Is there a bio-hack to happiness?
Let's be honest, we all have had moments through these lockdowns where we've struggled. With nothing to do, other than stare at a screen for hours on end due to lockdown, depression, anxiety and boredom may be reality for many.
Now, I'm sure for the majority of you, a home gym with all the modern conveniences isn't something that can be easily accessible. A kettle bell or plastic weights going up to around 15kg is more likely the only access to fitness equipment you have. So, how can we keep our mental health fit when the reality escape of a gym floor with your headphones pumping has been taken away?
Let's talk about activating the 4 main chemicals in the brain that we associate with 'happiness' - Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin and Serotonin. These are all produced in the brain, and without these being stimulated, the world can really get on top of you.
Dopamine - The Achievement Chemical
As the description suggests, this chemical is released during accomplishments. Now, you're probably not going to hit the heights of winning your team sport league during lockdown, but there are other ways to get those small wins at home. Think achieving a day of healthy eating, or a self care routine, something that benefits you to help become a better version of you. Completing a few tasks like cleaning the kitchen, or building that new bookshelf that's been sat in a box behind the sofa for 2 months. These may seem as if they are not connected, but when the brain can feel it's 'ticked' something of a list, it's finished an achievement and will release dopamine as a little celebration!
Endorphin - The Pain Killer Chemical
Don't get this one confused with painkillers themselves, any actual injuries will need proper treatment. Endorphins help push through small pains, think more wanting to get off a treadmill, or not finish that last set, they help get you over that final hill. They can also be activated in other ways; from watching a movie you enjoy, doing a good deed for the day or simply just laughing out loud. Finally, an excuse to watch a comedy on Netflix and not feel bad about wasting time, just don't overdo it!
Oxytocin - The Love Chemical
Oxytocin, one of the harder chemicals to release. This one comes from affection (given and received). This doesn't mean just passionate, it can also be a hug from your gran, or something as simple as a random person telling you you're looking good - giving compliments works too, try it out. A hidden trick to this is to try giving out compliments, not only will it make you release Oxytocin, it's also contagious, most people's response to a compliment is to either smile at you, or return a compliment too. Double the Oxytocin, double the happiness! If you're in alone this lockdown, try giving yourself a compliment in the mirror, it may sound stupid, but who's going to see? And if you can't keep a straight face while you do it, congratulations, bonus Endorphins!
Serotonin - The Mood Chemical
Finally we have the easiest happy chemical to produce, Serotonin. This chemical is released when we go back to our actual human roots, leaving those screens of TV and Instagram, and getting out and about. A walk in the woods, getting back to nature, can really help with this (climbing trees may be a bit far but each to their own). Whether it be a run around your local reservoir or taking the dog to the park, just get that coat and gloves on and get out there. For a free added bonus, Serotonin is also released when being exposed to the sun - which during winter isn't an easy feat. Finally, for those days where the weather just doesn't permit, meditation can release it too, mix it in with yoga - or just a bit of stretching and let your mind keep itself healthy.
Hopefully this can help you keep being your normal confident happy self through times where as athletes, a lot has been taken away from us. Keep that head up and never underestimate the power of just talking to someone. We're all in this together.