Ever wondered what makes you smile at something and frown at another, as well as what determines the various levels of your mood? The answer to this largely involves your ‘happiness hormones’ or what are commonly referred to as ‘feel-good hormones’. The levels of these hormones in your body determine your positive and negative emotions, your smile, your frown and even your motivation.
What Are Happy Hormones?
There are four kinds of hormones that can have a profound impact on your emotional health and how you feel.
The key happiness hormone, serotonin, has a huge impact on your mood, but this brain chemical is also known to affect memory, appetite, sleep, cravings, pain tolerance and digestion. Low serotonin levels have been linked to development of various mental issues, primarily depression.
The brain’s pleasure chemical, dopamine, stimulates happiness and excitability. Although the pleasure reputation is well earned, dopamine also has an impact on many different areas like memory, behavior and cognition, sleep, concentration, learning and, most importantly, motivation.
A group of peptide hormones, endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers. Endorphins are similar to morphine in structure and thus mimic its function of euphoria and pain relief. Exercise is known to trigger the release of endorphins and is therefore associated with release of stress and tension.
Popularly known as the love hormone, oxytocin is associated with feelings of pleasure and is released in large amounts when you are aroused and during sexual intercourse. Other forms of physical contact such as holding hands, cuddling or hugging are also known to release oxytocin.
Now that you know what’s giving you all those mood swings, here are some tips to improve your happiness hormones:
- Diet plays an important role in regulating the levels of feel-good hormones in your body. A diet rich in slow digesting carbohydrates, proteins and adequate amounts of fats is necessary to make your happy hormones. It may sound a little odd, but carbohydrates that take longer to digest can increase the levels of serotonin in the body by making tryptophan available to the brain. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is required for the production of serotonin.
- Avoid quick fixers such as caffeine, refined carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol. These seem to give a kick and boost your mood but this feeling soon wears off, leaving you depleted and stressed.
- Exercise is your personal tool to not only increase your happy hormones, but also maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress and stay healthy. It is a natural stimulator for production of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine.
- Increase vitamin B levels in your body, especially vitamin B6 and B12. Both these vitamins are known to stimulate the production and function of the feel-good hormones in your body. Protein-rich foods such as fish, meat, chicken, eggs, cereals and soy are all good sources of vitamin B and should be included in your daily meals. Similarly, vitamin C and E are associated with increased levels of dopamine in the body.
- Calcium and magnesium are another set of minerals that can improve your serotonin levels. These are found copiously in nuts, milk and leafy greens.
- Soak up some sun to feel good and trigger your happy hormones. Sunlight produces vitamin D in the body which further aids in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, thus improving its levels.
- In order to improve your oxytocin levels, get connected to your partner. It’s not always about having sex, as scientists suggest that frequent cuddling, hugging, holding hands or kissing also act as pleasure boosters.