Science never was one of my favourite subjects at school (much to the disappointment of my Dad); but I have to admit that when it comes to feeling good biology has some really good stuff to help influence how we feel – the so called ‘happy hormones’ – Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin. A combination of these four hormones influences our level of happiness and there are a few simple ways we can include activities in our daily lives that help produce more of them.
First a little more about them…
- Endorphins increase our feelings of wellbeing and help minimize discomfort. During exercise the body releases Endorphins (which helps the body cope with the pain of exercising), this then lifts our feelings and makes us enjoy exercising. Laughter is another good way of generating endorphins as is savouring a little chocolate or meditating.
- Dopamine is sometimes described as the ‘feel good’ hormone, its effect is linked to motivation and pleasure. When we accomplish something (big or small) or feel appreciated for something we have done our brains release dopamine and we feel good.
- The third hormone Serotonin is connected to social interactions and is released when we act in a way that benefits others. When we give back to others or to nature or to the society, it releases Serotonin. Even providing useful information on the internet like writing information blogs, answering people’s questions on Facebook groups will generate Serotonin.
- The final hormone is Oxytocin, the ‘love’ hormone. This is released when we become close to other human beings. When we hug our friends or family Oxytocin is released. Similarly, when we shake hands or put our arms around someone’s shoulders, various amounts of Oxytocin is released.
So, if I could give out a little mental health prescription for you all it would go something like this….
All four to be taken daily as often as required…….
Exercise, laugh or fun activity every day – try a combination of all 3 at once if you can! (endorphins)
Accomplish a little goal each day, no matter how big or small. This effect can be shared by others, simply remember to thank your colleague, family member or friend next time they do something good, so they feel appreciated happy hit of their own (dopamine)
Do something nice or helpful for others each day – not only will we be helping others to feel better, but it will make US feel better too! (Serotonin)
In these times of isolation it might not be that easy to feel close to others but a ‘virtual’ hug by connecting with loved ones via the telephone or a video call is better than nothing and if you are lucky enough to be social distancing with other members in the household give them a hug (oxytocin)
So there we have it, a little biology lesson to start the week off with a positive, feel good vibe. Enjoy those happy hormones guys.
Stay safe and well.