Four feel-good hormones to happy

Feeling low? Feeling anxious? Caught up in looping thoughts, none of which make you glad to be here right now?

We may know the answer to our misery is to get out and ‘move it’, but our mind is set on ‘meh’.

Our bodies are designed to move, leap, bound about and live – with a capital L. 

Unfortunately, depression and anxiety prefer the opposite. Sitting in, on the sofa, wrapped in a duvet, consuming ice cream/crisps/haribo (pick your poison, or combination) like it’s going out of fashion, caught up in our own fears, unable to sleep properly… Couch to 5k may as well be Couch to Mars…

So where to start? Certainly a Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) session on taking action is ideal for getting you out the door, blinking into the daylight, and shaking your backside with an enthusiasm you can scarcely recall.

Out there you’ll find four friends, who haven’t been coming around for a while. They are:

  • Dopamine
  • Endorphins
  • Serotonin
  • Oxytocin.

These four guys are like the four musketeers – they’re all for one and one for you. They are the ‘feel good’ hormones. Want to feel better? Go find them. And the best way to create feel good hormones? Make your own. Naturally.

Dopamine

Here is probably the easiest start. Top up your dopamine to the brim. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that helps control the pleasure and reward centres in our brains.

  1. Laugh. Put on your favourite funny DVD, rewatch comedy classics, listen to comedians until you weep with laughter. Laughter is a well-researched pain killer which is also said to stimulate regions of the brain that trigger dopamine. For me, Laurel and Hardy’s Laughing Gravy lifts the darkest mood. And it’s got the cutest dog. The cutest dog that ever lived. Don’t believe me? Watch it. I dare you not to laugh.
  2. Set goals. Easy ones. Like getting off the sofa and having a shower. Celebrate this achievement. Seriously. It’s the striving to achieve that triggers the dopamine. Set goals you can meet and cheer yourself on. Dopamine rising. Yes; go you!
  3. Massage. Lowering stress hormones and creating dopamine, massage is a worthwhile investment, because it also stimulates your next best friend – serotonin.

Serotonin

OK, we’re going to have to leave the sofa now, but serotonin is worth the effort. You’ll get: better sleep, your appetite should normalise and this mood-improving hormone can help you feel that elusive of moods – happy. Want happy? Step outside because…

  1. Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D and serotonin needs this vitamin to synthesise. This is just one of the reasons why the winter months feel so gloomy (that and the cold and the wind and the rain and the central heating sucking the air dry and… I’m not a winter fan) but you don’t need a lot of daylight, just enough to feel the sunlight on your face and forearms (if you can bear to roll up your sleeves).
  2. Walking – daily exercise boosts this hormone and just a brisk walk will do wonders. Remember; goals met boost dopamine, so let’s get out and cheer ourselves on.
  3. Foods that are rich in tryptophan are said to be good for boosting serotonin. These include: eggs, pineapple, tofu, salmon, nuts and seeds, plus turkey.

Endorphins

These are the anxiety-busters with painkilling power and a calming effect. What’s not to like? Here’s how you wake them up.

  1. Exercise – doesn’t need to be full pelt, a 30-minute walk is going to help, but…
  2. Sweat, even if you slip straight into the sauna or steam room, is going to trigger the production of endorphins as stress melts from your muscles
  3. Chillis are a welcome addition to meals if you enjoy spice as once capsicum hits your tongue it sends a signal to the brain that’s similar to a pain signal, triggering endorphins

Oxytocin

If ‘love is the drug’ oxytocin is certainly the hormone at play. It’s stimulated by intimacy and that can be through:

  1. Massage. Yes, up again as a top feel good hormone starter tool. Along with serotonin and dopamine, oxytocin is stimulated by massage.
  2. Hugs. Research reports differ on how many we need to feel tip-top but it’s certainly more than two daily and as many as12 if you want to thrive, according to family therapist, Virginia Satir.
  3. Pets really do make us feel better. Cuddling up with your cat or playing with a dog can improve oxytocin levels.

Starting to get overwhelm? If this is looking like a lot of effort you don’t have, think multitask: deciding you’re going to make a start and celebrating your decision to take action, taking a 30 minute brisk walk in daylight and stopping to pet friendly looking dogs, and you’re working on all four. Eggs for breakfast, hug your nearest and dearest when you greet them and get a massage once a month… these are all going to help you heal you.

Because here’s the truth: you are your own rescue. I can help you take those steps but you are the one who takes action. And that is, ultimately, the most empowering thing I can tell you.

You are your own rescue. You have the power.

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