Do you often find yourself feeling like you got up on the wrong side of the bed?
Fluctuating moods can completely change our experience of life, affecting not just how we feel about each and every day but also our relationships with those around us.
The way we feel on a day-to-day basis can depend on many things. Some of it might be related to things that are happening in our world. It’s normal and natural to feel a full range of emotions and to respond with sadness or anger to certain situations. But sometimes, we can feel flat, moody or down for no apparent reason and this we can change!
More often than not, we can have a positive impact on our mood by addressing the balance of hormones associated with our happiness. Let’s take a look at some of the more common happy hormones and what can impact us maintaining optimum levels of them, to begin with.
One of the better-known happy hormones, serotonin functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain and helps us to feel happy, calm and content. What you may not know about this lovely hormone is that around 80% of it is made in our gut. There really is something to the phrase “gut feeling” – it’s hard to feel great when you are suffering from digestive challenges! Another common scenario involves a see-saw between serotonin and melatonin. Melatonin is our sleep hormone; it is responsible for sending us to, and keeping us, asleep. They work antagonistically, so when one goes up the other goes down. For some people though, they end up in the wrong way. If this happens, you might find yourself feeling down and sleepy most of the day but great in the evening which can make it a challenge to get through the day!
Endorphins are also well-known for their mood-lifting effects. They help to reduce pain as well as helping us to feel uplifted. Many people know of the link between endorphins and exercise, and indeed, they are stimulated by physical activity.
When we think about progesterone, we might only think about the role it plays in our fertility, but this powerful hormone has other biological functions in the body. Progesterone is a powerful anti-anxiety agent, an anti-depressant, and a diuretic, which means it helps us to eliminate excess fluid. Progesterone is supposed to be the dominant hormone in the second half of the menstrual cycle, known as the luteal phase, and during our childbearing years, it is predominantly made in the ovaries. However, we also make some progesterone from our adrenal glands, and this becomes our main site of production after menopause. Because our adrenals also make our stress hormones, chronic stress – which is extremely common these days – can compromise our adrenal progesterone production. Stress can also contribute to irregular ovulation or anovulatory cycles, and ovulation is required to stimulate the increase in progesterone in the second half of the menstrual cycle.
So now that we know a little bit about some of the hormones responsible for our mood, what can we do to boost them?
1. Bring awareness to your breath
We can influence our stress hormone production via our breath. When we breathe diaphragmatically (long, slow breaths that move the belly in out and out), this communicates calm to our body, which supports sex hormone balance as well as digestion.
2. Ensure excellent digestion
Digestion is the cornerstone of our health as it is through digestion that we absorb all the nutrients from our food, many of which act as building blocks for our hormones. There are numerous ways we can improve our digestion such as chewing our food well, eating mostly whole, real foods (limiting or avoiding anything processed/artificial) and eating in a calm, relaxed state.
3. Support liver function
When it comes to how we look and feel on a daily basis, the liver packs a mighty punch. It is the key organ responsible for eliminating problematic substances, including ‘old’ hormones that we no longer need. Reduce your intake of ‘liver loaders’ (trans fats, refined sugars, synthetic substances, alcohol, and caffeine) and increase your intake of plant foods – particularly leafy green vegetables of the Brassica family, which the liver especially loves!
The mood-lifting effects of exercise are well established, but many people still believe that they have to slog it out at the gym or run long distances to get the benefits. Move your body in a way that you enjoy! Also, remember that incidental movement is highly beneficial to look for more ways to incorporate movement in your day.