10 happy habits to boost your feel-good hormones

Delna Mistry Anand/Dubai
Filed on September 16, 2021

Understanding self-care inside out

Let’s admit it, it’s usually our lousy moods or underwhelming behaviour that we blame on our hormones! Along with food cravings, emotional outbursts, depleting energy levels, hair fall, hair growth and what not. How often have we actually attributed our chirpy moods to our hormones?

The past two years haven’t been particularly easy for many people around the world. Collectively, we’ve dealt with loss, sadness, trauma. Research shows that even those who were not directly affected during the pandemic, have been impacted by the prolonged confinement, isolation and grim reality. ‘Cabin fever’ though not a medically defined condition, is a ‘folk syndrome’ commonly being used to describe a combination of anxiety, irritability, moodiness, boredom or feeling of dissatisfaction.

The opposite of happiness isn’t always unhappiness. If you feel that you’re dragging your feet through life, or no longer getting a kick out of things that once brought you joy, that’s a sign that something needs to change.

Being happy is often easier said than done — especially in these current times. But it is actually scientifically proven that “true happiness lies within”. It’s interesting to know the role that our hormones or the chemicals in our body play in the way we experience life. Studies have shown that our state of general well-being really boils down to the chemicals in our brain. So, happiness, sadness, anger, anxiety — all can be traced to what’s going on inside our body.

Hormones are chemicals produced by various glands in our body. They travel through the bloodstream, acting as messengers and playing a part in many bodily processes. Our hormones determine everything from our sleep to eating patterns, ability to remain focused at work and they help regulate our mood.

The happiness hormones that our body is capable of producing by itself include:

Dopamine the feel-good hormone that plays a motivational role in brain’s reward system; Oxytocin the “love hormone” that’s all about bonding, love, trust and empathy; Serotonin that reduces depression; and Endorphins that make us happy and thus, help to reduce physical pain.

So while we can’t change what’s going on around us, we can make small changes within us and bring about joy. Happiness can be found in the most mundane things of life. And it means different things to different people. But by adding a few ‘happy habits’ to our day, we can actually give our life a positive slant.

It’s time to change the reputation that we have given hormones, and use some hacks to bring a dose a happiness in our lives.

1) Start with your hardest task first.

Author of Habits of a Happy Brain Loretta Breuning writes that the dopamine rush you get by accomplishing your hardest task first motivates you to reach the rest period.

2) Get some sunlight

Natural daylight helps boost the production of serotonin in your brain, which in turn makes you feel good. Sunlight also improves the release of melatonin, which helps you sleep better at night.

3) Breathe

Taking slow, deep breaths lowers your heart rate and activates your nervous system. Practice diaphragmatic breathing and slow your breaths to around six breaths per minute — even if for a few minutes per day.

4) Journal

Studies show that linguistic processing of emotions produces less amygdala activity (the integrative center for emotions, emotional behaviour, and motivation), helping you to feel less distressed. Try Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages: writing three pages free-style every morning.

5) Nostalgia

Reminiscence about happy times, friends and family members, holidays, old photos, old songs, weddings. Strolling down a pleasant memory lane can improve your mood and stimulate inspiration and motivation and also boost serotonin levels, research has found.

6 Stretch, walk, move

Moderate intensity exercise can be helpful to boost your endorphins. It also massages the organs inside your body. Try to get at least 45 minutes three times per week.

7 Boost your gut health

There is more and more evidence that the bacteria in our gut exerts influence on the brain. Probiotics and prebiotics could help lessen anxiety and depression. And if ‘you are what you eat’, you may as well eat the good stuff.

8) Gratitude

Gratitude is a choice, and how far can you go with comparison? Its really up to you which side of the garden you choose to water.

9) Be generous

Doing something good for others is an instant way to light up your life. Make a donation to your favourite cause or simply show a small act of kindness.

10) Smile more often

When we smile, our muscles can send feedback to our faces that life is good and all is well. It’s also infectious and gets others to smile back. Isn’t that something worth spreading?

wknd@khaleejtimes.com