The Happy Hormones: What they are and how to boost them by Helena Holdsworth
Did you know that we already contain the formula to feel good? It's all about learning how to harness our bodies' biochemistry in order to get those natural highs. In this blog post, we’re taking a look at the four key happy hormones responsible for our wellbeing, understanding what they are and how we can boost them…
The Motivation Molecule
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter in our brain that’s responsible for motivation and reward. When we practice actions that promote survival or reproduction, we release dopamine, generating euphoric feelings of pleasure.
While dopamine is a key essential for life, it’s important that we don’t over stimulate our dopamine receptors and keep them balanced, in order to avoid unnecessary burnout. In recent years, dopamine fasting has become increasingly trendy. Favoured and practised by the tech gurus of Silicon Valley, the process involves depriving yourself of dopamine centric activities for set periods of time, repairing unhealthy habits. Reducing sensory overload is a helpful antidote to our overstimulated society.
How can we boost it?
Meditation has the power to build a more resilient brain through balancing chemicals and building stronger neural connections. A 2002 study found that people who took part in a one hour meditation class had a 65% increase in dopamine production. Why not try one of our guided meditations and give it a go? From reflection to relaxation themed recordings, there’s something for whatever your mood.
- Set Goals
When we pursue and accomplish our goals, we are rewarded with a boost of dopamine. The LSW Morning Notes is an ideal journal for setting daily targets and the monthly reviews will enable you to keep track of your progress, helping you to stay accountable. The more aims you achieve, the greater the dopamine high.
- Listening to music
Have you ever experienced goosebumps when you’re blasting out your favourite beats? Brain scans have proven that our pleasure pathways light up when we listen to music. As music psychologist Dr Vicky Williams explains, “music is inextricably linked with our deepest reward systems”.
The Cuddle Hormone
Oxytocin, aka ‘the love drug’ or ‘cuddle hormone’, is our hormone responsible for social bonding and connections. It is released by the thymus, a gland situated above the heart, and can generate a warm, fuzzy sensation. You may have experienced this when cuddling a loved one or furry friend.
How can we boost it?
- Social interaction
Our oxytocin levels are boosted with social interactions or connections. Whether you simply text a friend to check up on their wellbeing or actually meet them for lunch in real life, both interactions have the potential to stimulate our oxytocin.
- Self Love
Having compassion for oneself and practising self love is an oxytocin-enriching ritual. Our packs of Mind Cards contains a ritual category filled with ideas to give yourself some guilt-free TLC. Sometimes this may feel difficult or overwhelming, especially for busy new mothers who are unable to prioritise themselves. The LSW Mind Cards: New Mum Edition provide smaller (but still effective) self care prompts that are easier to fit in alongside caring for your new addition to the family.
The Mood Stabiliser
Responsible for the key building blocks of life, serotonin is linked to mood, digestion, sleep and overall wellbeing. While 5% is produced within our brain, the majority of our serotonin supplies are generated from within our gut. This is why the gut is labelled as our second brain, as it contains the second largest network of neurotransmitters inside the body and communicates messages via the gut-brain axis. A happy gut therefore equals a happy mind. Studies have highlighted the strong connection between irritable bowel syndrome and mental health disorders, as irritation in the gastrointestinal system can trigger mood changes.
How can we boost it?
We can boost our serotonin supplies through eating a varied diet and gut-nourishing nutrition. Fermented foods such as kefir and kimchi, contain important gut loving probiotics. Polyphenols can also aid digestion and can be sourced from olive oil, dark chocolate and red wine - in moderation!
If you find that you struggle with falling asleep, why not try our Sleep Well Collection? The collection of five recordings is dedicated to helping you drift off into a deeply regenerative night’s rest.
Breathwork is an effective way to move from fight or flight mode to rest and digest. Did you know that the LSW Mind Notes includes guided breathing exercises in between journal pages, aiding your discovery of calm amongst the chaos.
During the early 70’s, while researching heroin and morphine addiction, scientists were baffled when they discovered human receptors that opioids were able to act upon. This led them to find our body's own natural narcotic which they labelled endorphins - derived from the word endogenous, meaning from within the body, and morphine, an opiate pain reliever.
Endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland when we activate our natural reward system through activities such as exercise, or in response to pain after experiencing an injury or stress. As psychologist Kimberly Wilson explains on the Hacking Happiness with DOSE podcast, “Endorphins are really beautiful in terms of evolution. Your body says, if you go through this stressful thing, it’s important and valuable for you. Exercise is not comfortable when you’re doing it, but to take the pain away, the body gives you a runner’s high as an incentive for you to do it again”.
How can we boost it?
- Physical Exercise
Partaking in aerobic activity for as little as fifteen minutes per day triggers the release of endorphins. Try and find a form of movement that you enjoy whether that be dancing, trampolining or even simply walking.
- Random acts of kindness
Research from Dartmouth University has found that engaging in acts of kindness big or small can increase endorphins. Why not use the LSW Mind Cards for inspiration? With a whole category dedicated to kindness, each prompt provides a different good deed to help you chase that helpers high.
It turns out there is scientific truth in the saying laughter is the best form of medicine. A Finnish study has found that laughter in a social setting triggers the release of feel good endorphins. Get together with friends and have a giggle!
By Helena Holdsworth