Almost any illness or disease can be caused in part by stress. And yet we all make excuses to hold on to it, simply because it’s become a regular part of juggling busy schedules and handling communication and information overload. But there are small things we can do to stop the stress cycle “ or at least slow it down. Our brains are armed with chemicals to combat stress and hardwired to deliver all the happiness we need, even if we’ve just been dumped or fired. Read on for easy ways to ignite a happy spark. You’ll be glad you did “ even if just because of these feel-good chemicals.
Serotonin is a chemical that regulates many crucial brain functions like sleep, appetite, sexual interest and mood. It’s produced when you digest foods containing the amino acid Tryptophan.
Carbohydrate-rich foods are the most effective serotonin-boosters, but lean proteins are an excellent pick too if you’re watching your weight. Regularly getting enough sleep (seven hours is the magic number for most people) will also help boost your base serotonin levels.
This chemical is associated with the brain’s reward centre and is similar to adrenaline. Dopamine makes us feel satisfied or fulfilled, which is why it plays a role in addiction. It’s released during primitive tasks like eating, drinking and sex to make necessities feel like rewards and keep us alive.
Ironically, risky behaviour like skydiving also increases dopamine levels. If you’re not up to jumping out of a plane on your lunch hour, indulge in a quickie when possible or cut back on alcohol and caffeine “ both can decrease dopamine production.
Some of the most well-known feel-good chemicals are endorphins. Endorphins produce feelings of euphoria and intimacy. They’re most famously produced through exercise, but endorphins are also released when you’re with someone you love and trust. If you’re lacking an LTR, positive physical contact (like hugging or holding hands) can result in a small endorphin boost too.
But perhaps the easiest and most satisfying ways to produce endorphins are laughing and eating chocolate. Keping your indulgence under control is key “ a couple Hershey’s kisses will do the trick.
Oxytocin goes by all kinds of nicknames, all love-themed. It’s been referred to as the bonding hormone, the cuddle hormone and even the love hormone, because it comes from caring about and bonding with someone.
Oxytocin is boosted through positive touch, gratitude and emotional connections, and helps create permanent love, like in parent-child relationships. It has a calming effect and reduces cravings. The best part is that the more oxytocin you produce, the stronger your feelings of happiness are.
The easiest way to release more oxytocin is to touch more. Hug the people you love more, have more sex and give and get massages.