 Ways to Boost Good Feelings. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from
https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/the-moral-molecule/201311/the-top-10-ways-boost-good-feelings

Julson, E (2018). 10 Best Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-dopamine

Raypole, C (2019). 13 Ways to Increase Endorphins. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from
https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-increase-endorphins
Health Direct Staff (2019). Oxytocin. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from
https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/oxytocin

Nootralize – Cognitive Enhancement (2019). What Oxytocin Does to You: Love and Mental Disorders. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from
https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/experience-engineering/201911/what-oxytocin-does-you-love-and-mental-disorders

McIntosh, J (2018). What is serotonin and what does it do? Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248