Whether you’re in lockdown or you’re simply looking to get yourself out of a bit of a slump, we’ve found some easy ways to naturally boost your mood! And yes, chocolate is one of them...
Our bodies and brains produce a ton of hormones every single day that keep all our systems in check. Four of these—dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins—are known as the happy hormones. They’re the hormones that are released when we laugh, when we hug someone we love, when we watch a romantic movie. Not only do they make us feel happy, but they also release tension, reduce stress, and even ease physical pain.
When you’re low on happy hormones, you can start to feel flat or worn out. We’ve put together a guide to help you hack your happy hormones (try saying that 5 times fast!) and get back to feeling like your best self.
The feel-good hormone
Basically, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that motivates and rewards you. When you work hard for something—a grade, an exercise goal, a new makeup technique, a promotion at work—the happiness and satisfaction you feel when you achieve it is dopamine at work in your body.
When you’re running low on dopamine, you might feel unmotivated, tired, or uninterested in things that you used to enjoy. You may even have trouble sleeping or difficulty concentrating. Luckily, there are some simple ways to up your dopamine production:
- Exercise: try not to go 3 consecutive days without doing some form of exercise: walking, running, dancing, swimming, weightlifting—the list is endless!
- Pay attention to what you’re putting in your body: it’s always a good idea to be conscious of what you’re eating, but especially if you’re feeling a little flat. To boost dopamine levels, try to incorporate more foods that contain the amino acid tyrosine into your diet. Eggs, bananas, almonds, avocados, beans, fish, and chicken all have high levels of tyrosine, which naturally boosts your body’s dopamine production.
- Try to reduce stress where you can: there’s no way to avoid stress, but there are many practices that will help you reduce your stress levels: meditation, massages, listening to calming music are some easy examples. Reducing the effects of stress keeps dopamine levels high and keeps you feeling great!
Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that regulates a lot of your body’s functions: sleep cycle, appetite, digestion, and of course, mood. Signs of low serotonin levels include fatigue, poor appetite, weight gain, low self esteem, and feeling depressed and anxious.
Here are a few ways to naturally raise your body’s serotonin levels:
- Exercise: are you sensing a theme yet? Physical activity is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get yourself out of a slump. While any form of exercise will boost your mood, the best exercises to improve serotonin levels are aerobic: walking, running, swimming, boxing, etc.
- Be kind to your gut: 95% of your body’s serotonin is actually produced and stored in your gut! That means that diet is super important in helping to produce serotonin. Try to eat 2 servings of fruit and 5 servings of veggies each day, and include lots of fibre-rich foods in your diet: nuts, seeds, oats, potatoes, lentils, and wholegrain cereals/breads/pasta are all great examples of food with plenty of fibre.
- Soak up some Vitamin D: if possible, spend some time in the sun! The Vitamin D will help your body produce more serotonin. The best place for Vitamin D absorption on your body is the insides of your wrists, so roll those sleeves up! Just remember to slip, slop, slap to avoid sun damage. If sunlight isn’t an option, try loading up on Vitamin D-rich foods such as fish, eggs, mushrooms, and milk (or soy milk if you prefer!).
The love hormone
Oxytocin is known as the love hormone—it’s produced in spades during childbirth, breastfeeding, and when you’re physically affectionate with someone (kissing, cuddling, etc.). Oxytocin helps you feel relaxed, can assist in building trust with someone new, and contributes to overall psychological stability.
Being low in oxytocin could lead you to feel disconnected from others or have low self-esteem. A drop in oxytocin also causes a rise in cortisol, which makes you feel anxious.
To help your body produce oxytocin, try one or all of these:
- Listen to happy music: studies have shown that listening to music you enjoy can boost oxytocin levels, so crank up the volume!
- Spend time with loved ones: and tell them you love them! Spending time with people you love and sharing with them how much you care about them are two ways to increase oxytocin and strengthen bonds. Hugging, kissing, holding hands, and having meaningful conversations with people you care about also raises oxytocin! This doesn’t have to be in person—set up a Zoom games night, FaceTime call, or Netflix Party with a loved one.
- Share a meal with someone you care about: research done on chimpanzees shows that sharing food with loved ones can increase oxytocin—same goes for humans. Plus, eating food you love can produce enough pleasure to trigger an oxytocin release! If you’re in lockdown at the moment and can’t share a meal with someone, try cooking the same recipe with a friend or family member over Zoom, or both join a virtual cooking class!
- Random acts of kindness: offer to help someone with a chore, send someone a handwritten note, donate a few dollars to charity, or buy your mum some flowers. Selfless behaviour promotes oxytocin release, making both you and someone else happy!
Natural pain relievers
Endorphins are produced in response to stress or discomfort—like a hard workout or childbirth! Therefore, low levels of endorphins can lead to aches and pains, depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
Endorphins are the easiest happy hormone to produce—letting yourself enjoy simple things is basically the gist of producing endorphins. There are a ton of quick, easy, enjoyable ways to produce endorphins. Here are just a few:
- Eat dark chocolate
- Drink a glass of wine
- Laugh: studies show that even forcing yourself to fake-laugh will trigger a burst of endorphins!
- Eat something spicy
- Exercise (but especially group exercise!)
- Eat your favourite food
- Get a massage
- Watch your favourite TV show
- Create art
- Listen to your favourite music
- Volunteer or donate to charity
- Meditate or do yoga
- Kiss, cuddle, hug someone you love
- Sit in a sauna
- Get acupuncture
- Try aromatherapy
There are tons of easy, fast, free ways to help your body and brain produce happy hormones. Most of them can easily be done during your lunch break, in a study break, or even while you’re sitting at your desk working! Need some more advice about staying calm and stress-free during lockdown? Check out our interview with two wellness professionals who gave us some expert tips.