The Best Drugs Are Free

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Free buzz? Well, then…while changing my natural state of mind has been tempting from time to time, it is comforting to know that it is ACTUALLY possible to do that in a healthy way!!  Let me introduce you to the 4 drugs that you can make all by yourself, for free: Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphins.  Hormone Hack!!! YESSS!!! These things are essential to our mental and physical health.  I cannot stress that enough.

These feel-good hormones can be produced on demand, from anywhere, almost anytime.  So why not use them as often as we can?  (Everyone else will appreciate our free buzz too!!) Here is a quick run down of what they are and what they do:

  • Dopamine. Also known as the “feel-good” hormone, dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that’s an important part of your brain’s reward system. Dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, motor system function, and more. So much more!
  • Serotonin.  This hormone (and neurotransmitter) helps regulate your mood as well as your sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability, and memory.  Who can’t use an extra dose of this?
  • Oxytocin. Often called the “love hormone,” oxytocin is essential for childbirth, breastfeeding, and strong parent-child bonding. This hormone can also help promote trust, empathy, and bonding in relationships, and oxytocin levels generally increase with physical affection like kissing, cuddling, and sex.  Whaaaat?!
  • Endorphins. Endorphins are your body’s natural pain reliever, which your body produces in response to stress or discomfort. Endorphin levels also tend to increase when you participate in activities, such as eating, working out, or having sex.  Ummmm ok!

So, while these “drugs” are free, they are also easy to make!  All you need to do is start by putting 10 to 15 minutes aside, and allow yourself to be your focus.  We owe this to ourselves (and the ones we love). Too many times, I have said, I don’t have time; I don’t feel like it; Maybe later. THOSE MENTALITIES MEAN YOUR SOURCE IS LOW!!  Those times are the best times to jump on these freebies.  I get excited talking about this stuff because seriously, its one of the best and easiest things we can do to maintain our healthy bodies and minds. Talk about LIFE HACKS!!

Here are some activities that can help jumpstart a mad production of these amazing things that our bodies have been gifted with:

Get outside! Boost your endorphins and serotonin level by spending time outdoors. Sunlight offers more than just Vitamin D.  Exposure to sunlight can increase production of both serotonin and endorphins. 10 to 15 minutes outside each day is all it takes!  Taking a quick walk on your break can do soooo much! (Just don’t forget sunscreen if you’re one of those sensitive types!)

Make time for exercise, even just 15 minutes (30 minutes is best, but start with a realistic amount of time, ANY amount of time). Exercise has a multitude of health benefits. It can also have a positive impact on your emotional wellbeing.  If you’ve heard of a “runner’s high,” (my personal FAVE) you probably know about the link between exercise and endorphin release.  But exercise doesn’t just work on endorphins. Regular physical activity can also increase your dopamine AND serotonin levels. 

Laughing; at yourself, by yourself, or with a friend.  Who hasn’t heard the old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine”?   Of course, laughter won’t cure ongoing health issues. But it can help relieve feelings of anxiety or stress, and improve a crappy mood by boosting dopamine and endorphin levels.  I’m sure we all know someone who needs a good laugh!  You can also make these hormones by being the funny guy.  So, share or watch a funny video, look up some jokes, or read DAMNYOUAUTOCORRECT.  I often can’t read those things out loud because I laugh until I have no air left and I’m just doing the silent shaking laugh, with bulging neck veins.

Cook (added bonus- do this with a friend)  This – in theory – could  boost all 4 of your happy hormones.  The enjoyment you get from eating something delicious can trigger the release of dopamine along with endorphins. Sharing the meal with someone you love, and bonding over meal preparation, can boost oxytocin levels.  This is one of my favorites because we all have to eat, and food is one of my love languages.

HAPPY FOODS:

  • spicy foods, which may trigger endorphin release
  • yogurt, beans, eggs, meats, and almonds, are linked to dopamine release
  • foods high in tryptophan, which have been linked to increased serotonin levels, the sleep drug.
  • foods containing probiotics, such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut can encourage the release of hormones.

Try supplements (check with your doc first if you are taking other medications) if none of the above will work for you. There are several supplements that may help increase your happy hormone levels. Here are just a few:

 ~ Tyrosine (dopamine)  

 ~ Green Tea (dopamine and serotonin)  

 ~ Probiotics (dopamine and serotonin)

Music!! ♬ ♬ If you don’t like music, well then…you may have bigger problems. Music can give more than one of your happy hormones a boost.  Listening to music, especially music that gives you chills or moves you, can increase dopamine production in your brain.  But if you enjoy music, simply listening to any music you enjoy will help put you in a good mood. An attitude adjustment can increase serotonin production.   

Meditate-I know, its hippy dippy.  BUT If you’re familiar with meditation, you might already know of its many wellness benefits — from improving sleep to reducing stress.  I will admit that meditation is difficult for me because my brain is so busy.  This is a LEARNED skill.  There are many excellent guided meditation videos on YouTube, as well as some incredible downloadable audio tutorials.  It’s actually not as hard as you might think. You don’t even need to sit still, though it can help when you’re first starting out.  Here is a quickie (literally 5 minutes):

Romance – Oxytocin’s reputation as the “love hormone” is well earned.  Just by being attracted to someone, you can create the production of oxytocin. But physical affection, including kissing, snuggling, spending time with someone you care about, or having sex, all contribute to oxytocin production. This can help increase closeness and positive relationship feelings, making you feel happy, even euphoric.  The kicker though: if you really want to feel those happy hormones, note that dancing and sex both lead to endorphin release, while orgasm triggers dopamine release.

Heeeeeyyy!!! 

Pet your dog or hug your kids.  If you have a dog or child, giving your babies some affection is a great way to boost oxytocin levels for you and them.  Hugging someone you love, or you pets for 20 seconds has been shown to increase serotonin levels. So hug a little longer.

Get a good night’s sleep. Not getting enough sleep can affect your health in multiple ways.  For one, it can contribute to an imbalance of hormones, particularly dopamine, in your body. This can have a negative impact on your mood as well as your physical health.  Aim to get at least 7 hours each night for sleep in order to restore the balance of hormones in your body, which will likely help you feel better.

Manage stress.  It’s normal to be a basket case from time to time. But living with regular stress or dealing with highly stressful life events can cause MAJOR drops in dopamine and serotonin production, which makes it even harder to deal with stress.

Get a massage: it boosts ALL of the happy hormones.   Trading massages with your partner will also create an extra boost of oxytocin and promote the feeling of closeness.  And who doesn’t love a massage?!  

These Happy Hormone activities are simple and easy to incorporate. So do yourself (and the people who spend their lives with you) a favor, and add as many of these as you can to your daily lifestyle.  You will never say, “Well, I shouldn’t have done that”.  It’s worth every bit of the time spent. You are worth every bit of the time spent on yourself.  The best drugs in life are free, and they are at our fingertips.

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