Spring Into Spring by Boosting Your Happy Hormones
Did you know that our hormones can influence our emotions? Whilst this sounds pretty far-fetched, if you’ve ever experienced the sensation of “butterflies in the stomach” or the sudden loss of appetite after hearing bad news, that's a result of your gut hormones communicating with your brain! It turns out that our hormones play a massive role in our bodies. They control the way we develop through life, they stimulate our appetite, let our bodies know when it’s time to sleep, and can even play a big part in the way that we feel!
If you’ve been feeling low and maybe even a little cranky for a little while now (don't worry, you’re certainly not alone), there’s a good chance that your happy hormones aren’t quite up to mark.
To help boost your happy hormones this spring, we’ve put together some simple mood-enhancing tips that you can implement within minutes, and best of all, they are all backed by science!
Grab yourself a bar of dark chocolate
Studies also suggest that dark chocolate contains potent compounds associated with the feel-good chemicals in the brain! Dark chocolate contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which assists our body in producing serotonin (the brain chemical that is linked to happy feelings). Dark chocolate also contains a compound called phenylethylamine, a chemical that stimulates the brain's pleasure centres to boost endorphins (one of the happy hormones) and anandamide levels (the bliss chemical which helps to create feelings of elation). Dark chocolate really is a deliciously easy way to help us relax and boost our mood!
Don’t forget to laugh (a lot)
Laughter not only enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, but it also helps to reduce stress and trigger the release of endorphins in the brain. It’s a great way to almost instantly give yourself a mood boost. Smiling is also an effective way to trick your brain into happiness. Whenever you smile, your brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides to help slash stress and can also increase levels of our happy hormones, including serotonin, endorphins and dopamine.
Nourish your gut bacteria
Our gut bacteria produce a great deal of our ‘happy hormones’ including serotonin and dopamine - more than 90% of our serotonin is made in our gut alone! Serotonin levels are easily influenced by the state of our gut, and that’s why it’s important to keep the gut healthy and strong! You can easily boost and feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut by eating more fiber-rich foods, such as beans, asparagus, peas, carrots, bananas, leeks, and psyllium husk. You can also nourish your gut by taking probiotics (good bacteria) to help increase the diversity of your gut bacteria - ideal for a serotonin boost.
Eat plenty of leafy greens in all their varieties. Greens such as spinach, rocket, broccoli and kale contain plenty of B vitamins that can usually be depleted in stress. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can reduce levels of serotonin, contributing to low mood. These B vitamins are natural mood boosters that help to balance out neurotransmitters for optimal function. Vitamin B6 in particular is necessary for the production and functioning of serotonin and dopamine.
Move your body
Exercise has been found to boost dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin levels. Any exercise that raises your heart rate is sufficient to boost your mood, with cardiovascular exercise being the most effective. Studies even suggest that you’re able to feel the effects of the mood-boosting hormones in as little as five minutes.
Riya Lakhani ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer with a special interest in plant-based nutrition. She has completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, and has developed a passion for writing about all things plant-based.