It’s February and the weather’s rubbish, so you could be forgiven for being at a low ebb, even if you don’t have full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as “winter depression”. But, happily, there are natural ways of boosting the hormones that make us feel better about life.

Dose up on dopamine

This neurotransmitter drives your brain’s reward system. If your boss praises you, you’ll get a dopamine hit—and feel great as a result. Boost it by setting realistic goals, such as tidying your desk or sticking to an exercise schedule—and achieving them.

Dopamine also drives pleasure-seeking behaviour, so indulge in fun (but healthy) activities. One fabulous way to get a feel-good fix is to listen to music you love, according to a 2011 study in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Try the 'How happy are you' quiz

 

Seek out serotonin

This mood-boosting neurotransmitter was made famous by SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) antidepressants, which increase serotonin levels in the brain. Do it naturally by exercising daily—that’s one reason a brisk walk does wonders for your mood.

Carbohydrates also increase this happiness hormone, which partly explains why we crave sweet, starchy foods when we’re feeling low. For the most positive mood boost with the least negative impact, choose healthy, high-fibre carbs such as dense wholegrain bread.

Read more: Is getting older the key to happiness

 

Opt for oxytocin

Known as the “love hormone” and “bonding hormone”, oxytocin has been linked to life-satisfaction levels by researchers studying its effect on women. In fact, it may play a greater role in women’s happiness than men’s.

Spending time with loved ones and being kind to others stimulates oxytocin. A cuddle with your partner, kids or pet should do the trick. Stress, on the other hand, blocks its release, so try to control it.

Susannah is twice winner of the Guild of Health Writers Best Consumer Magazine Health Feature

Read more articles by Susannah Hickling here

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