Happy hormones: What are they and 11 ways to increase them
While there is no exact measure of happiness, it can present itself in various ways; both physically and emotionally. Have you ever noticed a positive change to your mood when partaking in an enjoyable activity, listening to uplifting music or exercising? This is certainly no coincidence – this is down to happy hormones!
Hormones are chemicals in the body that act like our own personal messengers. By travelling through the bloodstream, they effectively help manage different functions in the body. While we have multiple hormones in the human body, certain ones specifically help promote positive feelings and happiness. These happy hormones are discussed below.
Also known as the ‘feel good hormone’, dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter that communicates with the brain and encourages pleasurable sensations. By promoting our brain cells to take certain actions, dopamine has a big influence on our behaviour.
To put it simply, this hormone influences the entire body. Serotonin enables brain cells and other nervous systems to communicate, which in effect stabilises mood and happiness.
Endorphins are powerful hormones that reduce pain and boost pleasure. Cardiovascular exercise is an excellent way to increase this hormone and is partly the reason why athletes can work through the pain of intense activity.
Known to be the ‘love drug’, oxytocin gets its curious name from being linked to compassion, trust, sex, and relationship building – with levels known to increase during hugging and orgasm.
Although it’s great to know we have these hormones working around the clock and injecting joy into our lives, sometimes we need a little extra boost. Often, our surroundings such as a dreary day, stressful work problems or relationship issues can impact our wellbeing. Luckily, it is possible to naturally boost these feel good hormones quite easily.
Here’s a list of 11 ways to boost happy hormones
It is often said that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ and while it may not treat health conditions, it can certainly increase dopamine and endorphin levels – key chemicals in encouraging positive feelings.
Whilst holding the power to decrease stress, laughter has also been recognised as a cognitive behavioural therapy to aid individuals who struggle with stress and depression.
So book those comedy tickets and increase those endorphins!
Downward dog it is! It is said that the number of people who meditate globally is estimated to be anywhere between 200-500 million – staggering figures. What was once an activity for only those people ‘in the know’, meditation has become one of the most powerful wellbeing trends to emerge.
The many benefits of meditation include, feeling relaxed, focusing on the present and increasing self-awareness. The practice also has a positive impact on hormone levels by increasing dopamine and spurring endorphin release.
It goes without saying that sleep is important for a number of reasons; one being to restore the balance of your hormones. Poor mood can stem from poor sleep, due to the decrease in dopamine.
Ensuring you receive between 7 and 9 hours of sleep means that the body is able to recover and leave you feeling refreshed; both mentally and physically.
If you’re one of those people who struggle with insomnia, implementing a routine and a consistent sleeping pattern will help. We have also compiled a list of tips for those who want to sleep better during menopause.
As well as being the perfect way to boost happy hormones, exercise has many physical benefits too – a win, win! As we’ve established, exercise is linked to endorphin release that often leaves individuals with a euphoric and joyful feeling. The phrase ‘runners high’ probably makes a lot more sense now!
Physical activity can be daunting, so start off with a walk and go at a pace that suits you. The only winner here is consistency…
Certain foods contribute to wellbeing and happiness and believe it or not, one of those is chocolate! Dark chocolate more specifically (with a high % of cacao) contains neuromodulator phenylethylamine, which naturally increases feelings of positivity. To support this, a survey-based study looking at chocolate consumption and depression found that people who eat dark chocolate are less likely to report depressive symptoms.
Spicy foods, yoghurt, eggs, almonds and many other foods are also said to boost happy hormones. Curry for dinner?
Aromatherapy is great in generating the brain to release serotonin and dopamine in response to certain scents. Essential oils are now a part of everyday life and are perfect for those who suffer with stress, anxiety and depression. Available in all forms, essential oils can be now found infused in jewellery, used in humidifiers and present in most workplaces; in the form of a diffuser.
So lather up on the lavender and begin feeling your happy hormones increase.
Have you ever heard a song that sent chills right through you? This is your body triggering a release of dopamine to your brain. Music has the power to instantly change how you’re feeling, so if you’re feeling down in the dumps, pick a song that you love to boost those hormones right up!
Singing is also a great way to naturally spark joy. In a study, it was found that singing for half an hour notably boosted oxytocin levels, with singers feeling more elated and energetic after the session.
Healing therapies such as massages, hydrotherapy and acupuncture (to name a few) are brilliant for relaxing the body and relieving pain. Massages in particular are also one of the very few activities that boost all 4 ‘feel good’ hormones!
To make the most out of the activity, be sure to include some essential oils for an extra dopamine and serotonin boost!
Oxytocin didn’t just get the name ‘love drug’ from nowhere. Physical touch, including kissing, hugging, sex and orgasm, all contribute to an increase of oxytocin levels in the body. In addition, sex triggers endorphin release, whilst orgasm spurs the increase of dopamine.
So go ahead, pour a glass of wine and get those hormones spiking!
The great outdoors
Suffering from the summer blues? Research proves that exposure to sunlight can increase production of both serotonin and endorphins, leaving you calm, focused and less anxious.
There really is no better cure when you’re feeling stressed than sunshine and fresh air. If you’re one of those people who feel constantly busy, set aside just 20 minutes a day to embrace the outdoors.
Pet your dog
Surprisingly enough, showing affection to your dog at home can not only increase oxytocin levels for yourself, but your furry friend too! A University study found that petting a dog for just 15 minutes not only increases oxytocin, but also serotonin, and even lowers blood pressure by 10%.
If you are not a pet owner, there are still ways to get your happy hormone fix. Whilst out and about, simply seeing a dog that you love can uplift your mood, as well as stroking friends and family’s pets.
Addressing a hormonal imbalance
Hormonal imbalances are perfectly normal and are nothing to be concerned about. While the above activities support a positive boost in happy hormones, you may still be feeling the emotional and physical effects of an imbalance. If this is the case, you should seek professional advice.
There are plenty of treatments out there to help you through the menopause, including bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, which is specifically tailored around you, and your individual needs. As a result of replenishing the exact hormones that you are deficient in, your body can be restored and alleviated from the unpleasant side effects caused by hormonal imbalances.