The Four Body-Manufactured Chemicals that Affect Happiness

winter depression

About 4 to 6 percent of people may have winter depression. Another 10 to 20 percent may have mild Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, according to data reported by the American Association of Family Physicians.  But feeling happy may be more in your control than you realize. If you find yourself feeling inexplicably down, it may be because one or more of the four major chemicals in the brain that influence your happiness isn’t being produced in sufficient amounts. Consider the acronym DOSE to remember what those four chemicals are: 1) Dopamine; 2) Oxytocin; 3) Serotonin; and 4) Endorphins. Learning how to stimulate these chemicals in your brain can help you improve your mood. Have a more serious mood disorder, or are you suspicious you might? We can help.

Getting Happy

All of us are faced with circumstances that can affect our moods, but sometimes the chemicals inside our body are to blame for our roller-coaster emotions. They are called the ‘neurochemicals of happiness.’

“The balance of neurochemicals that evolved for millennia has been disrupted by our modern lives, making us more prone to depression, anxiety and malcontent. Pharmaceutical companies are eager to readjust this imbalance with a pill….simple lifestyle choices and changes in behavior can improve your brain chemistry, make you feel better and motivate you to maximize your human potential,” Christopher Bergland said in Psychology Today.  

Learning about these four main chemicals is helpful for understanding the science behind contentment.

Dopamine

The chemical messenger, Dopamine, is linked to the reward, motivation, memory and attention functions of the body and plays a role in regulating body movements, Healthline reports. “When dopamine is released in large amounts, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivates you to repeat a specific behavior. In contrast, low levels of dopamine are linked to reduced motivation and decreased enthusiasm for things that would excite most people.”

While the amount of dopamine is controlled by the nervous system, to increase the levels of dopamine without the intervention of drugs, Healthline says you can do the following: 1) Eat more protein; 2) Eat less saturated fat; 3) Consume probiotics; 4) Eat Velvet Beans; 5) Exercise often; 6) Get Enough Sleep; 7) Listen to music; 8) Meditate; 9) Get Enough Sunlight; and 10) Consider supplements.

Oxytocin

“Oxytocin is a hormone produced by the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland. This important hormone plays a crucial role in the childbirth process and also helps with male reproduction,” the Hormone Health Network reports.  “Studies of oxytocin also have found that it is an important chemical messenger that controls some human behaviors and social interaction. It is oxytocin that triggers the bond between a mother and an infant, and it may also play a role in recognition, sexual arousal, trust, and anxiety. Some research shows that the hormone may affect addiction and stress as well.”

Oxytocin has been nicknamed “the love hormone” because of its significant role in pair bonding. Oxytocin levels increase when you hug or kiss a loved one.

Low levels of oxytocin levels have been linked to autism and autistic spectrum disorders (e.g. Asperger syndrome) – a key element of these disorders being poor social functioning. Some researchers are applying synthetic oxytocin to treat these disorders. Low oxytocin has been linked to depressive symptoms and it has been proposed as a treatment for depressive disorders.

Get tested to find out if your body is producing the proper levels of oxytocin.  Technology is producing more and more disconnect between others which we need for natural oxytocin production.  To naturally boost your oxytocin, researchers suggest: 1) Interact, face-to-face with others; 2) Get a pet. Petting a dog or cat releases oxytocin in the animal and human; 3) Try moderate-pressure massage. Research has shown that this helps release oxytocin as well.

Serotonin

The chemical Serotonin has varying roles in the human body. It is often termed the happy chemical, because of its direct effect on wellbeing and happiness. It plays a vital role in regulating mood balance. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression.

“As the precursor for melatonin, it helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles and the internal clock.It is thought to play a role in appetite, the emotions, and motor, cognitive, and autonomic functions,” Medical News Today reported.  

To naturally increase your body’s serotonin levels try making modifications to your diet, exercise, light exposure and talk to your doctor about mood induction treatments, says Medical News Today.

Endorphins

The word “Endorphin” combines two words: “endogenous” (meaning “inside the body”) and “morphine” (a medication that relieves pain). This powerful chemical is your body’s natural pain killer.

“Endorphins are linked less to ‘Runner’s High’ now than endocannabinoids, but are connected to the ‘feeling no pain’ aspect of aerobic exercise and are produced in larger quantities during high intensity ‘anaerobic’ cardio and strength training,” Bergland says.  

Looking for natural ways to boost your endorphins? The Reader’s Digest offers the following 10 ways: 1) Sniff some vanilla or lavender; 2) Take ginseng; 3) Take a group exercise class; 4) Seek out daily laughter; 5) Have sex; 6) Savor some chocolate; 7) Listen to music; 8) Eat something spicy; 9) Volunteer; and 10) Go for a run.

What Can Balanced Well-Being Healthcare Offer for Depression?

Escaping the grip of depression often requires the strong inept hands of others experienced at diagnosing and treating what is triggering the depressive symptoms.

At Balanced Well-Being Healthcare, we offer a multidisciplinary, integrated approach to treatment in order to restore health and internal balance. We start this by first identifying your physical, mental, environmental, and nutritional state. By incorporating goals for health maintenance, prevention we seek to treat the whole person rather than just one component of you. Our natural therapies, combined with our integrative approach to understanding the underlying causes of your depression, can help us find you the help you need.

Some possible remedies include:

  • Exercise/increasing daily activity
  • Herbal supplements
  • Dietary balance
  • Counseling
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Mindfulness therapy
  • A support network
  • Relaxation techniques/meditation
  • Alternative therapies such as acupuncture

Restore Your Wellness

If you are suffering from depression act now to reverse your symptoms. The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) reports that 9.5 percent of adults in the US experience a mood disorder each year, and 45 percent of those individuals will experience severe symptoms of the disorder.  Call us today to learn how to live and thrive while improving your symptoms. Call Balanced Well-Being Healthcare for a consultation at 970-631-8286. We are dedicated to helping you return to feeling your best.