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Understanding the Chemistry Behind Our Emotions

By Helen Kaidantzis

Understanding happiness, anxiety, and other emotions through science is a good way to learn how to take care of your mental health. There are four main chemicals in our brains that give us the sensation of happiness: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. Each of these chemicals plays a unique role in the state of our mental health.

Dopamine enables motivation, learning, and pleasure. Its presence allows us to accomplish goals by giving us determination. Not having enough dopamine in your brain can increase procrastination and make it hard to accomplish tasks. A deficiency can also cause a lack of motivation, low self-esteem, and fatigue. To combat low levels of dopamine, you can create a daily to-do list, plan out long-term goals, and meditate. If you feel like low dopamine levels could be affecting you, accessing your creative side to make something through art or writing can also help your brain chemicals restore their balance.

Oxytocin is the chemical that gives us the feeling of trust and is what makes us form relationships with other people. It plays a big role in bonding with friends, family, and other loved ones. As you can probably guess, low levels of oxytocin can bring on feelings of loneliness. It can also make you feel disconnected from the important people in your life and your support system. Socializing and physical touch are both good ways to increase your levels of oxytocin. However, listening to music and meditating can also help you feel less lonely.

Serotonin gives us a sense of significance and importance. It is what makes us feel accepted and valid. Without enough of it, you can start to develop low self-esteem and become overly sensitive. You might also get panic attacks, mood swings, and insomnia. Raising your serotonin levels involves doing things that are also good for your body. You should eat healthy foods, exercise, take cold showers and spend lots of time in the sun. If you’re feeling extra down, getting a massage or stretching out your muscles can also help.

Lastly, endorphins are chemicals that release a temporary feeling of well-being and euphoria. They are a response to pain and stress, and your body releases them to mask that pain and alleviate anxiety. Low endorphin levels can cause anxiety, depression, aches and pains, and impulsive behaviors. The easiest way to bump up your endorphin levels is by getting your body to experience intense and exciting sensations. Laughing and crying are good ways to do this. You can also eat spicy foods, eat chocolate, listen to music, create art or exercise.

I hope this brief introduction to the chemicals that influence our emotions helped you better understand what's going on inside your brain and why. Although it's great to have this information, you shouldn’t have to keep your mental health in check on your own. If you feel overwhelmed, try joining one of the groups on the InTouch website or reaching out to a licensed therapist. Maintaining your mental health is hard, and you don’t have to do it alone!


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