The topic of mental health in Malaysia has recently been on the rise, with the subject being broached by major media outlets such as The Star and Astro Awani.
While many things can affect your mental and emotional health – from sleep deprivation to burnout or fatigue – there is a particularly strong link between bodily chemicals and how you feel. And though it’s common knowledge that our hormones and neurotransmitters help essential processes such as digestion and heart rate, they also play a big part in our mental health.
Luckily, there might just be a way to “hack” your “happy hormones” for better mental and emotional health. So, what are these hormones, and why are they called “happy hormones”?
Healthline describes these hormones – dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins – as “happy hormones”, known to promote positive feelings of happiness and pleasure. They can reduce depression, help with anxiety, and our physical pain, writes a Harvard study. Which means these chemicals could just be the answer to both our physical health conditions as well as some of our mental health concerns.
The Love Hormone
If you’ve ever experienced a wash of warmth after performing an act of kindness, complimenting someone, or even giving someone a hug, you’re not imagining it.
Oxytocin is nicknamed the “love drug” or the “love hormone” – for a good reason. Its main function is to facilitate childbirth, to foster bonds between partners as well as between parents and their children.
However, it plays a vital role when it comes to bonding and trusting other people. And all this can be done by the very simple acts of touch, based on a Harvard Health Publishing study. So massages, cuddles, or even a hug can lead to higher levels of oxytocin and a greater sense of emotional and mental wellbeing.
While we draw the line at embracing everyone, hugging your loved ones, or those you live with, may just lead to better moods and mental wellness – for all parties.
The Mood Stabiliser
The saying “a way to a person’s heart is through their stomachs” might just have truth in it after all. Turns out, serotonin – the chemical that regulates your mood to improve your mental and emotional state – can be found mostly in the digestive system
Interestingly, the protein that forms serotonin can be found in certain foods – notably cheese, nuts, and red meat. Unlike the food, however, the chemical itself is transmitted all through, and impacts, all parts of your body, from your emotions to your motor skills.
As a mood stabiliser, serotonin naturally allows you to feel happier, calmer and more focused. The best ways to make it work for you are through conscious practices such as meditation, or walking and running.
But if you want a less intense way of tapping into your serotonin bank – go out and enjoy some fresh air, which will provide the best of both worlds by boosting both your mental health and serotonin levels in one go.
Everyone is familiar with the term “endorphin rush”, usually captioned next to intense workouts, sweaty selfies, so on and so forth.
Yet endorphins are severely underappreciated as our very own painkillers. Yes, they do boost our mood through movement, but they are also triggered during painful events – like if you twist your ankle – to temporarily relieve your body of its discomfort.
If you’re craving the endorphin rush but aren’t quite the workout type, other day-to-day tasks can provide you with the emotional benefits of usual exercise regimes. Alternatively, kickstart your endorphins through more manageable ways: like watching a funny movie to make you belly-laugh, or by getting massages.
And if you’re still not up for any of those, dark chocolate has been proven to stimulate the production of endorphins. Ultimately, if all else fails – make a beeline for the chocolate.
The Pleasure Chemical
If there’s a chemical responsible for hustle culture, it’s dopamine – which helps us stay awake and alert during the daytime to keep us functioning.
Dopamine affects how we feel pleasure and our abilities to think or plan – helping us strive, focus, and find things interesting. Those who tick off checklists are the most familiar with dopamine-induced satisfaction, produced when completing tasks or celebrating wins.
However, there is a less taxing way (literally) to trigger dopamine kicks: sleeping. Getting more or less sleep may not affect you outwardly, but the difference in your mood can be felt instantly. And that’s no surprise, since good sleep decreases our stress hormones and boosts our happy hormones – particularly dopamine.
So, if you’ve been feeling a little more overwhelmed by daily tasks than usual, your solution might just be to settle down with some comfortable Sonno pillows, and a super supportive Sonno mattress for you to wake up feeling both mentally and emotionally well-rested.