table top with sign that says my brain has too many tabs open

Can you use your brain to reduce stress? Yes you can… 

So, you’ve probably heard about the phenomenon called “being overly attached to your phone”? This happens when you become so attached to your phone that you can’t pay attention to anything else. We have become so obsessed with  – and stressed out by –  our devices that we’ve lost the ability to take pleasure in our lives. “So what do I do?”, you ask? Well one of the ways to relieve stress and anxiety is to use the chemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters found in your brain.

These things all come together to enable certain functions in the body. But they also serve an important role in the wellbeing by regulating our moods. When you have a better understanding of how these chemicals work, you learn the strategies for managing them naturally.

In this post, we’ll share with you four proven ways of increasing happy chemicals in your body.

Ready for a short science lesson to reduce your stress? Great! Let’s get started.

 

stress management journal
lab beakers with colorful chemicals inside

What Are Happy Chemicals?

I’m so glad you aske, my little mad scientist..

Chemicals get created in various glands in our body. The glands get their instructions from the brain to create these chemicals and they travel through the bloodstream, eventually getting to their destinations.

These various chemicals – also known as hormones – are responsible for managing various bodily systems. They include hormones for managing digestion, heartbeat, sex drive, and so on.

However, they can also make us feel such emotions as joy, sadness, hunger, and energy. Hormones are frequently referred to as ‘feel-good’ or ‘happy.’
These chemicals fluctuate throughout the day, and this is why you feel sluggish in the afternoon or exhilarated as an exciting event approaches.

The Primary Happy Chemicals

Below are the 4 primary chemicals responsible for the happiness levels in our body. Then in the following section, we’ll show you how each chemical affects your feelings of happiness and mood. .

  • Dopamine
  • Endorphins
  • Oxytocin
  • Serotonin
woman in white sweater whispering in child's ear

4 Ways to Increase Your Happy Chemicals

Want to know a secret? We have a lot of control over these happy chemicals that are created in our brains. How much or how little of them we release really depends on the choices that we make. So let’s explore how we can use this secret to our advantage.

person walking next to green grass

Find Time to Exercise

Physical activity has a plethora of health advantages, many of which have to do with our emotional and mental well-being. Exercise helps us sleep better and boost concentration and memory.

Studies show that when you exercise for at least 20 minutes, your body releases endorphins. This is a feel-good chemical that induces a sense of euphoria. For example, the idea that running can induce a “runner’s high.” is based on endorphins.

Another part of this is the fun fact that endorphins can actually block pain signals. They do this by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system. Part of this “runner’s high” is also the fact that the feeling of pain is considerably reduced.

Sweat with Friends

To get the maximum benefit of this wonderful natural mood stabilizer, you should try you best to do group outdoor activities and exercise. This way you may get some natural serotonin flowing into your bloodstream along with those endorphins that are being produced by exercising.

And better yet, you will have fun interacting with other people. Also, doing exercise is more fun if done with others you know. So go ahead, and let ’em see you sweat!

If you want to get some physical exercise but all of your friends are busy obessing on their phones, then try joining a class and exercising with other people. Who knows? You may run into someone interesting, start up a conversation and then get rewarded with a shot of oxytocin from your brain as a side benefit!

woman on yoga mat meditating

Cook and Share a Meal

In theory, a meal prepared and eaten together with your loved ones and can induce all four of these happy chemicals at once! So, let’s dig into these happy chemicals one at a time.

The Foxy Oxy

One way a relationship can strengthen over time is through the feeling of bonding with a loved one. When this bonding takes place – like over a meal – these feelings prompt the release of the “love” hormone Oxytocin.

It doesn’t matter which type of “love” either. Oxytocin is not specific to a particular set of attributes of love. It can get released when you are with your spouse on a romantic night out, or just when shaking someone’s hand.

A small amount of oxytocin helps people feel good about friendships and relationships, and it puts the mind at ease. So, it’s a wonderful stress-reducing hormone that you need to be aware of.

man looking surprised

The Dope on Dopamine

And there’s now evidence that there’s another hormone that’s released when experiencing pleasure. For example, the pleasure that comes from tasting delicious food! This is the happy chemical called dopamine. And while you’re eating that great food, don’t forget to laugh, as well. Studies show that laughter is truly ‘the best medicine’ because it triggers endorphin release.

We’re not making this stuff up…

On top of the happy hormones we’ve listed so far, there’s also serotonin to be found! But how do you find it? Well, it’s a little complicated but basically you get it from the tryptophan in the gut. Sounds yucky, but it’s not.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, and it’s vital for your health. But your body doesn’t make this stuff. So, according to scientists, eating foods that are high in tryptophan helps boost serotonin levels in your system becasue…. food that contain tryptophan are converted to serotonin.

Gut check

Eating prebiotic foods is also a terrific way to support healthy gut bacteria. By taking care of your microbiome, you can regulate your mental and emotional health. Who knew that your gut could help with your stress!

Some of the effects of prebiotics when used the right way are that they can make you feel more calm, more settled, and emotionally and physically more stable. So when you’re taking take care of your microbiome, you’re improving your stress and overall wellness.

Here’s a list of a few foods that can help you maintain a maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Oh, and guess what? Some of them contain tryptophan so it’s a double benefit!

 

  • Brussel Sprout – A source of folate
  • Wheat and oats
  • Onions and garlic
  • Legumes
  • All types of berries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Apples
  • Beetroot
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli – contains tryptophan

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sunrise through the trees

Enjoy The Sunshine

If you spend 10 to 15 minutes outside working, nature will make you feel just peachy. According to research, spending about 10 to 15 minutes outdoors works wonders for our moods. That’s because spending that time in nature will increase two of the happy chemicals – endorphins and serotonin, which can improve your mood and make you feel happier.

Sunny Secrets

Even you’re stuck indoors for most of the day, make the effort to spend at least a few minutes outside. This allows you a quick breath of fresh air to refresh your mood rather than just sitting inside. Oh and if the sun is out, all the better. The reason? When you’re outside, your body absorbs Vitamin D from the sun. This activates the production of an enzyme that converts tryptophan into serotonin. Wow! 

Here’s another secret. Natural light from the sun signals some specific areas in our retinas to produce serotonin. This phenomenon may explains why some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in winter when the days are shorter.

clock showing the time

Feed the Sleep Beast

Let’s face it. A lot of people have misconceptions on the topic of sleep. And to be honest, very few of us have a solid understanding of why they sleep, how they sleep, and when they should sleep. Getting enough sleep is a perfect stress reducer because there is a direct link between sleep and your hormones.

How much is enough?

If you lack the sleep that you need there’s a chemical imbalance that goes on in your body.

Dopamine is especially affected, and accordingly, your moods will swing wildly from euphoric and high to lethargic and depressed. Moreover, if you’re not fully alert in your life, you become disinterested in everything, including your surroundings. Of course, this can lead to your stress levels taking a roller coaster ride throughout the day.

To prevent all that, get anywhere between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Those few hours can really make a huge difference in your stress levels and your overall health as well. First off, they can assist in improving your mood by regaining the balance of those happy chemicals in your brain. This can help relieve stress and enhance your ability to concentrate and make everything in life just a little clearer.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips and tricks to ensure you achieve that precious eight hours’ sleep.

  • Don’t drink anything with caffeine at least two hours before bedtime
  • Avoid heavy meals several hours before going to bed
  • Turn off all screens an hour before bedtime
  • Reduce the lighting and noise in your bedroom
  • Meditate for at least five minutes before bedtime to relax and reduce stress
  • Set up a schedule where you go to bed and get up at the same time, even on weekends (yeah I’ve got to work on that one!)
sunrise through the trees

Conclusion

We’re all looking for ways to relive stress and anxiety in our lives. As part of this effort, we need to be aware of the impact that our choices and habits have on our brain. This grey matter can help us by releasing these four happy chemicals into our system, which can be a tremedous help in reducing our worry, stress and anxiety. Once we realize that we can help our brain to help us, then we can have a very powerful ally in our quest for calmer and more impactful life.  

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