4 WAYS TO HACK YOUR HAPPINESS CHEMICALS WITH EASTERN MEDICINE
Think You Can’t Hack Your Brain? Think Again.
These days there’s a life hack for everything–even your brain. In some ways, our brains are pretty complicated. But they can also be hacked if you know what you’re doing. So if you’re looking to feel better, be happier, and have healthier relationships, here’s what you need to know about targeting and boosting your happy chemicals with Eastern medicine.
What Are “Happy Chemicals”?
There are 4 chemicals that our brain translates into what we recognize as happiness.
This hormone is sometimes known as the “love drug” or the “hug drug” because our brains release it when we have physical contact with another person, including hugging, sex, and even childbirth.
With this hormone, the mind-body connection is very real. When it’s released, it has both physical and emotional effects. It makes us relaxed, more trusting, and more willing to bond with another person. It does this partially by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone. The “love drug” can even boost your immune system.
The quickest way to get a burst of Oxytocin is to bring it in for a nice long hug with a friend or loved one. And best of all, you’ll both get the mood-boosting pro-social effects of this happiness chemical! It helps us feel more connected to those around us and encourages us to grow long-lasting, meaningful relationships.
Dopamine, the “feel good” chemical, is a brain chemical that lives in the pleasure center of the brain. When we’re expecting a reward or sense of pleasure, your dopamine levels spike. For instance, the happy feeling you get when you smell cookies fresh out of the oven is probably due to dopamine–you smell the cookies baking and know that soon you’ll have a delicious treat to chow down.
Dopamine helps us achieve small short term goals because it gives us something to look forward to. However, it can also be very addicting. You know that little rush you get when someone likes your Instagram post? That’s dopamine. Unfortunately, it’s not a long-lasting feeling–it’s just enough to get you over the hump.
This happiness chemical is a little bit different from the others on this list because it mostly lives in our digestive tract. In order to make serotonin, our bodies need an amino acid called tryptophan, which we can get from eating foods like cheese, nuts, and red meat.
This happiness chemical plays a major role in regulating our mood and emotions, but it can also help heal wounds and keep your bones healthy. But that’s not all–this chemical also plays a role in everything from sleep to sex. When we don’t have enough serotonin, we’re at risk of developing depression or problems with sleep and digestion. Luckily, there’s lots of ways to boost your serotonin levels, including eating certain tryptophan-rich foods, getting more sunlight, and working out.
As Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”
Sure, that’s a line from the 2001 comedy starring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde. But it’s a great way to remember what role endorphins play in our lives! Endorphins are chemicals that are released when our body feels pain, like during an especially tough SoulCycle class. They’re supposed to minimize the pain and boost our pleasure levels. That’s where the term “runner’s high” comes from.
But endorphins do much more than simply giving us a boost after a workout. They also decrease the likelihood of depression, lower stress, and boost your self esteem. They’re so powerful that they can even make childbirth less painful!
4 Hacks To Boost Your Happy Chemicals With Eastern Medicine
That’s all thanks to one very important chemical found in turmeric–curcumin. Thanks to its dopamine boosting effects, curcumin is a natural antidepressant that researchers have found is just as effective as Prozac! In fact, if you’ve been diagnosed with depression and are taking antidepressants, the curcumin in turmeric can actually improve the effectiveness of your meds. If you add black pepper, coi, or both, you will get more out of your turmeric.
Go Green For Dopamine
If you’re looking for a natural way to boost your dopamine levels, look no further than the leaves of Ginkgo Biloba. This ancient plant is native to China and has been used in Western herbal medicine to treat everything from depression to low libido. It’s chock-full of antioxidants and comes with a long list of benefits, including lowering inflammation and boosting brain power.
Researchers have found that Ginkgo can raise dopamine levels in animals. There haven’t been many studies done on humans yet, but this superfood definitely has the potential to hack your happiness.
Roll Out The Mat
If you want to boost your oxytocin levels but there’s no one around to hug, don’t worry. You can still encourage your brain to produce this love drug. All you need is a yoga mat!
Even if you’re new to Eastern medicine, you’ve probably heard of the benefits of yoga. It can lower your stress levels, decrease inflammation, and help you sleep better. But that’s not all. In 2013, researchers found that practicing yoga can raise your oxytocin levels, too! They’re not exactly sure why, but it’s clear that hitting the mat is a simple way to hack your brain into feeling better–even when there’s no one to cuddle.
Knock Out The Knots
Who doesn’t love a good massage? There’s nothing like that feeling of total relaxation while someone kneads away the tension and pain in your muscles. But researchers have found that massages are more than just pampering spa treatments–they can also hack your happiness chemicals.
One 2015 study found that just a 15 minute massage can boost the levels of oxytocin in your brain for both the recipient and the masseuse. On top of that, a good massage can lower your stress hormone levels and increase your serotonin and dopamine all by 30%! So no matter what happy chemical you’re trying to target, it’s time to book an appointment at your favorite spa.
If you want to go the Ayurvedic route, try abhyanga, or oil massage. This practice is all about maximizing relaxation by releasing built up muscle tension and using different oils to relax the mind and nourish the skin. Best of all, you don’t need anyone to help you with this. Abhyanga is a form of self massage that anyone can do for as little as 15 minutes a day. Just gently warm up your oil of choice and get to work.
It’s been a rough year, and we could all use a little happiness. Try out these 4 Eastern medicine-inspired hacks to trick your brain into feeling good and let us know how it works!