Get To Know Your Happy Brain Chemicals!

Our brain is made up of 100's of neurotransmitters, evolutionarily many of them were and still are essential for survival.  When we feel good it is because our brain chemicals are working well.  

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There are four major chemicals in the brain that influence our happiness, it is really helpful for us to learn what they are, what they do and how we get them. 

1.  Dopamine

2.  Oxytocin

3.  Serotonin

4.  Endorphins

Dopamine:  

Dopamine is often referred to as our 'reward or pleasure' neurotransmitter.  It is actually a survival chemical...our motivator!  For example as cavemen/cavewomen it was released when we caught our food.  This encouraged us to do it again and again and again.  We still release dopamine when we eat and because our natural instinct is to do more and more of what makes us feel good this can sometimes mean we turn to snacking or overeating in a bid to feel better.  Unfortunately this can be counter productive and there are better ways to feel good.

We also produce dopamine when we have sex which encourages to reproduce. That is why sometimes when we meet someone new we get those butterfly or excited feelings! 

We can produce dopamine by completing something you enjoy for example an excersise class, gardening or even better by being kind and helping others.  Also to ensure that your brain increases dopamine naturally, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep.  Lack of sleep has been shown to reduce concentrations of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, and their receptors.  Some research shows that listening to music that we enjoy can release dopamine.

Stress can also have a negative effective on dopamine so trying to reduce stress can help, solutions focused hypnotherapy can be effective in reducing stress and some research shows that trance can even help us produce more dopamine! 

Unfortunately a lack of natural dopamine can often lead to addictions such as gambling, gaming, phone addiction etc. 

We get one of these little pings on our smartphones, and we get a little hit of dopamine as well. We get excited. We feel anticipation. As we feel this, we want it more and more. So we spend more and more time looking at our phones.
— Kim Stolz

 

 

Oxytocin

Oxytocin is often referred to as our 'bonding' or 'love' neurotransmitter.  It's the chemical we would have released when we were fed milk as a baby, the brains of new mothers are usually flooded with oxytocin to help the bonding process as well.

We still release oxytocin when we have cuddles, kiss or when we trust someone! We can even release it when we shake hands with someone.

Oxytocin is the neurotransmitter that gives us that warm fuzzy feeling...so go on have a cuddle, even cuddling a pet with produce oxytocin!! 

 

It is important to understand that while oxytocin may be the hub of the evolution of the social brain in mammals, it is part of a very complex system. Part of what it does is act in opposition to stress hormones, and in that sense release of oxytocin feels good - as stress hormones and anxiety do not feel good.
— Patricia Churchland

Serotonin

Serotonin is often known as our 'happy chemical' it is one of the most important neurotransmitters we have! Serotonin is believed to help regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function.

 

A lack of serotonin is also thought to have a negative effect on confidence and self esteem.

To produce serotonin we need the three P's Positive Interaction,  Positive Action and Positive thoughts!  

 

Brain wave tests prove that when we use positive words, our “feel good” hormones flow. Positive self-talk releases endorphins and serotonin in our brain, which then flow throughout our body, making us feel good. These neurotransmitters stop flowing when we use negative words.
— Ruth Fishel

Endorphins

Have you ever heard of 'runners high'?  This is an endorphin rush in the brain.  Endorphins can masks pain with euphoria, this is why sometimes you will hear about someone who has been able to continue walking with a broken leg! Endorphins only mask pain for a short period of time luckily as we need to feel the pain response to stop us causing more injury. 

We can create more endorphins through exercise, laughing and smiling! 

 

STRESS

Unfortunately the chemical we release when we feel stressed or anxious 'Cortisol' has a negative effect on most of these chemicals, that is why the most effective things we can do is reduce stress and do more of what we enjoy.  Solutions focused hypnotherapy is a really effective way of reducing stress and feeling, happier, more in control and more confident.

Is your teenager or child addicted to gaming?

Recently I have been hearing more and more from parents who are concerned that their child/teen is obsessed with gaming.  Many of these parents have also commented on the angry or aggressive behaviour that seems to come along with it.  

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Not all children/teenagers are effected in this way but I found it really interesting looking closer into why some do.  

When would it be classed as an addiction?

I would call it an addiction when it interferes with relationships, other interests and achievements. 

These are some other indicators

* Lying about usage of gaming

* Irritable if unable to play

* Lack of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed

* Lack of interest in eating if it means missing a game

* Isolation from friends

* When not gaming they are thinking/talking about gaming

 

'The National Children’s Bureau Northern Ireland research involved more than 600 teens aged 14-16 from 2012-14 and found that 41% of children who used portable gaming devices at least twice a day achieved at least five GCSE A* to C grades, compared with 77% of those who used them less than once a week.'

How are addictions created?

First of all we need to take a look back in history. As cavemen/cavewomen we needed to go out and hunt for food, we needed to adapt and respond quickly for our safety.  For example we quickly learned if something was either dangerous or good for us and our brain would keep that pattern as a template to use again and again.  During many of these activities (such as killing prey, eating and reproducing) our brain would have produced dopamine.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that gives us a feeling of euphoria, energy and a feeling of success which served as a reward, unfortunately high levels of dopamine can cause aggressive behaviour (but on a positive note the right amount at the right time can increase the desire to win or competitive streak in us often helping with success).

However these days our brain (Which has not yet evolved to suit modern times) still seeks this reward.  We no longer need to do the same activities such as hunting and killing and we have other more modern activities which give us this rush of dopamine which we crave such as recreational drugs, smoking, sex and many more including gaming. This dopamine hit tells the brain 'this feels great, I want more' and same way as we created the repetitive patterns in caveman days to ensure our survival our brain responds the same way to gaming and a habit or addiction is created. 


 

What can we do about it?

First of all I tell all of my customers about the importance of serotonin.  Serotonin is another neurotransmitter which provides feelings of well being, balance and contentment.

I expect you are asking how we can produce more serotonin?

Starting with the three P's

 

*  Positive Interaction 

Again going back to our caveman days at the end of a long stressful day we would have sat around a fire and talked to our 'tribe', but these days we still need to interact in a positive way.

*  Positive Action

You guessed it, chasing that saber toothed tiger! Luckily its much easier now, we can play football or any activity that you enjoy!

*  Positive Thoughts

We were given the ability to daydream, we can use this ability in one of two different ways. Back to the caveman - they were much more successful when they imagined how they would set up the trap to catch the saber toothed tiger than when they imagined being eaten by the tiger. We still need to focus on the positives.

 

Solutions Focused Hypnotherapy can help, first of all we use psychotherapy where we only focus on the positives and the solution, we do not need to go over the problem.  We then explain how the brain works using a simplified version of science and research....children and teenagers especially find this fascinating as they can finally understand how and why they act in certain ways.

Also during solutions focused hypnotherapy we have the advantage of using trance.  Trance is very ordinary, we go into trance several times a day, but during our sessions we encourage the customer to stay in trance slightly longer than you would for example when going for a run or washing up.  Although trance feels extremely relaxing we know the brain is actually hard at work during this time finding solutions and solving problems. 

Please contact me for more information or to book in an initial consultation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you get SAD in Winter?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD for short) is a type of depression that comes on during the winter month’s when we have shorter days.  It’s commonly known as the winter depression and many people who suffer with it feel fine in the spring and summer month’s.

The exact causes of SAD are not yet fully understood but the main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus (The part of our brain that controls hormone production) working properly, this can mean the production of melatonin (A hormone that makes us feel sleepy) can be increased and serotonin (A happy hormone) can be decreased.

Some of the symptoms of SAD are:

·      Struggling to wake up and wanting to sleep for longer

·      A low mood that is persistent

·      Craving stodgy foods and or gaining weight

·      Irritability or moodiness

·      Lack of interest

·      Lack of enjoyment in life

·      Loss of energy

 

Thankfully it is not all gloom and doom, solutions focussed hypnotherapy can help to improve your mood. 

When we are suffering with SADs we are encouraged to think more primitively (And more negatively) but during our sessions we will focus very much on all the positives in your life.  This will help to produce more serotonin and improve your mood.  It will also give your brain the time it needs to relax and focus on doing more of the activities that make you feel better.  Hypnotherapy can also help improve your sleep pattern and quality of your sleep.

Other things that can help with SAD’s

·      Exercise – Exercise is well known for improving serotonin production and mood, wrap up warm and get out into nature and getting as much day light as possible will also help improve mood.

·      Interacting with friends – Another way to increase production of serotonin, especially if your friends make you laugh! And just having a support network to turn to.

·      Doing something you enjoy.  Any activities we enjoy for example painting, drawing, knitting, crosswords etc. can help with serotonin production.