If you feel like you’re struggling more than usual this year, you’re not alone. It’s probably fair to say that most people are facing challenges amid the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. For many people, winter is a challenging season even when we are able to go places and enjoy our usual lifestyles. If you’re anticipating winter blues hitting extra hard this year, try taking advantage of these scientifically-proven mood boosters.
The body makes four types of hormones that, when released, trigger feelings of happiness. They are: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. When you experience happiness, it’s likely because of one of these hormones. Here’s how to take advantage of that.
Dopamine is linked to motivation and reward. It’s the reason that setting and reaching goals feels great. On the flip side, low levels of dopamine can explain losing interest in things you used to enjoy and feeling like you lack motivation. Low dopamine levels can occur with depression.
Because it’s associated with rewards, bad habits like drinking lots of caffeine and munching on sugary snacks can increase dopamine. There are some healthier ways to increase dopamine though. Set a new goal, like learning a new hobby or sport. Then, take steps toward your goal every day. Try setting short, mid- and long-term goals to help you stay motivated.
Serotonin is important for a lot of things. Namely, it helps regulate bodily functions and helps to control anxiety and reduce depression.
It might seem odd, but the best way to boost serotonin is to work on your self-confidence. Low self-esteem and focusing on your negative traits causes a loss of serotonin. The solution is to focus on your achievements and building confidence. Two actions that can help you boost your confidence are starting a new exercise routine and getting out of your comfort zone. Setting, facing, and overcoming challenges—even small ones—are great confidence boosters.
If you’ve ever heard of or even experienced a runner’s high, you’ve heard about endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers that reduce pain and increase pleasure. This is why you might feel a rush after a good workout.
Though endorphins evolved to help with survival, they still have their place in day-to-day (non-survival) situations. Two simple ways to increase your endorphins are stretching and laughing. This is because your body moves in unexpected ways, causing the endorphin to flow. Studies show that eating dark chocolate, meditating, and watching a good show can also promote endorphin release.
Oxytocin is associated with bonds and trust between people. If you’ve ever felt the joy of cuddling a pet, you’ve experienced the benefits of oxytocin.
Though oxytocin is called the “love” hormone, physical intimacy isn’t the only way to increase it. Building trust with another person can also help you increase oxytocin. Though you may not be able to see friends in person, you can still achieve this by reaching out to friends with messages or video calls.