Can you feel the change in the air? For many, this season is associated with happy things like crisp weather, warm beverages, and the autumn colours. But for others, the change in weather indicates a downturn in mood and energy that leaves them feeling sad, lethargic, and fatigued. Along with the shift to spending more time indoors, the gradually shorter days of autumn and winter can trigger some physiological changes in the brain that can affect mood.
When we ask ourselves what makes us happy, we often think of the circumstances, possessions, or people in our lives. In reality, happiness is largely a chemical experience. This is actually great news. It means even when circumstances, possessions, or people in our lives aren't exactly as we'd like them to be, there are simple ways we can increase our “happy brain chemicals” and alter our moods.
Our “happy brain chemicals” help facilitate sustained and deep sleep, maintaining a balanced mood, self-confidence, social engagement, and a healthy appetite. Additionally, they help decrease our worries and concerns and is associated with improved learning and memory.
When these “happy brain chemicals” are too low you’re more likely to become irritable, anxious, and perceive the world as unfriendly. You may feel depressed, pessimistic, and have irregular appetite and sleep. So let’s consider what you can do to help increase your “happy brain” chemicals below:
Endorphins are released after both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. In one study, as little as 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill for 10 days in a row was sufficient to produce a significant reduction in depression among clinically depressed subjects.
Serotonin may be the best-known happiness chemical because it's the one that antidepressant medication primarily addresses. Exposure to bright light, especially sunshine, is one way to increase serotonin. Exercise and happy thoughts also stimulate production of this chemical. Some research has found that a higher intake of tryptophan-heavy foods, relative to other foods in the diet, may do the trick as well, leafy greens/spinach, eggs, poultry, salmon, seeds, sweet potato, carrots, blueberries, probiotic yoghurt.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter often referred to as the "chemical of reward." When you score a goal, hit a target, or accomplish a task, you receive a pleasurable hit of dopamine in your brain that tells you you’ve done a good job. But you can also get a natural dose of dopamine when you perform acts of kindness toward others. Just thinking kind thoughts can be helpful.
The hormone produced in abundance during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It's also the high behind MDMA, a popular party drug, which releases oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is primarily associated with loving touch and close relationships. This hormone provides a multiple whammy of warm fuzzies, by stimulating dopamine and serotonin, while reducing anxiety. To get your hit of oxytocin without popping ecstasy, give someone you love a cuddle. A pet will do or a favourite teddy!
If you have any mental health concerns about your daughter please feel free to contact the College Counsellor, Becky Salter via firstname.lastname@example.org or ph: 0435 659 694.
Ms Becky Salter, College Counsellor
This article on College life meets The Archbishop's Charter for Catholic Schools -Charter #8