Last month I wrote about boosting Oxytocin, the bonding hormone. This month, let’s focus on feel-good chemicals; we could all do with a bit of that.
Praise and recognition trigger Dopamine. Unfortunately, so does social media ‘likes’ (see my article in the April 20 edition denouncing their addictive nature and the link with self-worth).
However, Dopamine is more about the pursuit of the goal.
Let’s say you want to get fit but have always disliked exercise. Yet you are determined, so you join a gym and set a goal (e.g. to lose X kilos, have toned abs). If you only focus on the goal, you may soon drop out, because it’s too hard, too far away, so you give up.
To be successful, you need to reward the pursuit.
As you walk to the gym, congratulate yourself, for not lazing at home. Do this very consciously: “Hey I did it, I’m here!”. Lean into it, towards the pursuit of your goal.
Reward yourself as you work out, by listening or watching some great content.
When you want to give up because it’s getting a bit hard, tell yourself “No, this is the bit where the effort comes in (and also the reward), I’m going to push through this barrier”. It doesn’t matter if you keep going just a few extra reps or minutes, you are laying down a pathway in the brain. Pushing through becomes the reward. You are priming your brain for next time, where it will recognise ‘this is important’ and will continue with the task.
If Dopamine is the accelerator, Serotonin is the brake. While the mental strain is the trigger for neuroplasticity (changing the brain) the actual ‘rewiring’ happens when you rest.
Serotonin helps to consolidate and reset, ready for more work. Miss it, and you will burn out.
Not enough might make you feel down, less enthusiastic about life.
In business, it helps with goals, activating hope and allowing us to dream bigger.
I often use it with clients stuck in habitual thinking.
When the sun is out, we tend to feel good. Serotonin creates energy and optimism.
After a lovely meal with friends or family, it provides a sense of feeling ‘enough’ and safety.
As both the above are currently in short supply, what can we do to compensate?
Certainly not Cannabis, it might make you feel good, but it causes users to lack drive.
To replenish Serotonin use:
- Gratitude. Proven scientifically, however, don’t just say it or write it, you have to feel it.
- Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep): Lying down and deeply relaxing each part of the body for about 20-30 minutes.
- Self-Hypnosis: Combines deep relaxation and focus.
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