With the restrictions of Covid-19, many of us are missing the availability of the regular leisure and social activities that enable us to keep in positive mental health.
Equally, we have all had to adapt quickly to a new rhythm of life (new way of living, working and keeping in touch) and as we face the reality of this current situation being the new normal for some time, for some of us, this may cause our mental wellbeing to become compromised.
How does change impact our mental wellbeing?
When our brain interprets a situation as threatening (which is always its default response to change), it’s more difficult for us to assess the situation with the intellectual region of our brain and instead we move into the primitive limbic region of our brain, which will always default to the worse case scenario. This is because it’s our primitive brain’s job to enable us to survive the perceived threat, so that we are safe.
All the negative thoughts we have throughout the day are converted into anxiety and stored in our metaphorical stress bucket and whilst our brain is capable of emptying our stress bucket during REM sleep, if we’re experiencing a high level of negative thoughts, this can affect the quality of our REM sleep and so our stress bucket can quickly become full or even start to overflow.
How can we protect our mental wellbeing and enhance our mental resilience?
To keep our stress buckets at a manageable level, we need to keep ourselves dosed up with a cocktail of ‘Happy Hormones’, as these hormones combat the stress hormone ‘Cortisol’.
What is a Happy Hormone?
A happy hormone is quite simply a hormone (or in some cases, technically, a neurotransmitter but “happy hormones” has a better ring to it!) that makes us feel good.
Scientists are adamant that our brain has created these happy hormones since primitive times and that early man and woman received definite internal rewards for carrying out certain activities such as hunting and gathering, successfully supporting themselves and their families and interacting and collaborating with others.
The reward they experienced was a chemical response in the brain that produces various neurotransmitters (‘happy hormones’) that act as catalysts for this sort of mentally healthy behaviour.
And it is the same for us today. When we engage in certain activities we receive a wave of happy hormones, causing us to feel motivated, empowered and better able to cope with day to day life.
What are our Happy Hormones?
There are four main happy hormones that are responsible for our level of happiness and when we have a healthy level of these DOSE hormones in our body, we feel much better than when we don’t.
D is for DOPAMINE
and it’s also for DRIVE
Dopamine literally drives our brain’s reward system, urging us to seek pleasure and motivating us to achieve goals. It also regulates our emotional responses, enabling us to identify where rewards might be, but also to take action to move toward them.
Low levels of Dopamine can result in a lack of enthusiasm & motivation and in self-doubt & procrastination and it can also lead to obsessive and/or addictive behaviour.
How can we increase Dopamine
in the brain?
Most types of reward increase the level
of Dopamine in the brain, which is why
when we improve a skill, achieve a goal and/or receive recognition or praise,
we feel good.
S is for SEROTONIN
and it’s also for STABILITY
Serotonin regulates sleep, appetite and digestion, as well as anxiety, helping us feel more emotionally settled, maintain mood balance and engage more comfortably in social behaviour. It also regulates memory and learning, enabling us to focus better and to both retain and recall information.
Low levels of Serotonin can cause anxiety, irritability, insomnia, pain, panic and depression as well as difficulty focusing
and memory loss.
How can we increase Serotonin
in the brain?
A healthy mind and body increases the
level of Serotonin in the brain, which is
why when we get enough rest and sleep,
eat whole foods, drink adequate amounts of water and look after ourselves, we feel good.
O is for OXYTOCIN
and it’s also for ONENESS
Oxytocin is also known as the ‘hug’ or ‘love’ hormone, because it makes us feel loved.
It plays a role in empathy, intimacy
and trust and it regulates social
interaction, enabling us to instigate, build and maintain satisfying
Low levels of Oxytocin can result in enhanced fear and distrust, isolating behaviour, and feelings of loneliness which has been shown to reduce life expectancy.
How can we increase Oxytocin
in the brain?
Most types of connection increase the
level of Oxytocin the brain, which is why when we hug a loved one (or a pet) and interact or collaborate with people we like,
we feel good.
E is for ENDORPHINS
and it’s also for EASE
Endorphins regulate emotional responses by interacting with the opiate receptors in the brain, enabling us to cope more effectively with stress and anxiety. They also regulate physiological responses, enabling us to cope with physical ailments and both physical and emotional pain.
Low levels of Endorphins can manifest
in lethargy, reduced tolerance to pain,
anxiety and a myriad of
How can we increase Endorphins
in the brain?
Physical exercise, laughter and foods like chocolate and chillies secrete endorphins, enhancing feelings of pleasure and increasing immunity, which is why when we do those things, we feel good.
How can we DOSE ourselves up on Happy Hormones?
Many situations can trigger these hormones naturally and there are many ways that we can intentionally trigger them too, and when we intentionally DOSE ourselves up with Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins we can improve our overall mental wellbeing and enhance our mental resilience and performance.
We do this by applying the Three Principles of Positivity:
- Positive Thought
The more we are able to have positive thoughts, the more we are able to influence how positive we feel and subsequently how positively we behave.
- Positive Action
Positive action is about doing things that will lead to positive outcomes, because when we do, we generate serotonin, making us feel happier and giving us the very thing, we need to create more positive outcomes.
- Positive Interaction
When we connect with and interact with others in a positive way, we naturally boost our levels of serotonin and oxytocin.
By applying these three principles intentionally, we can keep ourselves feeling positive and our stress buckets low, if not empty!
Take a look at our Facebook page for ideas and inspiration on how to keep yourself dosed up with Positive Thoughts, Actions and Interactions.