Hormones are your body’s special chemical messengers. They control all those important functions like hunger and reproduction, and have a major say in your emotional health and wellbeing. In fact, every emotion you experience is the result of the release of certain hormones. Depending on the amount released, this can determine how happy you feel.
Hormones of happiness
There are four main hormones that influence your level of happy.
- Serotonin: this is the key happiness hormone. It regulates your mood, prevents depression, and makes you more sociable.
- Dopamine: known as the “pleasure” hormone, dopamine is stimulated when you strive towards a goal, and motivates you to work hard to achieve the satisfaction of reaching that goal. This hormone drives your brain’s reward system.
- Endorphins: these act as natural painkillers. They make you feel good, lower anxiety levels, and reduce your sensitivity to pain.
- Oxytocin: also called the “love” hormone, oxytocin increases feelings of love and trust, and is released during affectionate physical contact like hugging, sex and childbirth.
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Unleash your happy hormones
- Soak up some sun. Sunlight causes your body to produce Vitamin D, which triggers the release of serotonin. Brighten up your day and mood by basking in the sun more often. Before you get your daily dose, make sure you put on some sunscreen and protective clothing.
- Think happy thoughts. Your brain produces serotonin when you think of things that make you happy. Whenever negative thoughts creep in, recognise them and try your best to replace them with positive ones. Remember happy events or memories from the past or focus on what you’re grateful for at this present moment.
- Burn some calories. Aerobic exercises like running, cycling and jumping can set off the release of endorphins and serotonin, which can perk up your mood and energy levels. For an extra boost, exercise with a goal in mind. Since dopamine is associated with goal achievement, setting goals will stimulate its production. Turn your mood around with just 20 to 30 minutes of exercise.
- Eat tryptophan-rich foods like chicken, eggs, oats, and beans. Tryptophan is a substance that your body converts into serotonin. Chocolate-lovers rejoice: this trick also works with chocolate – as if you needed another excuse to eat more chocolate!
- Increase your Vitamin B intake by eating more fish, spinach, broccoli, legumes, and wholegrains. Vitamin B is known to stimulate the production and function of the feelgood hormones; dopamine and serotonin.
- Have a carb. Carbohydrates increase serotonin levels, which can enhance your mood. For a healthy mood boost, eat low GI, high-fibre sources of carbs like wholegrain bread, quinoa, and brown rice.
- Go for a massage. A massage is a great way to relax your muscles, ease tension, and improve your emotional wellbeing. The prolonged physical contact of a massage can bring about the release of oxytocin.
- Pet a furry friend. Research shows that petting a dog or cat for just 15 minutes releases both serotonin and oxytocin, while lowering levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Pets can also minimise your blood pressure, beat loneliness, and curtail those negative thoughts.
- Cuddle up with a loved one. Cuddling, hugging, and holding hands are known to release large amounts of oxytocin, so show your friends and family some love. You’ll be giving and receiving happiness. It’s a win-win.
- Listen to some tunes and sing along. Dopamine is released when you listen to music you love, especially if it gives you the “chills”. Singing has the same effect, leaving you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. So, go ahead and belt it out in the shower. Your happiness depends on it!