Have you ever thought about what dictates our mood, our physical and emotional wellbeing?
What influences our mental health and determines how we feel one day versus another? Why is it that we sleep great one day, and then have a restless night the next? There are many internal and external factors. While external influences that affect our wellbeing are often out of our control, it’s important to be mindful of what is in our control.
There are chemicals in our nervous system that transmit when we feel stressed or anxious. One of these chemicals is cortisol. Think of this hormone as the fight or flight chemical. When you experience a faster heartbeat in a nervous situation, for example, your body is releasing cortisol. WebMD likens cortisol as “nature’s alarm system”. Adrenaline can be a helpful chemical when we exercise or do something active or that needs a lot of attention, but too much adrenaline, or adrenaline released at the wrong time can be counterproductive.
Just as we release chemicals like cortisol when stressed or anxious, the brain also releases chemicals responsible for pleasure, happiness or joy when triggered to. Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins are often called the four “happy chemicals.” But each has its own function. Oxytocin is a hormone often released during connection, whether physical or mental.
Meanwhile, serotonin, dopamine and endorphins are chemicals that we often associate with pleasure, reward and just general wellbeing. Anxiety and depression can often be a result of a lack of these hormones.
So, we all want to feel good. How can we boost the chemicals in our brain that promote general wellness?
While everyone’s brain is different, there are things we know for certain. Our body’s release endorphins when we exercise. If you are feeling down, a way you can make yourself feel happier is to go on a bike ride, jog, or any form that suits you and your lifestyle. Eating foods you enjoy, especially healthy foods, boost these happy chemicals. Or try listening to some music, which can also release these hormones.
Meditating is another proven way to increase the happy chemicals in your brain. It’s been shown that meditation increases serotonin levels in the brain. Meditation also produces Gaba, which is often called the calm chemical. If you want to feel less anxious or amped up, trying meditation is a great way to boost your mood. Meditation also helps produce melatonin, a chemical that helps with getting a good night’s rest.
We are still learning so much about our brain and mind and the way they operate. However, we know certain tools we can use to help ourselves feel optimal.
7 key meditation chemicals: Serotonin, melatonin, GABA. EOC Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2022, from https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/dhea_gaba_cortisol_hgh_melatonin_serotonin_endorphins/
Brain Chemistry & Your Mood: 4 hormones that promote happiness. Houston Methodist On Health. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2022, from https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2021/sep/brain-chemistry-your-mood-4-hormones-that-promote-happiness/
Raypole, C. (2019, September 30). Happy hormones: What they are and how to boost them. Healthline. Retrieved July 14, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/happy-hormone#supplements
WebMD. (n.d.). Cortisol: What it does & how to regulate cortisol levels. WebMD. Retrieved July 14, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol
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