10 Ways to Increase Your Happy Hormones
I've noticed a pattern that when I don't have anything planned for the weekend, by Monday I'm drained. You would think my time of solitude would have the opposite effect where I'd be more refreshed from the peace and quiet. After all, my children are with their coparent on weekends. The house is mine! But I'm self employed and work from home during the week. That's not an issue for me. If anything, by the weekend I need more contact with people, not less. I did a little research and what I've found is that by Sunday night, if I haven't connected with anyone, my cortisol level has peaked and essentially the party is over. All the happy hormones have gone home. Here's how I can refocus my efforts to get through the weekend alone successfully and wake up refreshed on Monday:
Make time with friends. Trust is what triggers the oxytocin high. When you're in an activity with someone near and dear you naturally feel good. In my case, if I don't have a date lined up or my friends aren't available, I could splurge and get a massage. The hand to body contact will help release happy hormones. If all else fails, I could watch a romantic movie. If it's captivating enough it might work. And yes, while there's always my other "friend," the vibrator, it's not quite the human touch I'm looking for here. But it does indeed do the trick.
Hug someone. Oxytocin bonus! Be sure to hug those near and dear to you. A thirty second hug with someone you trust is all it takes to get the neurons fired up. Here are some tips for a successful hug: Don't be namby pamby. No gentle pats on the back. Throw all of yourself into it. Hold tight and be loving. Rest your head on your hugging partner's shoulder. Show the love. And make it last for thirty seconds. When was the last time you hugged your barista/yoga teacher/server/sales clerk?
Finish up a project. Go for the goal! Or the high, depending on your interpretation. Dopamine has to do with addiction, along the lines of "sex and drugs and rock & roll," whether to cupcakes or cocaine. Maybe I should consider watching sports on Sundays? But I'd rather work on other projects. By finishing what I've started, such as a blog I'm writing or that Christmas stocking I started knitting five years ago, I'll have achieved a goal and can genuinely feel good about my accomplishment. Who am I kidding, I've got so much house and yard work to do there is no shortage of potential "highs." Now there's an incentive to vacuum!
Aromatherapy. Endorphins set off the brief euphoria that masks physical pain. For a quick fix I could light a candle, specifically the scent of vanilla or lavender which has been found to boost your endorphins. And if I add scented chapstick, moisturizer and soap I'll have it covered.
Laugh. Laughter will do the trick for endorphins too. I could watch a comedy, read a funny book, call a friend, do anything that will make me laugh out loud. Stay up late for Saturday Night Live. (Or more realistically save it for Sunday morning.) Can we ever laugh enough?
Eat spicy food. Endorphins are triggered by this as well. Put some Sriracha on that brown rice. Bam!
Stay calm. This is a lifelong challenge, not just a weekend thing! To up my estrogen level, I exercise, meditate and write in my journal daily. Knitting and listening to music are my activities of choice when I start to get anxious. Low estrogen levels are considered a major contributor to depression and anxiety. Estrogen affects all sorts of areas of the body so the verdict isn't out yet on what works best. Essentially I do anything to keep my stress level down so I won't make my cortisol go up. The weekday routine when my children are home helps keep this in check. Maybe on weekends the lack of structure is throwing me off?
Diet. For higher progesterone levels, which go along with estrogen levels, it's suggested to add this mix of foods to your diet: mussels, spinach, asparagus, eggs, salmon, dark chocolate, legumes and nuts, avocado and to take a probiotic. No problem there on the dark chocolate. It's a daily staple. Could it be I get a little lazy on weekends and don't eat as well as I think I do? Ah, maybe! My Sunday morning sticky bun treat probably isn't the best. And popcorn for dinner? Well it has fiber, right?
Get out in the sun. Bright light for serotonin. We need vitamin D which plays a crucial role in strengthening bones, fighting depression and boosting immunity. My levels are high. If you're lucky enough to be able to bask in the sun on a regular basis, go for it. We don't have much opportunity year round where I live. On occasion I go to a tanning bed. This particular one is from Dr. Mercola and features a special bulb which studies have shown to be safe.
Exercise. I'm on it. I run several days a week, do yoga, Pilates and TRX when I can. Exercise releases just about all the happy hormones: dopamine, estrogen, and serotonin to name a few. And when you sprint or really feel the burn, your endorphins kick in too. On Saturdays specifically, I'll attempt to run a little faster.
I didn't list getting enough rest, but my assumption is if I hit all the happy hormones I'll be rewarded with a good night's sleep. Hello Monday!