Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through our bloodstream. You can describe them as signaling molecules that work to set things in motion. The name comes from a Greek word meaning “setting in motion.” Hormones are produced in various areas of our bodies and are sent through the bloodstream to signal some action or response. Good health requires a balance of hormones, and proper diet, exercise, and rest help to keep them in balance. The feel-good hormones are four classes of hormones that, as you might guess, do things that make us feel good.
ENDORPHINS- Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, synthesizes and stores them. Endorphins help to mask pain, reduce stress, and improve mood. When we push through a painful task or strenuous exercise, endorphins are there to help us.
DOPAMINE- Two areas of the brain produce dopamine, and you can think of this hormone as the brain’s reward system. Exercise, eating a food we like, or accomplishing a task can cause the brain to release dopamine, giving us a pleasurable feeling. The use of some drugs and alcohol can release a flood of dopamine, giving us a sense of euphoria, a “high.” But coming down from that high can lead to depression and a desire for more of the drugs. Normal activities or exercise stimulate dopamine more slowly, and the effect of the hormone remains longer. Good stewardship of our bodies and health calls for avoiding harmful drugs and alcohol.
OXYTOCIN- Some people call this feel-good hormone the love hormone. Touching, hugging, or sexual activity can trigger the release of oxytocin. The brain’s hypothalamus produces it, and the pituitary gland releases it into the bloodstream. Oxytocin can help improve social interactions and give us a desire to develop stronger connections with others.
SEROTONIN- Serotonin is a natural mood booster, and depression can result from a low level of this hormone. Serotonin performs many functions and is produced by the central nervous system in various areas of the body. Serotonin improves memory and learning and promotes relaxation. Exercise, as well as exposure to sunshine and the outdoors, can increase the production of serotonin. Meditation and quietness in prayer can also reward us with this mood-boosting hormone.
The feel-good hormones are part of good health, and a healthy lifestyle boosts them. However, too much of a good thing too quickly is not healthy. Alcohol and drugs can give us a high but only lead to a letdown. A healthy lifestyle involves proper diet, exercise, rest, prayer, meditation, thankfulness, and balanced relationships with others. Incorporating those things into our lives is the best way to enjoy the blessings God has for us.
— Roland Earnst © 2023