Feeling good is not only about your thoughts, although what you think has a significant impact on how you feel.
The neurochemicals produced by your body play an important role in how you feel mentally and emotionally. These chemicals are hormones that are produced when you perform certain activities. Getting the right D.O.S.E of these neurochemicals will really brighten things up for you.
The neurochemicals I am referring to are Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins.
Dopamine is also known as the 'Happy Chemical'.
When your dopamine hits a low
You need a good dose of dopamine when you keep putting things off because you are not motivated and seriously lack enthusiasm. You feel you don't have the energy for anything – like zero energy. You feel tired all the time, and you can't focus on what you are doing. Anxiousness and hopelessness seem to be permanent visitors topped with a sprinkle of mood swings.
How to naturally boost your dopamine
Dopamine is activated when you complete a task and celebrate the small things you have achieved for the day. Also, when you get all excited and look forward to seeing someone – for example, an old friend or family member you haven't seen for a while. Or when you look forward to that holiday that just seems to take forever to arrive. Or the excitement you experience waiting for that 'special' event to take place. Or when you meditate and think about good things.
All these activities activate dopamine. Dopamine is about having hope and having that hope come to fruition.
Oxytocin is referred to by many as the "Love and Cuddle Chemical."
When your oxytocin levels reach a critical low
With low oxytocin levels, you tend to feel lonely and stressed with an immune system that could do with some boosting. You have trouble bonding with people and feel disconnected from those around you, not really trusting their intentions.
An interesting article states that teenagers have low oxytocin levels. The same goes for people who prefer their own company to those of their friends and family.
Increasing your oxytocin levels
You know that feeling when you are playing with your dog or cat, and you both enjoy each other's company. You tease them, and they tease back, and it becomes a game of sorts. Doing this releases oxytocin and makes you feel loved.
The same happens when you play with a baby, a puppy, a kitten, or anything that is just too cute and adorable for words.
Hugging people you love releases oxytocin, the same with giving genuine heartfelt compliments.
Research has shown that when a person's oxytocin levels are high, they tend to communicate more positively when working on a task.
Serotonin is also known as 'the mood stabilizer' chemical.
When your serotonin is running short
This is the chemical to blame when you feel most in a bad mood than a good mood. Serotonin regulates your moods. You know you have a shortage if you lack confidence and feel easily offended by others. You become more sensitive towards what other people say and do. Your self-worth takes a knock as you become agitated by the many negative compulsive thoughts speeding through your mind, and you battle to sleep.
With low serotonin, you may also experience digestive problems. Did you know that when you eat something that irritates your tummy or is toxic, your gut reacts by creating more serotonin to help get rid of it more quickly? That nausea you feel when you have eaten something that was off results from increased production of serotonin.
I am sure most of you are familiar with the word "hangry" - when you become bad-tempered and irritable because you are ravishingly hungry? Well, that's when your serotonin levels are running short. Serotonin is governed by hunger, with 80% of it found in your gut.
Boosting your serotonin
Going for a walk outside first thing in the morning helps elevate your serotonin. The sunlight does serotonin production wonders, helping you feel calmer and more focused. But the most significant advantage is that you become more emotionally stable, and small things don't trigger you as easily.
Exercise also boosts serotonin production, especially when you get a massage afterward to relieve those sore muscles.
Doing things that make your life feel meaningful and purpose-driven will boost your self-confidence, boosting your serotonin.
Endorphins are known as 'the pain killer' chemicals – a type of morphine your body creates to help relieve stress and pain, having the same affect as opioid drugs.
When your endorphins are running on empty:
When your endorphins are running on empty, you will experience increased aches and pains. You will be more inclined to go for the wrong 'stuff' to help you get the high you are supposed to get from healthy habits like exercise. You will act on impulse rather than thinking things through.
The sad news is that stress and abuse of any kind can decrease your endorphins.
Filling your endorphin tank
Here is some really, really good news – eating chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, will help with endorphin production.
Now, most of us are more into chocolate than running. You often hear about a 'runner's high' when your friends have just completed their run for the day and are feeling exhilarated and super happy. This is known as an endorphin high.
Their running makes you feel so tired you want to give the guy who invented cars a big sloppy kiss – why run when you can drive? The only running you would do – perhaps - is if you forgot your phone somewhere and you might miss out on something posted on social media. The good news is that moderate-intensity exercise boosts endorphins (i.e., running to get your phone).
Listening to your favourite songs, dancing to the music, creating art, and laughing helps boost your endorphins and gives you that "life is just great" feeling.
Many factors can influence your D.O.S.E, and sometimes it's not that easy to get them into sync and balanced. This is when you need to see a professional like a doctor or psychiatrist that can give you the proper medication. Just like high blood pressure and diabetes need specific medication to improve, our neurochemicals can say the same. Your body can't do it on its own and needs more help.
So be kind to yourself and listen to your body.
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