When you hear “hormones”, any number of things can spring to mind – puberty, fertility, sleep, sex and the list goes on. Believe it or not, there are over 50 hormones found in the human body, and they each have a different job to carry out! From managing our emotions and playing a part in our growth and development to regulating blood sugar levels and supporting the function of our reproductive organs, hormones are involved in numerous biological processes within the body.
But today we’re focusing on one group of hormones in particular, known as the “happy hormones”, that help us feel positive feelings like joy and pleasure.
Let’s dive deeper into what these hormones are, how they work within our bodies and what we can do to support their function.
What are the happy hormones?
Our bodies produce four hormones that help regulate our mood: oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. And all of these impact our mood in slightly different ways.
This hormone, usually referred to as the “love hormone”, gets released during physical affection like cuddling, kissing, and sex. Oxytocin can help promote a strong connection between parent and child, and it’s also essential for childbirth and breastfeeding. On top of that, this hormone promotes trust, empathy, and bonding in relationships.
Dopamine is commonly known as the “feel-good” hormone and is a neurotransmitter that plays a motivational role in your brain’s reward system. It promotes feelings of pleasure and also helps with learning, memory, motor function, and decision-making.
You know that feeling when you’re sitting in a restaurant and see your delicious dinner order making its way to your table? Dopamine gets released when you see your food, causing you to feel excited to take that first bite!
Endorphins are our body’s natural pain reliever. They’re released as a response to discomfort or stress. But this hormone is also released when you’re participating in activities that you enjoy such as working out, laughing, eating chocolate, having sex, and more. Endorphins are involved in how we perceive pain and pleasure, which can be different for everyone.
Serotonin, another neurotransmitter, is known as the “original” happy hormone because it contributes directly to well-being and happiness. It plays an important role in regulating your mood, digestion, sleep, brain function, and internal clock. 95% of serotonin is actually produced in the gut, where it controls bowel movement regularity and mobility, as well as nausea. This hormone also affects how fast your food moves through your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, how much fluid, like mucus, is released in your intestines, and how sensitive your intestines are to feeling full from eating.
And this can go both ways. Digestion can also affect how much serotonin is produced inside your body. In fact, studies found that serotonin levels were higher in those experiencing diarrhea but lower for those with constipation. On top of that, people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) who experience constipation tend to have lower levels of serotonin because the muscles in their rectum have a harder time responding to serotonin and absorbing essential nutrients, causing hard or lumpy stools.
What can you do to support the happy hormones?
Promoting the production of these hormones in your body will only make you feel better! And there are a couple of different things you can do throughout your day to support your happy hormones.
Move your body
Exercise isn’t just good for your physical health. It’s also great for your emotional and mental wellbeing. Moving your body releases endorphins, which are behind something called a “runner’s high” – as you start running, your breathing gets heavier and your pulse starts to quicken as your heart beats faster. As you continue to push yourself, a burst of endorphins is released, creating a short-lasting but truly accomplished, almost euphoric feeling right when you end your run. It also helps you feel relaxed and calm and shields you against the pain you may experience after an intense workout. At least, temporarily! Apart from that, regular physical activity also helps increase your dopamine and serotonin levels by activating your brain’s reward system.
Want to level up? Take your workout outside. Sunlight can boost your endorphin and serotonin levels because special areas in your retina within your eyes can trigger the release of these hormones. You can even try a group exercise, as it’s shown to have more benefits than solo exercise since it acts as a bonding experience and helps to build relationships.
If you’re not fond of working out, another option is to dance it out! Dancing to your favourite song can also release endorphins, especially when you’re dancing with the beat. Synchronizing our movements to the rhythm amplifies the benefits that dance has on our brain. This is because music and dance activate the sensory and motor circuits of the brain, in addition to the pleasure centers. A tip to feel even happier while dancing is to sing along to the song as well! This helps boost your oxytocin levels, reduce cortisol levels and promotes feelings of trust.
Eat a healthy diet
The foods we eat have a direct impact on how healthy our gut is. As a result of this, certain foods are known to trigger the release of specific hormones. So the next time you plan your meal, keep these foods in mind to increase your happy hormones:
- Dopamine boost: Yogurt, beans, eggs, almonds, and low-fat meats
- Endorphin boost: Spicy foods or foods with capsaicin such as peppers and chillies
- Serotonin boost: Foods high in tryptophan such as milk, cheese, and bread
Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that a well-rounded diet with plenty of fibre and probiotics can help support your gut health and promote regular bowel movements. Maintaining a healthy digestive system can help boost your happy hormones as a result.
If you’re finding it hard to include these foods into your daily diet, taking a supplement such as this one can also help boost your happy hormone levels and promote a healthy mood balance. It contains 5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP, which helps the body make serotonin and the body’s sleep hormone, melatonin. This formula is also enhanced with vitamin B6 and magnesium, which are both essential co-factors for helping the body convert and use 5-HTP.
Happy hormones help us feel, well, happy! And that’s why it’s essential to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help promote their production within our bodies. Spend quality time with your loved ones and form trusting connections, in addition to feeding your gut nutritious foods to help keep your gut happy and mood elevated!
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