Chocolate, Sex And Exercise: The Happiness Cocktail You Must Have This Festive Season
Have you ever wondered why do you feel an adrenaline rush and excitement when exercising, eating chocolate or having sex? The common factor among these activities are happy hormones that regulate mood, bonding and pain relief. Find out how.
Do you feel exhilarated upon completing a task or a workout? How about that tingling sensation when you are near someone you are attracted to?
We know that this euphoric “vibe” we sense and exhibit is due to ‘feel-good hormones’ that are created in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus in the brain. These are neurotransmitters, which carry the body’s chemical messages across all our nerve cells. When hormones are discharged into our bloodstream, they work on various organs and our body responds to our feelings.
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What are these hormones exactly? The four pillars of happiness are dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin, commonly known as the feel-good or happy hormones. These hormones are an impression of your feelings towards your relationships, diet, exercise regime, and even your gut microbes. Each hormone has a certain role to play in contributing to the degree of happiness in a person, as per a 2022 study in the journal Medindia.
- Dopamine (the reward hormone): Dopamine causes reward-seeking behaviour in the brain. This neurotransmitter is associated with pleasurable sensations such as learning new things, eating, decision-making, memory, attention, and sexual activities. In other words, dopamine causes desire, curiosity and arousal.
- Serotonin (the mood enhancer hormone): Serotonin is a hormone produced in the brain that regulates, well-being, mood, digestion, sleep, brain function, and circadian rhythm. Although 90 per cent of this hormone is produced in the gut where it acts through the enteric nervous system (digestive tract, oesophagus, intestines, and anus) and controls bowel movement, according to a 2022 journal Endocrine Society.
- Endorphins (the pain killer hormone): A 2022 study published in Medindia, endorphins hormones primarily serve as painkillers. This neurotransmitter blocks the message of pain signals in the central nervous system by binding to opioid receptors (the body’s natural morphine). Endorphins hormone is produced as a response to stress or discomfort. Endorphins and dopamine are often mistaken to be the same because when endorphins bind to receptors of the central nervous system, dopamine (the pleasure hormone) is released when you engage in reward-producing activities such as eating, working out, or having sex.
- Oxytocin (the love hormone): Secretion of this hormone leads to trust-promoting and is associated with bonding. Oxytocin, often called a love hormone, is produced in response to boost bonding that can be created either between mother and child, two strangers or among a group of close friends.
How Are The Happiness Hormones Connected With Sex, Chocolate And Exercise?
Sex: During sexual arousal, you get tranquil and addictive feeling when you get close to your loved ones. This behaviour is reflected due to oxytocin which is produced in the pituitary gland and is released into the bloodstream. This love hormone is the driving force behind the attraction, eye contact and the content feeling after orgasm. The feeling of happiness and contentment after an orgasm is what makes all the difference.
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Chocolate: The rich, velvety and sweet treat can enhance mood. Chocolate contains tryptophan, amino acid for the body's protein and neurotransmitters. The consumption of chocolate can increase serotonin and dopamine levels making one feel happier, calmer, or less anxious, according to the journal The Human Body.
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Exercise: When you workout or run your brain releases endorphins that interact with the receptors in your brain to decrease your perception of pain. Endorphins also activate a positive and energising feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine, says the American Psychological Association.
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Ways To Harness Happiness Hormones
There are several ways to boost levels of feel-good hormones in your brain, including diet, exercise, and by spending time with the people you care about.
Sleep to boost dopamine: The first thing to prioritise is good night’s sleep to boost the level of dopamine. Additionally, consume tyrosine-rich foods, such as seeds, nuts, beans, lentils, meats, fish, dairy, and cheeses. Restrict processed foods and caffeine, increase your magnesium intake, and be sure to get some daily exercise.
Get sunlight to boost serotonin: According to a 2022 study, one way to boost serotonin levels is by getting out into sunlight. Serotonin synthesis increases in the brain during daylight hours. Exercise is another option as it enhances serotonin metabolite in cerebrospinal fluid. Add prebiotic foods to your diet that support good gut bacteria. Consuming foods rich in tryptophan, such as milk, tuna, turkey, or chicken, may also help the brain produce more serotonin.
Get moving to boost endorphins: Exercise raises endorphin levels in our brains 30 minutes after exercise. You’ll get an endorphin boost from meditation, laughter, having sex, or enjoying some chocolate, according to Cleaveland Clinic.
Share a hug to boost oxytocin: Promising ways to boost levels of oxytocin are exercise, hugging or cuddling a partner. According to an Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, a study was conducted on a group of strangers to check if the experience of empathy raises the level of oxytocin. It was found that watching a passionate or emotional movie increased production of oxytocin by 47 per cent.