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Understanding the chemicals controlling your mood

20 March, 2020
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While there are many factors that can influence your mood like the weather and your relationships, there are also four main chemicals that play a big role including Serotonin, Dopamine, Adrenaline and Oxytocin.

Serotonin

Serotonin plays an important role in regulating your mood. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which means it helps to send messages between nerve cells in your body.

How does Serotonin affect your mood?

Serotonin is responsible for your feeling of happiness. It also helps regulate your sleep cycle and other processes in your body including your appetite.

When you have adequate levels of serotonin, you feel emotionally stable and calm and you’ll also have noticeably higher levels of energy and focus.

If you have low levels of serotonin, you’re likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • problem sleepings
  • feeling bad about yourself
  • increase in sexual desire
  • feeling low
  • memory problems
  • craving for sweet foods

Low levels of serotonin are also thought to contribute to feelings of depression. Boosting serotonin levels can also help with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How to boost your serotonin levels

The following are natural ways that you can boost your serotonin levels:

  • getting more exposure to sunlight
  • doing plenty of exercise
  • counselling and meditation

If you’ve been experiencing a low mood for a considerable period of time, your doctor might prescribe you anti-depressant medication. These are known as Selective Serotoning Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s).

Dopamine

Dopamine is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter and it plays a role in controlling your mood. It’s also important for memory and motor skills. It acts like a reward and the brain releases it when we do things we love like eating our favourite foods.

Dopamine allows you feel:

  • pleasure
  • satisfaction
  • motivation

How to boost your dopamine levels

Eating foods rich in L-Tyrosine (the protein needed to make dopamine) can lead to a boost in your dopamine levels.

Other ways to boost your dopamine levels include:

  • avoiding processed foods
  • avoiding foods high in fat, sugar and caffeine
  • exercising daily
  • getting enough sleep

Adrenaline

Adrenaline, or epinephrine, is the hormone responsible for your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. It helps you react quickly in a dangerous or stressful situation. Your adrenal glands and some neurons release adrenaline when your brain perceives danger.

Adrenaline rush

When adrenaline gets released quickly, it’s known as an ‘adrenaline rush’. When this happens, you might notice the following symptoms:

  • rapid heart beat
  • sweating
  • rapid breathing
  • feeling jittery or nervous
  • increase in strength and performance
  • decrease in ability to feel pain.

Some people enjoy the feeling of an ‘adrenaline rush’ and deliberately do activities that trigger it. These can include skydiving, bungee jumping, and cage diving with sharks.

Oxytocin

Oxytocin is known  as the “love hormone” and it can promotes trust, empathy, and bonding in relationships. Oxytocin is used by the body in childbirth and breastfeeding. Low levels of oxytocin have been linked with depression but we don’t completely understand the role of oxytocin in building relationships and more research is needed. Boosting oxytocin levels may help to treat social phobia, depression, and anger problems.

How to boost your oxytocin levels

You can boost your level of oxytocin naturally by doing the following activities:

  • stroking a pet
  • meditating
  • hugging someone

Other ways to improve your mood

There are other things you can do to improve your mood including:

  • connecting with others
  • taking time to do things you enjoy
  • contributing to your community
  • practicing self care
  • making sure you get a good night’s sleep
  • reducing your stress levels 

Where to get help

Getting help now

If you or someone close to you needs support for your mental health, there are phonelines and websites available.

For immediate help in a crisis:

Seeing your GP

If you have concerns about your mood, it’s best to see your GP.

When you see your GP, they can:

  • make a mental health assessment
  • prescribe some medications to treat anxiety or depression
  • refer you to a mental health professional
  • refer you to other support services

They can also put you on a mental health plan, and this means Medicare may subsidise up to 10 sessions with a mental health professional. You can learn more about the different types of mental health professionals at Healthdirect Australia.

Sources

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/serotonin

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/monitoring-your-mood

https://bluepages.anu.edu.au/index.php?id=ssri-selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitor-antidepressants

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dopamine

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/adrenaline

https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/subjects/whats-covered-medicare/mental-health-care-and-medicare

https://www.healthline.com/health/adrenaline-rush

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/oxytocin

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.

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