Yep, natural highs! and we’re not talking about those legal highs or stuff you can pick out the hedgerows and make and interesting tea with or what you can steal from the chemist. We’re talking neurotransmitters.
Everyone has the ability to create euphoria. It’s an evolutionary fact that when you do something which contributes positively to survival or evolution, you get rewarded by a hit of feel good chemicals, the best drugs ever, highly addictive, harmless and free, you just need to learn how to produce them.
They are amazing, they make us feel fantastic, ecstatic, top or the world or just every day happy. You know ‘happy’, well that’s actually serotonin in our brain which we have created by doing something positive. And that’s the point I’m making in this blog, we don’t need any outside chemicals or drugs, prescribed or otherwise, we are all quite capable of producing an abundance of our own – it’s unlimited, it’s not taxed and it’s absolutely free – we just have to go and do it, and it’s easier than you think!
Here comes the science bit…
What is a neurotransmitter and what does it do?
Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. They relay signals between brain cells and nerve cells. The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest.
Think of it like this – you can’t drive a car with just one brain cell (OK, that might be an arguable point with some drivers out there) it takes a whole bunch of them, several million in fact, a neural network, which work simultaneously. But brain cells don’t actually connect together; each brain cell has a tail like thing coming off it called an axon and off the axon there are branches called dendrites. The dendrites branch out towards an axon in order to pass the message on, however, there is a gap between the dendrite and axon called the synapses, so for a message to travel from one brain cell to the next, something has to bridge this gap and that’s the job of a neurotransmitter. And it does actually follow that the better we are at producing neurotransmitters, the more efficient our brain is and better at doing stuff.
They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance.
The Good Guys
Number 1 of the good guy list is undoubtedly serotonin. Seratonin is the stuff which makes us feel happy, but not only that, it helps us feel calm, motivated, in control and brave. It helps us with physical fear, boosts our immune system and is the ‘off switch’ for our appetite.
When we are producing enough seratonin, we can cope with pretty much anything life throws at us, we have an abundance of energy, we sleep better and we feel great.
However, if we don’t have enough serotonin we can fall into depression amongst other things, we can’t be bothered to do anything and when we don’t do anything, we don’t produce the right neurotransmitters, so we can’t be bothered etc, etc. Tasks become mammoth feats of endurance we just can’t face, we don’t cope very well and even small problems seem huge and the future looks bleak.
So it’s clear we need this stuff, so how do we get it. Serotonin is naturally produced by doing positive things – positive activity for example. Exercise creates serotonin in abundance – have you ever felt miserable after going for a run, cycle, to the gym, dancing; only if you’re determined to be miserable. Achieving things, it doesn’t matter how small, but when we achieve something we feel good about it: Take the pile of ironing (bad example for me, I don’t do ironing, but you get my drift), we feel great when we’ve done it, putting that shelf up or fixing something, even opening the post that’s been piling up somewhere and dealing with the contents, all those things produce a little be of serotonin because we feel pleased when we’ve done it.
Positive interaction is another serotonin producing activity – just being with people we enjoy being with. We are tribal, pack animals, herding beasts; we’re not very good on our own, we don’t really have any natural defenses, we don’t taste bad, we’re not poisonous, we don’t have spiky things to protect us and we can’t run so fast to get away from predators; our defense is in our numbers and when we do the things natural for us, we get rewarded with good neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Unfortunately in our modern times we have so many devices and ways of communicating which avoid contact and we live much more solitary lives than our ancestors, but we have to put ourselves amongst people regularly to stay mentally healthy.
Positive thinking can also create serotonin. Our brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality and we have a choice, we can either imagine everything which could go wrong and produce adrenalin which kicks off our fight or flight mechanism, or we can use our brain to imagine or think about positive things, thinking about something we’re looking forward to or something we did which made us happy. If we did some positive activity which created serotonin, guess what? thinking about it will bring back the feelings and create serotonin again – amazing huh?
Endorphins – we’ve heard of endorphins, we produce endorphins when we exercise and they are our natural opiates, our natural pain killers.
The “runner’s high” really exists, but you’ll need to work for it. Heavy weightlifting or intense aerobic activity that includes periods of sprinting or increased exertion will trigger the greatest response. Meditation or controlled-breathing exercises. Chili peppers also triggers the body to release some fire-quenching endorphins and ultraviolet light, so get outside in the sunshine. I find it really interesting that when it’s sunny here in the UK, the level of cancellations for hypnotherapy appointments increases dramatically. People go outside, do stuff and feel good, so they are producing the natural chemicals we need to keep us happy – we just need to do it more often instead of watching TV or playing video games.
Dopamine is also a feel good neurotransmitter. Dopamine is our instant reward kick and it can make us feel ecstatic and exhilarated and can crave more of it. Take kissing for example, when we passionately kiss, we produce a spike of dopamine. It primes us to want more, making us feel energized. Sex, exercise, laughter and sleep and all great ways to produce dopamine which are all more great reasons why we need to be with people – we can laugh on our own, but other people might look at us strangely if we’re walking down the street laughing all on our tod, so get with friends and have a laugh.
There are many other essential neurotransmitters we produce when we’re behaving as we were designed to half a million years ago. No, we don’t need to go out and hunt, but it is vital that we start putting more things back in our lives which we would have done naturally before technology took over and eliminated our need to do so.
Run & exercise
Socialise and laugh
Think positively and achieve goals
Eat chillies and snog!
and you will produce a constant flow of neurotransmitters, the natural feel good chemicals which are ultimately the best thing we can do for ourselves. Anxiety and Depression will fade to a distant memory and we will feel happy, calm, relaxed, motivated and in control of our lives. And that’s OUR responsibility.
For many, its a big ask, when you haven’t done these things for a long while, you’re starting with your neurotransmitter bank pretty low. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help you learn how to do this and speed up the process.