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How to Boost Your “Happy Hormones” This Summer

By Skye Sherman  •   July 18, 2022
•    Medically Reviewed By Dr. Christine Bishara - Jul 18, 2022

Photo Credit: by Artem Beliaikin, Pexels.com
Photo Credit: by Artem Beliaikin, Pexels.com

Have you ever heard of happy hormones? Your hormones are some of the most important building blocks of your body. They control everything from appetite to mood, temperament, and more because they are responsible for coordinating various bodily functions. As MedLine puts it, “Hormones are your body's chemical messengers.”

Hormones are secreted by endocrine glands then travel through your bloodstream to the appropriate tissues or organs and impact many different processes, from growth and development to metabolism, reproduction, sexual function, and more. So it only makes sense that some hormones can help make you happy, while a lack (or surplus) of others can affect your mood negatively.

How can you boost your happy-making hormones? In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best summertime activities for boosting your happy hormones.

What are happy hormones?

Hormones, which are made by your endocrine glands (such as the pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas, testes, and ovaries), can have huge ripple effects. In other words, slight hormone imbalances can have major repercussions. Too much or too little of a certain hormone can have a huge impact on your health.

When it comes to being happy, the main hormone to discuss is serotonin. This important hormone, which helps to regulate your mood, is one of the biggest indicators of your overall feelings of wellbeing and contentedness in life.

As PsychCentral explains it, “When you feel happy, you’re feeling the positive effects of serotonin. Having high serotonin levels in your blood can help prevent depression and provide a feeling of bliss.”

TheLatch adds a few more happy hormones to the mix. “There’s a good chance you’ve already heard of the four ‘happiness chemicals’ — dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin. They’ve each been identified as playing an important role in our capacity to experience happiness and pleasure. … these chemicals help us to regulate our moods, emotions, and other key physiological functions. They also communicate messages from our brain to the rest of our body, and vice versa. … deficits or issues with them may contribute to a person’s vulnerability to a wide range of physical and mental health issues, such as depressive or anxiety disorders.”

Put simply, happy hormones such as dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin are the main hormones responsible for determining your mood, mental affect, and general outlook on life. These hormones send signals to your brain and body that tell you how to feel, how to think, and more. Happiness can’t be simplified to a chemical level, necessarily, but it’s a big part of it.

To make it even easier to understand, think about this: when you meet your basic needs (like food, water, and rest), your body reacts with a boost of serotonin and a lifted feeling. That’s why you always feel your best when you are hydrated or just had a good meal or a full night of sleep.

If you’re worried that you may have a hormone imbalance or your levels are out of whack, a good starting place would be to consult with a doctor. Your hormone levels can be tested via laboratory tests of your blood (most common), urine, or saliva. A qualified health care professional can order such tests if required or requested.

Ways that happy hormones can improve your health

There are a few main ways to boost serotonin levels naturally (outside of prescription medications, which we will discuss in further detail below). As with most things, diet, exercise, and self care have a huge impact on the status of your serotonin levels.

But get this: the steps you can take to boost your serotonin naturally also happen to be very good for you. PsychCentral lists the below nutrients as supportive of healthy levels of serotonin:

● “Complex carbohydrates: whole grains, vegetables, and fruits

● Proteins: milk, fish, whole grains, tofu, nuts, and seeds

● Vitamins: vitamin C, B, magnesium, and selenium

● Caffeine: coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages

● Probiotics: yogurt and other fermented foods or supplements

Amino acids help build protein and produce serotonin. Tryptophan is an amino acid that directly impacts serotonin. Many protein-rich foods contain tryptophan. Also, carbohydrates make tryptophan more active in the brain, increasing serotonin production.”

That’s why, in a way, you really are what you eat! If you’re eating in a way that benefits your happy hormones, you’ll also be improving your health through a balanced diet of nutritious, brain- and body-boosting foods.

But there’s another major way that boosting happy hormones can improve your health. Yes, we all know that exercise makes us happy and healthy, but are you aware of the true benefits of sunlight?

Next Step lists a few of the ways that sunshine promotes overall wellness:

“Stronger bones. … exposure to the ultraviolet-B radiation [triggers] your skin to produce vitamin D. Without enough vitamin D, you have an increased risk of developing rickets, osteoporosis, or osteomalacia. [Strengthen your bones with this surprising food.]

Reduced risk of certain cancers. It’s no secret that excessive UV exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer, but the right amount of sunlight can actually reduce your risk of other cancers. … individuals who live in low sunlight areas are more likely to experience certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer.

Healing certain skin conditions. Light therapy, specifically therapy with UV radiation, has been reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) to treat certain skin conditions, including eczema, acne, jaundice, and psoriasis.

Improved sleep. Because the sunlight helps to set your circadian rhythm, getting sunlight in the morning can actually help you sleep better at night. This can help improve your mood, boost mental clarity, and support your immune system.”

TriCityMed adds that serotonin-boosting sunlight can also lower your blood pressure: “When sunlight hits your skin, your body releases something called nitric oxide into your blood. This compound brings down blood pressure and improves heart health. Maintaining healthy blood pressure can reduce your risks of cardiac disease and stroke.”

Are you seeing the link now that what’s good for your mood (and thus your serotonin levels) is also good for your physical health? It’s all connected! Preventing disease is just the beginning.

How to boost your happy hormones

If your serotonin levels are in need of a boost, you should first consult a medical professional who is trained in matters of the brain and mental health. There are many different prescription medications to treat depression and other mental health conditions. Some antidepressants work by boosting your serotonin levels.

But there are also other ways outside of prescription drugs to up your serotonin levels and help boost your mood naturally. As discussed above, certain foods can help or hinder your serotonin levels. Exercise and sunlight are two other major contributing factors.

Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids can impair your body’s production of serotonin, so consider supplementing your diet with fish oil. But serotonin also goes beyond what you do and consume. You should also consider meditation and massage.

PsychCentral reports: “A 2015 review … found that people experienced a rise in serotonin levels after meditation sessions. Meditation also helps balance other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. … Touch can [also] have a significant impact on your serotonin levels. The same 2015 review suggests that massage therapy increases serotonin and dopamine levels, improving happiness and reducing pain. You may also feel similar effects when a loved one hugs or touches you.”

To boost your happy hormones, take a look at your diet and exercise routine, how much time you spend outside, and also your activities such as how often you meditate, how much time you spend with loved ones, and how comprehensive your self-care routine is.

And remember that serotonin isn’t the only happy hormone. Consider also your levels of dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin and how you can boost them. TheLatch recommends:

● “To avoid the rollercoaster of dopamine spikes and dips, which can lead to chasing the ‘dopamine high’, try to put limits around things like social media, high sugar foods, alcohol and illicit substances. …

● Some tried and tested endorphin-releasing activities include exercise that gets the heart pumping and goes for at least 30 minutes, a good belly laugh, meditation, acupuncture, getting some sunshine, and physical touch through massage or sex. Connecting with music, either through singing, dancing, playing or simply listening, can also give us an endorphin boost. Some research suggests that performing acts of kindness can boost endorphins for both the giver and the receiver, so that one is win-win. …

● We can give ourselves a boost of this ‘feel good’ hormone [oxytocin] through pleasant physical touch, whether that be patting an animal, giving someone a hug, making love, cuddling on the couch, or giving or receiving a massage. Less commonly known ways to get a boost include positive social interactions, meditating, exercise, being involved in a group activity, listening to music and singing, or doing something exhilarating like riding a rollercoaster, skydiving or bungee jumping.”

If your healthy habits need an overhaul, the above activities and suggestions are a great place to start. Pick up a new activity, spend time with a pet, join a club, or do something totally outside your comfort zone. Your happiness levels will see a lift in no time.

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Disclaimer:

The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.