What if instead of just waiting for hormones to be released when we do something that makes us feel good, we did things to intentionally trigger them?
Most of us don’t think about our hormones much in daily life, we know they exist, we know teenagers experience changes due to hormones and if you’re someone who menstruates it’s likely you’ve been accused (rightly or wrongly) of being ‘hormonal’ at least once.
Most of us are aware at least of testosterone and oestrogen and the roles they play in human development from childhood to adulthood
The truth is, we are all ‘hormonal’. Hormones are pretty much running the show, whether you’re feeling sweet as pie or irritable and short tempered, hormones can be thanked for and attributed with it all.
What are hormones, and where do they come from?
Simply put, hormones are like little chemical messengers created in the Endocrine System; a system of glands and organs that are responsible for creating and distributing hormones into the bloodstream. They are the way our body communicates with itself. The Pituitary gland, Thyroid gland, Adrenal gland, Ovaries and Testes are all parts of this system along with many other lesser-known organs too. Endocrinology (the study of this system) still has much to learn and uncover about our hormones and the glands that produce them.
I’ve always been interested in how our minds and bodies work together, it’s one of the many reasons I became a therapist. Hormones drive pretty much every behaviour in our lives, though we may not always be aware that this is what’s happening.
For instance, the lovely rush of warmth and contentment you feel when interacting lovingly with the people closest to you is actually oxytocin, encouraging and rewarding behaviours that strengthen family bonds.
The feeling of blissed-out high-energy and satisfaction after going for a jog? That would be endorphins doing their thing, reducing your perception of pain and heightening feelings of pleasure.
But what if instead of just waiting for hormones to be released when we do something that makes us feel good, we did things to intentionally trigger them; to motivate us to have healthier habits in our work, leisure time and relationships?
Though you may absolutely not want one, a long hug after an argument with a loved one, lasting 20 seconds, will trigger maximum release of oxytocin (as well as serotonin, the mood stabilising and happiness hormone) making you feel closer, reducing stress and telling your brain that you feel safe and loved again. Mending the bond that felt broken with the warm, fuzzy, strengthening glue of oxytocin.
So, here's an introduction to the fabulous four – your happiest and most loved up hormones!
Oxytocin is often known as ‘the bonding hormone’. It’s released when we feel safe, connected, and close to people we trust.
Its purpose (outside of childbirth) is to strengthen bonds between humans, help parents bond with their babies, maintain family units and bring mates closer together.
Stimulate it naturally by:
If the word Serotonin rings a bell it may be that you’ve known someone who was prescribed Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. SSRI’s are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant, and their purpose is, you guessed it, increasing levels of Serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is most commonly associated with mood regulation, balanced sleeping patterns, improving happiness and decreasing anxiety.
This is the reward chemical. It’s organically triggered by things like praise, positive outcomes, winning, and food.
It gives our body a reason to keep going back for more (in the wild, going back for more when it comes to food and success is pretty important).
Endorphin is heavily involved in the fight or flight response and is actually a natural pain killer. It acts on the same opiat receptors in the brain that Morphine does. It helps manage pain, reduce stress and increase pleasure and is released when we are stressed or in pain but also when we are working up a sweat at the gym or eating.
So there you go, a few healthy habits and self-care practices you can incorporate into your routine to boost production of the hormones that will make your brain and body feel their best.
And quite a lot of these are covered in my consultations, treatments and training courses - helping you to do it to yourself, and to others!