Mental Health and Happiness
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Mental health is becoming a priority on the agendas of Health Departments the world over. People are constantly looking for the recipe for happiness.
We look for it in love, in professional achievements, in our family, in strong friendships, in adrenaline and exercise. We are aware that these areas of our life have a big impact on our happiness. But why is this?
What actually makes us feel happy?
What really makes us feel happy during these events are the neurotransmitters that we secrete. Neurotransmitters are substances that our body uses to send signals to the brain.
The main neurotransmitters responsible for our happiness are: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins.
The pursuit of happiness
Knowing this, we can start looking at the pursuit of happiness in a different way. As well as trying to achieve happiness through career development or having a successful marriage, there are other ways to increase levels of these neurotransmitters- naturally as well as chemically.
However, we need to be aware that natural swings in neurotransmitters are far better than chemical ones as they avoid the consequent downs.
How do I naturally increase neurotransmitter levels?
There are ways to increase your levels of these neurotransmitters naturally.
Oxytocin levels are increased by physical contact, singing and exercising with people, among other ways.
Serotonin is increased by sunlight, eating starchy carbohydrates or cutting down on caffeine.
Dopamine and endorphin levels can be raised by increasing the levels of tyrosine and tryptophan in the brain, respectively.
However, a high dietary intake of these does not translate directly to high brain levels. This is because tryptophan and tyrosine are proteins, and there is competency of protein absorption.
The importance of diet on your happiness
Diet is very important in maintaining normal levels of these neurotransmitters. This is because a lack of vitamins, minerals and proteins has a huge impact in the usage of nutrients and the subsequent secretion of substances in the body.
If we want mental wellbeing, our diet is one of the best places to start. Regular meals, an abundance of fruit and vegetables, rich protein foods daily and wholegrain starchy carbohydrates in most meals are key points.
Increase your activity to boost your natural endorphins
Doing healthy activities, like spending time outdoors to get more light exposure, exercising and having a balanced diet help increase levels of endorphins.
Positive induction, like being around happy people or meditating also helps achieve this. But there is another side to raising endorphin levels. Don’t think that it’s all just about wholesome pursuits and being around cheery people… it can also be raised by being a bit naughty!
Eating a little chocolate, or foods that you really enjoy, as well as having sex helps raise endorphins levels. While it doesn’t seem intuitive, thrilling situations and even pain like the one caused by a massage or acupuncture can raise endorphins too. Hopefully I’ve given you some fun ideas to play around with.
Finding balance is key for a healthy mind
The key is through balance. While we should follow a good diet and a healthy lifestyle, sometimes we can allow ourselves the chance to be a little naughty. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (as long as it’s balanced out) as it can help us raise those endorphins in our constant quest for happiness.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information and resources on how to approach a balanced diet.
Read more from WatchFit Expert Ruth Sebastian Alonso