While gatherings can be delightful, some times the holidays add as much pressure as they do pleasure. The great news is that regardless of our mood or circumstances, we can cultivate happiness and pass our good feelings on to others. While this can sometimes feel elusive, we can adopt simple daily habits that can literally help our bodies release ‘feel good’ hormones that help us feel happy. After all, happiness is a feeling. An easy way to being happy is to stimulate these ‘feel good” hormones. Activating parts of the brain through environmental interaction releases more of the feel good hormones like endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. Each of these feel good hormones play a vital role in happiness and can be encouraged by simple actions.
Endorphins are ‘happy hormones’ that help to boost pleasure and well being, relieving pain and reducing stress. It is no surprise that endorphins are spurred through exercise and movement, lovemaking, laughing, joking, dancing and deep breathing. Ironically, venting one’s stress also floods the body with endorphins, the reason we feel good when we let it out and let go. Creativity also ignites the happy hormone as does enjoying dark chocolate, eating spicy food (yep bring on more cayenne), and for those that enjoy red wine, now you know why you like it so. Get this, cold water showers or swimming will also spark the happy hormones.
More commonly known as the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin is the brain’s most classic ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter. Primarily responsible for the warm feelings that encourage bonding with others, oxytocin is released from the brain every time we hug someone or pet an animal, another reason to say ‘yes’ to touch. Also triggered when we do a good deed, speak to a loved one, share quality time with friend, sing, practice yoga or receive a massage, oxytocin is released with the consumption of caffeine (ideally from a metabolic stimulus such as organic Yerba Matte green tea to avoid the downsides of caffeine derived from coffee or black teas, the latter taxing the nervous system and potentially the adrenals over the long term). Consuming a whole foods supplement loaded with vitamins C and D also contributes to the production of oxytocin.
One of the more popular hormones, known as the ‘chemical of pleasure’, dopamine is responsible for managing the brain’s reward center and is vital for many duties including kidney, pancreatic and immune system function. Its release is easily sparked through something as simple as completing a small task, engaging in movement or exercise, getting a good night’s sleep, mindful meditation, enjoying time in the sunshine, listening to upbeat music or even consuming a diet rich in green leafy vegetables (plant protein). It may be no surprise that dopamine is also triggered by delicious dark chocolate, hence the infamous chocolate cravings.
Another ‘feel good’ hormone, serotonin balances emotions affecting mood, memory and learning, aiding digestion, managing appetite and improving sleep. Interestingly, 90% of the serotonin the body produces is in the intestinal tract, the body’s literal other brain so hence the reason to nourish the gut with super green foods and to detox the microbiome on a regular basis. Serotonin is also encouraged through mindful breathing exercises and meditation, yoga, time sitting or walking in nature, listening to the sounds of nature, basking in the sunshine, positive thinking, and is further encouraged through infrared saunas, massage, and easy listening music.
Blissful feelings may also be encouraged through the use of many essential oils through olfactory glands that act as a messenger for the brain. Some medicinal oils stimulate the limbic system of the brain, in particular lemon oil, lavender and bergamot are known to activate dopamine and serotonin for a calm uplifting effect. Black pepper, rose and grapefruit oils have been shown to increase epinephrine, an important neurotransmitter that regulates excitement. Please be mindful to use discretion in burning essential oils in the home. Many essential oils are harmful to your pets especially felines (cats) whether they are aloft in the air or they come in contact with the oil on your skin; for this reason always wash your hands after using essential oils before petting or handling your cat.
Holidays or not, most of us would opt to feel good over not if we thought we had a choice. Still yet, some days our biorhythms may be simply off. Through some of these easy actions, we can encourage the release of the ‘feel good’ hormones and our mood can shift from ho hum to happy. So create your mood and enjoy your life – – – breathe, enjoy a favorite tune, dance a little jig, sing, take a cold water rinse, eat your greens, get in the sunshine, be in nature, repeat positive affirmations, jump up and down, do a good deed, shake or shout it out or whatever else catches your fancy. Make it a habit and enjoy the benefits of being authentically happy. Life happens and not everything that happens feels good. However, your amazing body responds to all of these stimuli and in spite of challenges, feeling good is within reach. Feeling good is vital to my life and to my soul’s purpose. When I feel good, I affect those around me and when I don’t I affect those around me. I choose to feel good and you can too.
Sources and Resources:
Cohen, Jodi. Vibrant Blue Oils: 10 Ways to Heal the Brain with Essential Oils
Davidson, Katie. HealthLine: Why Do We Need Endorphins? 30 November 2021
Van der Poel, Daniel. Endophun How Swimming In Cold Water Boosts Your Endorphins 27 February 2022
Spirit Science: Health and Wellness: How Deep Breathing Benefits Us (Scientifically) 02 August 2020
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