Feel-Good Hormones - They Impact Your Mood, Mind, & Body
Your body's chemical messengers, hormones, are secreted by glands and flow throughout your bloodstream. These hormones then target the various tissues and organs within your body, regulating everything from your body's functions to how you feel each day.
Hormones are broken down into subcategories, one of which is known as "feel-good hormones" due to their ability to produce happy and occasional euphoric feelings. Four feel-good hormones exist - serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, and endorphins.
You experience the effects of serotonin when you feel joyful and generally at ease regarding life. Serotonin is the critical element for improved moods and various other functions. Not only can serotonin fight off depression, but it may also induce euphoric feelings.
Where does Serotonin production occur?
Serotonin is produced in a centralized region of the brainstem, which then takes effect on various other areas of the brain that influence a multitude of functions and behaviors, such as:
- The stress response
- Body temperature
Experiencing pleasure as part of the reward system within the brain is directly attributed to Dopamine. A Dopamine release, or "rush," can be triggered by various scenarios - exercising, shopping sprees, and indulging in junk food.
Dopamine also functions in parallel with reinforcement. That's why it's hard to resist further temptation when eating just one donut or buying a product on sale. However, Dopamine is also rooted in a much darker truth; it is the overwhelming reward people experience during substance abuse such as meth or heroin, leading them to addiction.
Dopamine is also crucial in the function of:
- Heart rate
- Learning and attention
- Blood vessel function
- Kidney function
- Pain processing
Where does Dopamine production occur?
Dopamine production takes place in a two-step process thanks to neurons within the base of the brain. First, tyrosine, an amino acid, is converted into a secondary amino acid called L-dopa. Enzymes then convert L-dopa into Dopamine.
The primary role of Oxytocin is to facilitate childbirth, a key reason why it's nicknamed the "love drug" or "love hormone." Not only does it stimulate uterus muscle contraction, it further increases these contractions by encouraging prostaglandin production. As a result, women experiencing slow labor may be given Oxytocin for a quicker delivery. In addition, after a baby is born, Oxytocin assists in moving milk from breast ducts to the nipple, fostering a mother and baby bond.
Where does Oxytocin production occur?
The hypothalamus produces Oxytocin, which the pituitary gland then releases into the bloodstream.
Thanks to Endorphins, our bodies are capable of naturally easing pain. These hormones' names derive from the term "endogenous morphine." Endogenous" refers to their production within our bodies. Morphine is an opiate painkiller whose actions have similar effects.
The most prominently studied Endorphin is beta-endorphin, linked to the "runner's high." Endorphins are also released during laughter, physical intimacy, and delicious food.
Where does Endorphin production occur?
The hypothalamus and pituitary gland release Endorphins as a response to physical pain or stress. Pain relief and an overall sense of well-being happen from this group of peptide hormones.