How Neuroscience Can Help You Boost Mood and Feel Good
I’ve always been intrigued by the connection between our brains and our emotions having overcome my own mental health challenges in my younger years. I was certainly one of the many struggling with mental health in my 20s which continues to be a common topic these days but at least led me to the work I do today. As a neuro-coach I’ve consistently studied (and practiced) how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours relate to each other and through this article my intention is to give you an understanding of how you can take control of your own wellbeing by making some simple adjustments.
How do I make myself happy?
You’ve probably seen the following question asked many times in forums and webpages: “how do I make myself happy?”. Even though therapy and coaching can help with mental health struggles, there is also a very scientific link to boosting emotions and moods which are fully within your control. Sometimes we need more than just cognitive change work, we need some help from our neurochemicals too which naturally occur in our biological system, which is at it’s most optimum when fuelled by a healthy engine.
Neurotransmitters are little hormones that get transferred between neurons and circulated in the blood which result in the balance of healthy neurobiology and in particular, boosting mood and energy. This article helps to educate and breakdown information on neurochemicals in an easy digestible format. So here are some fun facts about Neurochemicals and the role they play in our nervous system.
The neurochemical dopamine is associated with feelings of reward, motivation, and achievement.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the brain’s reward system. When you experience something pleasurable, your brain releases dopamine, making you feel motivated and rewarded. So, when you accomplish a goal, climb a mountain, or achieve success at work, it’s likely that your brain will release dopamine to help motivate and reward you for those achievements.
Dopamine can be released when we learn new skills and experience new things; the more novel our experiences are, the more elevated our levels of dopamine become over time (which may explain why people tend to get bored with their jobs after working there for too long).
In addition to its role as an important neurotransmitter involved in motivation, dopamine has also been shown to play an essential role in attention and learning processes.
Serotonin is a neurochemical associated with positive mood and emotional well-being.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite, and sleep, so it has an important role to play in healthy nerve cells and brain function. Serotonin also plays a role in other areas of bodily function including digestion, temperature regulation and pain perception.
Although Serotonin is known to be produced in the brain, most of the serotonin in your body is actually found in your gut. The intestines produce almost all of the body’s serotonin supply meaning serotonin is required to promote healthy digestion. This is why having a healthy gut is super important to mental health and is one of the first things I address when working with clients. Serotonin can be produced when food containing tryptophan—an amino acid that serves as the raw material for serotonin synthesis—is consumed. Healthy serotonin transmission also helps with sexual desire and libido.
Oxytocin is a neurochemical associated with emotional bonding and connection.
Oxytocin is typically linked to warm, fuzzy feelings and shown in some research to lower stress and anxiety. It’s the hormone that bonds you to your partner during sex, and it’s also released when you hug or hold hands with someone.
Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone,” because it plays a role in creating trust between people who are close to one another, such as lovers, parents and children. But it’s also involved in other aspects of social bonding, for example, helping new mothers breastfeed their babies by triggering milk release from the breasts. Animals and pets also help to boost Oxytocin release.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
GABA is a neurochemical that helps regulate anxiety and fear responses by inhibiting brain activity.
This neurotransmitter helps the body and brain to relax and promotes feelings and sensations of calm and tiredness
As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA dampens activity in parts of the brain that are overactive during stressful experiences. It’s also involved in our reward system; when we experience something pleasurable, such as eating a favourite food or listening to music you love, GABA is released and makes us feel good. Not enough GABA can lead to addiction and overindulgence to compensate for the deficiency. In fact any disparity in neurochemical balance can lead to taking up unhealthy habits which we go to for a “fix” despite the risk to our health.
There’s no doubt that your brain chemistry plays a huge role in how you feel and act. But now that you know about these key neurochemicals, I hope you have a better idea of how to manage them, allowing you to take control of your own wellbeing and mental health. You are, after all, the captain of your ship which in itself is true empowerment.
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