Did you know that we were designed to be blissful – all the time? Even the ancient yoga texts say that our natural state is bliss. When you look into a baby’s eyes, you get in touch with their state of bliss.
Yet most people are not in bliss. On the contrary, there is a startling rise in diagnosed depression and anxiety, people feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with life, sheer fatigue and weariness, low self-esteem and lack of confidence, a sense of underachievement, loneliness, and despair.
Our bodies produce hundreds of neuro- or brain chemicals, and seven of them have been identified with various states of happiness and wellbeing. By understanding what they do and how to activate them, we can start taking responsibility for our happiness, and get back to the bliss we were born with!
Christopher Bergland, record-breaking triathlete and son of a neurosurgeon, and author of The Athlete’s Way: Sweat and the Biology of Bliss, has given descriptions and names that I will use as well.
Dopamine – “The Reward Molecule”
Dopamine is associated with pleasure seeking. Reward-seeking behavior has been found to increase the level of dopamine transmission in the brain. Achievers have high levels, and are addicted to dopamine hits. If you want to get a hit of dopamine, set goals and achieve them. Start with easy goals, then set big goals to really get you going.
Serotonin – “The Confidence Molecule”
This molecule is associated with self-esteem, self-worth and a sense of belonging. Because depression has been linked to low levels of serotonin, a range of anti-depression drugs – called Serotonin-Specific Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – have been formulated and strongly marketed.
While a chemical approach may help many people manage or cope with depression, a long-term solution needs a more holistic approach. A powerful way of exploring depression is to bring more meaning into your life, becoming more aware of your values and how your life reflects them, and reconnecting with people to build your sense of self-worth and belonging.
Oxytocin – “The Bonding Molecule”
Oxytocin has been associated with romantic attachment and the love-bond between mother and child. It is triggered during physical contact and intimacy. Hugging, cuddling, touching, and other forms of intimate contact are ideal ways to boost oxytocin levels. Even stroking a pet helps to secrete oxytocin, which has other effects on health, extension of life, and the feeling of bliss.
GABA – “The Anti-Anxiety Molecule”
GABA is an inhibitory molecule that slows down the activity of the nerves and creates a sense of calmness. Yoga, meditation, massage and mindfulness are known to increase GABA and reduce anxiety. The drug equivalents are Valium and Benzodiazepenes, which have serious side effects for some users. It is much safer to induce GABA naturally through relaxation methods, which also tend to have other health- and bliss-inducing effects.
Endorphin – “The Pain Killing Molecule”
Endorphins are literally opiates produced by the body. They are produced during physical exertion, love-making and orgasm – which suggests the best natural ways to increase your levels of endorphins! In 1999, clinical researchers found that inserting pins in certain parts of the body triggered production of endorphins – thus validating acupuncture as a treatment for pain-relief.
The presence of endorphins has profound implications for women giving birth. If they were helped to feel more confident and less fearful of the process, their endorphin production would be high enough for a relatively pain-free and blissful childbirth. Unfortunately, the medical system does not readily apply what is known about endorphins, the childbirth process is turned into a stressful and anxiety-producing drama, and many women have to resort to debilitating artificial methods of pain relief.
Endocannabinoids – “The Bliss Molecule”
This is self-produced cannabis that has positive effects on our mood. One endocannabinoid has been called Anandamide, using the Sanskrit term Ananda which means bliss. A 2012 study argues that endocannabinoids are more likely to be the cause for “runner’s high” than endorphins, as the latter molecules are too big to pass the blood brain barrier.
Adrenalin – “The Energy Molecule”
This molecule plays a major role in your ability to deal with perceived challenges, intitiating the “fight-or-flight” mechanism of behaviour. Adrenalin causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and works by causing less important blood vessels to constrict and increasing blood flow to larger muscles. Adrenalin makes you “feel alive,” which is why many people do risky activities to stimulate adrenalin.
However, adrenalin is meant for short-term response to stress situations. If we are not coping well with stress, for example we tend to mull over past or anticipated situations, we keep triggering adrenalin and its cousin, cortisol, until the adrenal glands reach a point of exhaustion. Long disregarded by the medical community, this state is now recognised as adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal Health for Overall Health and Happiness
What is now becoming apparent, is that when the body cannot access energy because of adrenal fatigue, the production of all the other Happiness Molecules is affected. That is why, in today’s world of chronic stress and overwhelm, people not only run out of energy, they also become depressed, anxious, disconnected, etc,, and they become unable to experience happiness as a normal state.
According to Dr James Wilson, a world-leading authority on adrenal fatigue, the first stage of restoring happiness is to restore your physical energy, by supporting the adrenal glands. He has introduced a number of protocols to do this, best implemented with the aid of a wellbeing consultant. Supporting the adrenal glands includes specific supplementation, diet plans, and lifestyle changes that support long-term adrenal health.
By understanding the role of the Happiness Molecules, and how adrenal health underpins them, we can research and rediscover safe and natural ways to reclaim our original, natural state of bliss.
At Global Health Clinics, we offer adrenal health assessments, and prescribe the practitioner-only Dr Wilson’s Adrenal formulas.