Hormones play an important role in our physical as well as mental well-being. Medically hormones are defined as chemicals produced by glands and these travel across various parts of the body through blood cells as messengers creating various sensations. They impact physical development & growth, metabolism and most importantly cognitive functions & moods.
Therefore, hormones are often associated with mood swings and consequent human behaviour.
Understanding of happy hormones:
These are hormones that are associated with happy moods and feeling of pleasure. Four (4) hormones have primarily been classified as happy hormones. These include:
1. Dopamine: feel good hormone
2. Serotonin: mood enhancer hormone
3. Oxytocin: love hormone
4. Endorphins: pain reliever
Secretion of these hormones leads to what is known as feel good factor which is important for all and more importantly for elderly people as these act as antidote to the feeling of anxiety or depression from which they often suffer from. Further, inadequacy of happy hormones often causes anger, feeling of stress, low energy levels and irritability. Hence understanding generating triggers for these hormones becomes important for elderly. This will enable them to undertake the activities / jobs that secrete such hormones.
Augmenting happy hormones:
Many physical and mental activities stimulate and generate the happy hormones. Some are specific to a particular hormone and some cater to more than one.
Most prominent activities that initiate generation of happy hormones, in general, include:
- Getting exposure to outside and sunlight: This is crucial and spending at least 30 minutes a day in sunlight is recommended. Medically this is needed not only for Vitamin D3 but also for generation of happy hormones. This has been endorsed as the ideal non-exercise posture (sitting / spending time outside / sunlight) towards one of the most prominent sources of happy hormones.
- Doing regular exercise: Once again this is imperative for generation of happy hormones besides for general physical well-being. At least 30 to 45 minutes of exercise 5 days a week is needed to generate adequate quantity of happy hormones. Aerobic exercises are the ideal ones. For elderly who are not physically able to take up rigorous exercises, softer ones like walking is prescribed.
- Balanced diet: This is also required to boost all happy hormones. The diet should be protein rich and should have less saturated fats. Consumption of probiotics is also recommended. Food rich in amino acid is suggested for increased level of Serotonin. Foods usually not recommended under the concept of balanced diet like Chocolates serve as the secretor of Endorphin, the pain reliever hormone.
- Meditation: A focused meditation for 20 to 30 minutes is found to release enough amount of happy hormones to cause feel-good & happy mood. Meditation is observed to quieten the mind by reversing the agitated state thereby cooling down mental condition of anxiety.
- Adequate sleep: This is another critical factor. Around 8 hours of sound sleep is needed for not only regenerating / recouping the cells but also refreshing mind. More than duration, uninterrupted and deep sleep is necessary for the mind to recharge. This automatically cools the mind by releasing happy hormones.
- Spending time with friends and remaining connected: This is one more definitive way of generating happy hormones as staying connected keeps one engaged and happy thereby stimulating happiness. The more time one keeps connected with others, known as well as unknown, more will be origination of happy hormones. Keeping in constant touch with family, extended community, clubs / associations and friends of school / college days plays an important role in this regard.
- Cuddle / hugging / kissing: Hugging your near ones like children or grandchildren is one of the perfect ways of generating Oxytocin, the love hormone. We must have felt the warmth when we hug near ones or even pets and that is the signal of generation of Oxytocin. It fuels a feeling of happiness / oneness with others / contentedness and that itself is adequate to create a feeling of bliss in mind.
- Listening to music: Listening to music soothes the mind and is a subtle way of keeping us away from worries of day to day life. This is through generation of happy hormones.
A theoretical exposition of happy hormones and understanding trigger points thereof is necessary for elderly as that will enable them to resort to such acts. These are observably known ones; a theoretical understanding puts the discussion in the right framework.
A well-balanced diet, adequate physical movements including exercise, mental work ups like yoga / meditation, adequate sleep and leading loving & connected life with near and dear ones are the key sources of happy hormones. Practice thereof may lead to a life that is happy, peaceful and contended and that is what is expected in journey of life.
Let us all create happy hormones through our physical / mental acts and keep ourselves cheerful. That will also lead to a better life for others connected with us as well.
Dr A K Sen Gupta is the Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). This article has been published in Free Press Journal (FPJ) on 28th August, 2021, where he is a regular contributor. Dr Sen Gupta was the Director of S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai and Director & Mentor at SIES College of Management Studies, Navi Mumbai. He was a World Bank Consultant and instrumental in setting up National Banking College in Ghana, Africa and Professor at National Institute of Bank Management, Pune.