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Happy Emotions and Neuroscience

Emotions (Physical and Mental)

The prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that is responsible for decision-making, planning, and regulating your emotions. When you’re experiencing positive emotions like happiness or joy, it’s because this part of your brain has been activated.

The neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are also released during happy moments.

Dopamine plays a role in motivation, pleasure seeking behaviour and reward-related learning; while serotonin helps control moods by regulating appetite and sleep patterns as well as reducing anxiety levels.

TOP TIP

Practice gratitude: Help your child to say/write down three things that they are grateful for each day before going to bed at night.

This will help train their mind to focus on positive aspects rather than negative ones which can lead to an increase in overall happiness levels over time!

How to Get Dopamine

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Listen to music that makes you happy, such as your favourite song or an album by your favourite band.
  • Meditate for at least five minutes per day.
  • Spend time in the sun.
  • Eat certain foods that boost dopamine levels, including dark chocolate and avocados; avoid processed foods with added sugar or artificial sweeteners as much as possible!

Benefits of Dopamine

  • Improved mood.
  • Reduced anxiety and depression.
  • Increased focus and concentration.
  • Improved memory.
  • Increased energy, reduced stress and fatigue (which can also be a side effect of dopamine deficiency).
  • Improved motivation to get things done, as well as an overall sense of well-being when you do them!

The Role of Endorphins

Endorphins are natural painkillers that stimulate feelings of happiness and euphoria.

They increase dopamine levels, which can improve the immune system and reduce stress. Endorphins also enhance the sense of pleasure, making them ideal for boosting your mood.

The best way to release endorphins is through exercise-and it doesn’t have to be strenuous! A brisk walk or a jog will do the trick.

How to get more Endorphins

  1. Exercise: Engaging in physical activity, such as running, cycling, or dancing, can trigger the release of endorphins in the body. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day.
  2. Laugh: Watching a funny movie, spending time with friends who make you laugh, or even just smiling can increase endorphin levels.
  3. Eat certain foods: Eating spicy foods or foods that contain high levels of antioxidants, such as dark chocolate, can trigger the release of endorphins.
  4. Get a massage: A good massage can stimulate the release of endorphins in the body, which can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  5. Listen to music: Listening to music can also trigger the release of endorphins and promote feelings of pleasure and relaxation.
  6. Meditate: Practicing mindfulness meditation can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can lead to an increase in endorphin levels.
  7. Get enough sleep: Getting enough restful sleep each night can help to regulate the body’s production of endorphins.

The Role of Oxytocin

Oxytocin is a hormone that’s associated with feelings of trust, bonding and happiness.

It stimulates the release of oxytocin in the brain, which enhances social connections and increases levels of empathy.

Oxytocin also reduces stress and anxiety by lowering cortisol levels (the main stress hormone).

It plays an important role in communication between people by helping us to understand each other better, so it’s no surprise that oxytocin has been called “the love hormone”.

How to get more Oxytocin

  1. Hug someone: Physical touch, such as hugging, can trigger the release of oxytocin in the body. So, try to hug someone you love or cuddle with your pet.
  2. Spend time with loved ones: Spending quality time with loved ones, such as friends or family, can also increase oxytocin levels. This can be anything from having a heart-to-heart conversation to engaging in a fun activity together.
  3. Engage in acts of kindness: Doing something kind for someone else, such as volunteering, can increase oxytocin levels and promote feelings of happiness and well-being.
  4. Practice meditation: Mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase oxytocin levels and promote feelings of calm and relaxation.
  5. Laugh: Laughter has been shown to increase oxytocin levels, so find ways to inject humour into your day, whether it’s watching a funny movie or spending time with friends who make you laugh.
  6. Get a massage: Like endorphins, oxytocin can also be released through touch, so getting a massage can help to increase levels of this hormone.

The Role of Serotonin

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating mood, motivation and pleasure.

It also regulates appetite and digestion; promotes healthy sleep; improves memory and learning; reduces stress and anxiety; improves overall well-being.

Serotonin levels are controlled by the hormone tryptophan which is found in foods such as turkey, eggs, milk products like cheese or yoghurt as well as nuts like almonds or cashews.

Serotonin levels can also be improved through exercise, sunline exposure, improved sleep, and doing things you enjoy.

2 Take Home Facts

  • GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating anxiety, stress, and sleep.  Caffeine can reduce GABA levels, so be aware of the level of fizzy drinks your child is taking.
  • Seeds such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and sesame seeds contain nutrients and compounds that can help support the production of ‘happy chemicals’.   This includes; Tryptophan – Tryptophan is used by the body to produce serotonin; Magnesium – Magnesium is important for regulating mood and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression; Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3s are important for brain health and can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression; and Zinc – Zinc is important for the production of dopamine
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