Rates of anxiety and depression have been steadily on the rise in recent years, especially among children and adolescents. This has only been exacerbated during the recent pandemic. Being forced to stay inside, and with fewer opportunities to socialize and interact with friends and family in person, many of us have experienced adverse effects. As we slowly return back to a more normal, pre-pandemic way of life, it is important to get back to activities that improve our mental health.
Certain actions are linked to the “feel good” hormones being released by our brains, which can help improve overall mood and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, or sadness. If you’re feeling good, it likely means your brain is giving you a “dose” of one of these chemicals. Making activities associated with these releases part of your daily routine is a great way to prioritize wellbeing and ensure you are living a healthy and balanced life.
Dopamine, known as the “reward chemical,” helps with feelings of satisfaction, pleasure, and motivation. Completing a task, doing self-care activities, eating food, and celebrating small wins and accomplishments can all trigger a dopamine release in your brain, improving your mood. Even accomplishing small tasks like making your bed can ensure you start your day with a dopamine boost.
The “love chemical,” oxytocin, helps us feel connected. Playing with pets, holding a baby, hugging or holding hands with loved ones, and giving compliments are all ways to fuel connection and initiate oxytocin surges in the brain, reducing feelings of loneliness. Try offering some compliments to those around you and improve both of your days!
Serotonin, or the “mood stabilizer” hormone, is responsible for happiness and plays a vital role in sleep regulation and mood control. Meditating, doing yoga, being outside in the sun, and getting exercise such as walking, running, swimming, and cycling are all connected to serotonin delivery. Fresh air, sunshine, and movement are very effective ways to improve the way we feel.
Finally, the “painkiller” chemical, endorphins reduce feelings of pain in the body and are also effective in combating stress. Laughing, watching comedies, using essential oils, eating spicy food or dark chocolate, and exercising are all connected to endorphin release in the body. Putting on your favorite comedy and indulging in some chocolate can also be part of your mental health routine!
Through a conscious effort to include activities in your daily life that are connected with dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphin responses, getting your daily D.O.S.E. can go a long way in helping to cope with stress and anxiety and warding off signs of depression. If you are experiencing signs of anxiety or depression, please reach out to your counsellor for help.