What are the happiness hormones and how that knowledge can help you understand yourself and help you have a more balanced and joyful life. One of my favorite sayings is that the true technology is in fact our bodies, as opposed to that faulty smartphone that we have been ever increasingly been forced to depend on. I will have more on this within the Warrior Class on locals as it gets into more of the esoteric and mystery school stuff; and as such should not sit on a public blog.
Lets take a step back first and define exactly what it is we are talking about. What are hormones exactly?
Hormones are the body's chemical messengers. They are molecules produced in the endocrine glands and are carried through the body's bloodstream to deliver messages to all parts of the body. Multiple hormones are required for your body to function optimally and properly. For the purposes of this article, I will be focusing on three main hormones (and in most cases neurotransmitters as well) that are most associated with happiness:
I took a university course called "Behavioral Endocrinology" in my final year of University for my Honors degree in Psychology (I did a double Honors Arts in English Literature as well). It was quite the challenging course because it was from a perspective of how hormones affect human behavior - and truly science does not have it all figured out.
My hope is that I can provide some information and much needed de-mystifying of the fundamental way in which our bodies talk to ourselves on an deep inner level. on these hormones and how they function so that you can see how your happiness hormones are being hijacked by society, and how you can get some balance back. First up we are going to discuss Serotonin, because typically a therapy when an individual suffers from depression is to adjust the Serotonin levels through the use of SSRIs.
Serotonin (5-HT) 5-hydroxytryptamine
Serotonin is a hormone as well as a neurotransmitter that carries signals between nerve cells. It is involved with many of the body's processes from mood to digestion. This is because most of the serotonin in your body is produced in the gut and intestines. Serotonin contributes to normal bowl function and reduces your appetite as your eat to help you know that you are full. It also plays a protective role in the gut.
It is also precursor to melatonin and as such also helps to regulate the body's sleep and wake cycles. Your body requires serotonin in order to create melatonin so a lack of serotonin can affect the pattern and quality of sleep. However, remember that hormones are all about a balance - and so too much serotonin can cause feelings a nausea as well as an affect on libido.
Low Serotonin is associated with depression and other "mood disorders" but this is multifaceted. The body may not be able to produce enough serotonin because of other factors, such as nutritional and vitamin deficiencies. However, SSRIS (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants worldwide. SSRIs are based on the theory that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin.
An article analyzing the valid use of SSRIs is a topic for another time and another blog. It is also important to note that Serotonin also acts in homeostasis to other happiness hormones in your body, as well as an optimal level of serotonin in a person can be a very personal threshold - not exactly something you can easily just "know" as someone external to that person's body. Additionally, there are other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and oxytocin that also play a role in how we perceive happiness and well being.
Dopamine ( DA, a contraction of 3,4-dihydroxyphenethylamine )
Dopamine is both a hormone and a chemical neurotransmitter and made in the brain through a 2 step process. It first changes the amino acid tyrosine into dopa and from this substance into dopamine itself. In pop culture, Dopamine is commonly thought to be related to pleasure - and while it is, its main functions go much beyond just the pleasure principle. However, I am not understating the human importance of pleasure. For instance, an imbalance of dopamine is the cause of Parkinson's disease, which highlights the complex relationship between movement, motor function and feelings of happiness.
Another vertical by which dopamine is known in popular culture is also via drug addiction; mainly because dopamine plays a huge role in the reward feedback loop system. I think that there is something more complex at hand here in regards to movements and having a happy dopamine balance, but I will meditate on that and come back with findings. From a perspective of pleasure, yes, dopamine is related to that but it is more specifically associated with an ability for us to repeat behaviors in order to stay motivated.
Also known as the "love hormone", it is directly involved in the function of creating and strengthening social ties. Oxytocin is a hormone that also functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Main functions of Oxytocin include: the driving force behind attraction and caregiving, and even controls key aspects of the reproductive system, childbirth, and lactation.
Oxytocin is released by the hypothalamus and secreted into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland. For the most part, releasing oxytocin requires one thing: another person. While this release is traditionally associated with sex, breastfeeding, and childbirth, almost any form of social bonding or positive physical contact can trigger oxytocin.
From my perspective with Movement Magic dance classes; moving our bodies in sync with other human beings also function to release oxytocin. Something important to note here in the function of Oxytocin is that it is not considered something that will regardless lead to feelings of lovey-dovey ness and butterflies. Jealousy and feelings of possessiveness are also associated with the hormone oxytocin. It is also known as a hormone that modulates fear.
So from a Body Alchemy perspective, Oxytocin acts as a type of volume control in the sense of what is already being felt will be amplified. Oxytocin is also one of the hormones that functions in a positive feedback loop; meaning that the release of the hormone will enact behaviors' that will cause more of that hormone to be released. From a perspective of how we form social bonds with others; it is why we would end up bonding to someone after having sex with them; meaning that we would want to have sex with them more as a result.
Are My Hormones Being Hijacked?
Now that I have gone into each of these hormones and neurotransmitters into a bit of detail; lets address the question of if my hormones are being hijacked! Hormones essentially your body's way, nature's way to communicate - especially since all of the happiness hormones discussed are also neurotransmitters; and as such are an extension of how our body's technology works. The thing about all of these happy hormones is that happiness is not the only thing that they manage... motor function, libido, digestion and other processes are also moderated. The funny thing is; all of these synthesizing of hormones to deal with mood disorders and depression... when maybe a person just needs a hug; or a dog. Petting a dog has been known to release oxytocin; and so maybe combining that with some dancing for dopamine and a cleaned up diet would have a positive effect on someone severely depressed. Or at least perhaps we should explore these avenues a bit more before resorting to SSRI's or other therapeutics that carry a heightened risk.
A big takeaway here is that we can gain back a lot of control and power over our hormones by adjusting our thoughts and cognition. "Think Happy Thoughts" and you quite literally help trigger the happiness hormones in your body! Give it a try. And I think for my next little video series I will be focusing on each of the hormones in greater detail.