When we engage in any addictive behaviour, be it drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, sex or krispy kremes. It’s not so much the ‘thing’ that we’re doing that’s addicting us, it’s the effect that ‘thing’ is having on our brain chemistry.
See as human beings we’re actually a drug making factory, we’re constantly producing chemicals to make us feel good. We’re not so much addicted to the thing outside of us, we’re more addicted to our own brain chemicals.
The main 4 chemicals I’m talking about are the neurotransmitters:
Dopamine - Reward & Motivation
Serotonin - Mood, Sleep & Sexual Desire
Oxytocin - Love & Bonding
Endorphins - Pain Relief
When we’re lacking in these neurotransmitters, that’s when we will search for large hits of them through negative outside forces.
So how can we naturally boost these Famous Four?
(serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin)
Get that body moving and you’ll be swimming in these feel good chemicals.
Long-term strenuous cardio produces serotonin.
Dopamine is spiked during exercise but returns to normal quickly afterwards.
Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine and is what triggers the euphoric feeling after a workout. Sometimes referred to as “runner’s high”
Oxytocin is released when you take a light walk outside.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that keeps your mood upbeat. It’s made from tryptophan, an essential amino acid abundant in fish, eggs, chicken, turkey and other meats.
Iron, zinc, and vitamins B3, B6 and C help facilitate the enzymatic reactions that convert tryptophan to serotonin.
Dopamine is the most powerful of your stimulating neurotransmitters, it's responsible for many of the “highs” you feel. The brain converts the amino acid tyrosine – found in protein – to dopamine with the help of folic acid, vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc.
You’ll find extra tyrosine in almonds, avocados, dairy products, and pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Oxytocin - Dark chocolate
Endorphin - Chocolate, spicy foods, any food you enjoy.
Get outside and soak up those rays for a nice hit of serotonin and oxytocin.
(oxytocin and serotonin)
Go for a hike and soak up nature’s energy.
Breathing fresh air can help regulate your levels of serotonin and promote happiness and well-being.
Put on those songs that sing to you and raise your vibration.
Oxytocin and dopamine work together, musical pleasure involves the brain’s reward system, and dopamine is a key neurotransmitter within these structures.
Set yourself up for quality sleep by turning off devices at least an hour before bed.
Take an epsom salt bath before bed for the magnesium hit.
Quality sleep is one of the TOP determinants for health.
Deep breathing stimulates oxytocin.
Serotonin activities like mindfulness have a direct impact on the brain’s production of serotonin levels.
Endorphins - The same amount released as after a run!
Learning something new -
Challenging ourselves with a new skill or endeavour can help regulate our dopamine.
This can involve learning an instrument or a new language.
List making -
Set daily or monthly goals. The simple act of writing out a list of to-do’s and checking them off as you go releases dopamine, which gives you that satisfied feeling.
Doesn’t have to be world changing, just ‘walking the dog’ or ‘calling Mum’ is enough.
Hugging a loved one -
Hugging releases oxytocin, but almost as good as hugging is imagining yourself being hugged or cuddled by someone you love.
We are social creatures and it’s no wonder we get rewarded chemically for hugging a loved one.
Try and hold the hug for 30+ seconds (just get the person’s consent first please…)
I wish you all the best in the chemistry lab of your brain.
Combining as many of these as you can fit into your life will greatly help with immediate gratification and addictive behaviours.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy - Comfort vs. Happiness
Specialists in Addiction Recovery (including Ice Addiction) and Mental Health at our Outpatient Addiction Rehab Centre in Melbourne, Australia.