According to the World Health Organization, (WHO) depression and anxiety soared by an astronomical twenty-five percent in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health deterioration was most prevalent in the areas worst hit by the virus and spread related restrictions on movement and socialization within the population. I, personally, experienced the first panic attack of my life in the same year.
With the added stressors in the world today many people with no history of clinical depression are having to be more mindful of their mental health and for those suffering from occasional and mild cases of the blues a simple hormone hack may be just what they need to turn things around.
What are “feel good” hormones?
Simply put, hormones are the body’s messengers. When released into the bloodstream they act on organs and tissue to control how they work and also, how we feel. The four feel-good hormones are also neurotransmitters that carry messages across the space between nerve cells. These hormones are mood modifiers and when there are enough of them present in our bloodstream they produce feelings of well-being, calm, happiness, excitement, and even euphoria.
Dopamine evokes feelings of pleasure in our bodies because it is the hormone most associated with the reward and reinforcement system of the brain. Dopamine plays a role in other bodily functions as well including, learning, attention, mood, kidney function, pain processing, blood vessel function, sleep, and lactation.
We release dopamine when we anticipate a reward, like when we smell our favorite meal cooking and dopamine reinforces the feeling again once we eat causing us to want seconds.
One of the easiest ways to hack dopamine is by achieving goals. You can activate dopamine production every day by simply setting easily achievable goals and meeting them.
Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland and is commonly called the love hormone. Its primary function is to facilitate childbirth. Oxytocin stimulates uterine muscles to cause contractions and increases prostaglandins to make contractions come faster. Once the child is born oxytocin helps to move milk during lactation and facilitates the bonding of parent to child.
We secrete oxytocin when our partner sexually gratifies us and through the simple process of being touched by someone we love.
We can hack oxytocin by petting a dog, holding hands with our partners, or hugging our children.
Serotonin is a natural mood booster. It can stave off depression and cause feelings of euphoria. Serotonin is produced in the brain stem and moves to other parts of the brain to affect memory, sleep, body temperature, sexuality, breathing, fear and stress responses, and digestion.
We can hack serotonin by simply getting outside into the sunlight for an hour or two per day. Serotonin production also increases when we maintain healthy gut bacteria so taking soluble fiber, probiotics, and eating a healthy diet can boost serotonin. Exercise also boosts serotonin which is the hormone responsible for what is known as a runner’s high.
Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers but they also promote a feeling of well-being and relieve stress. Endorphins can be hacked in many ways including exercise, sex, meditation, and exposure to sunshine but one of the easiest endorphin hacks is to do something that scares us like watching a horror movie with the lights off. Endorphins are also released when we eat spicy food so replacing the popcorn with chips and salsa on a scary movie night will also give an endorphin boost.
This article originally published at https://tomilynchromance.medium.com/feel-good-hormone-hacks-be3ebf784fb