How To Feel Happier13th Apr 2021
When you feel happy, joyful, with a sense of well-being, it's the result, physiologically, biologically and chemically, of an intricate, complex network of neurons (nerve cells) in your brain firing messages to one another. We all want to feel happier. So how can you make your neurons fire up?
Your brain has four chemicals that create happy feelings. They are endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. When activated, they start firing up and shooting themselves around your body and mind. But they can't start up all by themselves. You have to give them a helping hand.
Before discussing what you can do to activate your happy chemicals, let's take a look at what each one does, then you may feel more like having a go at firing them up.
The pituitary and hypothalamus glands in your brain produce these. They are the body's natural pain relievers created in response to discomfort or stress. They are linked to that sense of well-being that we all want. When we do something we enjoy, laugh, read a good book, eat something delicious or listen to lovely music, this triggers the release of endorphins. Endorphins also appear when we exercise, and they stay in the bloodstream for a while, making us feel good for some time.
This is a neurotransmitter, meaning it helps the brain send messages via the nervous system to different parts of the body to communicate with one another. It is known as the 'feel-good' hormone, essential for physical movement, motivation, feeling pleasure, learning, memory, motor system function, and well-being.
A neurotransmitter helping with pain relief, mood, learning ability, memory, appetite and digestion. It also promotes good sleep by regulating circadian rhythms. Without adequate serotonin, we can feel low and depressed. The gut produces 95% of serotonin, so an unhappy digestive system can make us feel down.
A hormone produced in the hypothalamus centre of the brain. It is linked to maternal behaviour, such as cuddling, strong parent-child and relationships bonding, empathy, trust, behaviour and pleasure.
So how can you boost your happy chemicals?
The simple answer is to eat right, exercise, get outside, do things you enjoy. But what if you feel low or stressed and cannot even bear to eat healthily or exercise, and don't enjoy doing anything right now? Make a little effort, note the positive changes, then do more. Knowing that you have a strong hand in making yourself feel better can motivate you to have a go.
You can't get serotonin from food but from tryptophan food, an amino acid that converts to serotonin in your brain. Eat healthy, balanced nutrition, which includes green tea and plenty of high protein foods like meat, fish and poultry, plus some carbohydrates, which will help the body absorb the tryptophan better. Carbs are not just bread and pasta. They are also in all fruits and vegetables.
Because most serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, eat probiotics that can increase tryptophan in your blood, helping more of it reach your brain: yoghurt and fermented foods kimchi or sauerkraut are probiotics.
Exercise increases emotional well-being and all four happy chemicals. All exercise can have positive effects, from martial arts to dancing, yoga and weight training. If you've heard of a 'runner's high', you might already know about the link between exercise and endorphin release. It's not just the fact that we have stopped mooching around and done some exercise that makes us feel good. It's also the exercise itself that produces endorphins.
Get as much sunlight as you can. Between rain showers, if the sun shines, get out in it.
Serotonin is low in winter and higher in summer. Serotonin impacts mood and SAD. Try a lightbox that mimics sunshine. Twice a day is all that is needed to boost serotonin levels.
There's also another reason for getting outside, especially if it's just finished raining. The air ions produced from moving water and sunlight are immediately absorbed into our bloodstream, creating a natural high.
Do things you enjoy. Ideas?
- A massage
- Feet up with a cup of tea and a good book
- Watch a comedy with a friend
- Walk in nature
- Listen to music
- Cook and enjoy a favourite meal with a friend
- If you have a demanding workload, do nothing at all! Just the thought of doing nothing will produce those four happy chemicals.
And laugh, laugh, laugh - it's the best medicine for creating happiness. Of course, laughter won't treat ongoing health issues, and it may take some getting used to laughing again when you have been feeling miserable for a long time. But it can help relieve feelings of anxiety, stress, low mood and feeling down in the dumps.
You can truly begin to feel better by boosting those four mood chemicals. Please have a go. It does work. Let me know how you get on.
Copyright © 2021 Brenda Martin