Hormones are chemicals that are secreted into the bloodstream by specialised glands in the body, called the endocrine glands.
The receptors in the brain responds to these hormones released in the body. Different glands in the body secrete different hormones that are responsible for specific functions within the body. They are essential for all the activities of our daily living, including the processes of digestion, metabolism, growth, reproduction, and even mood control.
Any fluctuations or imbalances in our hormone levels can have an impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. Hormonal imbalances cannot be readjusted by simply taking a pill. Understanding hormones is important in order to be able to cope with them better—and also help in generally feeling happier and more fulfilled.
Eating a diet that consists of whole foods and foods rich in healthy fiber, probiotics and prebiotic, helps ensure that the gut is full of good bacteria. When the gut is happy, it will absorb nutrients more efficiently, in order to make the happiness hormones and communicate effectively with the brain to regulate the body’s hormone function.
The most common hormones that can regulate and boost our mood and affect our happiness are Endorphins, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Dopamine. After taking care of the gut, there are specific ways to boost each of these happiness hormones.
Endorphins are one of the feel good hormones and are responsible for stimulating feelings of bliss, pleasure and wellbeing and also in masking pain or discomfort. It also helps in appetite control and helps in staying focussed.
Drinking wine and eating chocolates are known to be mood boosters that release endorphins. However, these are not always healthy options and may not be beneficial for the body in the long run.
Healthy ways to get your daily dose of Endorphins:
- Moderate exercise regularly (Too much exercising can also have an opposite effect and turn up your cortisol level. Your body perceives overtraining as a form of negative stress. Therefore, you should listen to your body.)
- Laugh as laughter releases endorphins
- Read or watch funny shows or movies
- Get a good massage
It is a powerful hormone that helps to increase trust and empathy and helps us form bonds with others. It helps promote feelings of emotional attachment and desire to cuddle. It is also called the ‘cuddle hormone’ or the ‘love hormone’ because it increases with touch and stimulation. It affects pleasure centres in the brain and helps to relax and calm the mind.
Self-soothing behaviours such as smoking and stress eating are two unhealthy ways to increase oxytocin.(Too much oxytocin creates walls between you and those not in your inner circle by intensifying fear and mistrust towards those not a part of your social group.)
Healthy ways to get your daily dose of Oxytocin:
- Maintain face to face relationships and avoid being glued to electronic devices
- Spend time cuddling with your partner, kids or your pets
- Share leisurely meals with others
- Take a warm bath or soak in a warm tub of water
- Be nice to people. Exchange a smile or kind words
- Getting a friendly back rub or pat on the shoulder also helps
- A self massage like rubbing your shoulders, temples and the tight spot between your eyes helps
- Do yoga
Serotonin functions as a mood stabiliser and is one of the most popular ingredients in anti-depressants.
It regulates mood, improves learning and memory, improves self esteem, relieves depression and reduces food cravings. Most of it is made in the gut. It is primarily known as a feel-good hormone because its release leads to a feeling of inner satisfaction. It is also involved in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle and body temperature.
Low levels of serotonin causes depression, migraine, weight gain, insomnia, craving of carbohydrate rich foods, etc. Excess of serotonin in the body causes agitation, state of confusion, sedation etc.
Healthy ways to get your daily dose of Serotonin:
- Choose positive thoughts
- Remember happy events
- Get sun exposure
- Walk in the nature
- Eat more tryptophan-containing foods, like dairy, bananas, poultry, fish, eggs, soy, oats, nuts, and seeds
Eating carbs along with foods high in tryptophan increases serotonin levels. This partly explains why we crave sweet and starchy foods when we are feeling down. For the best mood boost with the least negative impact, choose healthy, high-fibre sources of carbs such as a banana or oatmeal.
When dopamine is released in large amounts, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivates you to repeat a specific behaviour. Dopamine is the main reason why you feel good after exercising. Low levels of dopamine are linked to reduced motivation and decreased enthusiasm for things that would excite most people.
Drug intake floods the brains with excess of dopamine which leads to the euphoric feeling. However, it also interferes with the brain’s natural dopamine system and can disrupt its normal cycles. The brain responds to the extremely high levels of dopamine released due to drugs, by naturally producing less dopamine on its own.
The dopamine cycle is just one of the reasons why breaking an addiction is so incredibly challenging. Most people cannot overcome an addiction on their own. A therapist or counsellor can be a great person to have as part of your support system, if you are struggling with an addiction.
Ways to get your daily dose of Dopamine:
- Exercise regularly
- Take protein rich foods
- Reduce intake of saturated fats
- Think positive
- Ensure you get good quality sleep
- Listen to music
- Get enough sunlight
All of our feelings and emotions are a result of chemical reactions taking place in our body. These reactions are responsible for making us feel negative emotions, like anger and sadness, as well as positive emotions, like love and happiness. For a healthy and happy life , it is important to implement positive lifestyle changes in behaviour that are essential for the balance in brain chemistry.