Women's Health

The Power of the Second Hug

I am reading a book about the menopause, as I am probably in perimenopause and want to discover in detail what I’m in for. I have read much before on the subject in relation to exercise, but there’s so much I didn’t know (or forgot!) and the comprehensive information is astounding. It’s quite ‘sciencey’ which is great, and I am trying my best to remember all the important info, much of which as you can imagine concerns fluctuating hormones and neurotransmitters.

Four hormones or neurotransmitters that have a huge impact on mental wellbeing and that are hugely influenced by menopause are Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin and Endorphins. 
Dopamine makes us feel good. It is a pleasure / reward neurotransmitter and motivates us to do more of what brings us joy. It regulates movement and emotional responses. Activate dopamine by engaging in pleasurable activities and hobbies, setting & meeting goals, and spending time with loved ones. 

Serotonin supports normal mood and social behaviour. Exposure to sunlight increases this hormone so we are energised and enjoy normal mood. Doing activities that give us a sense of purpose and achievement triggers serotonin, as does exercise and a healthy diet. It’s a precursor to melatonin which helps us sleep. 

Oxytocin, aka the love hormone is involved in building trust and connection to others, intimacy and healthy relationships. To help it flow, spend time with people you love, remind yourself how loved you are and relish emotional security. How to increase Oxytocin – smile at people and they smile back or have hugs and cuddles for at least ten seconds, (with someone from the same household!). Have a massage, facial or other form of caring physical contact. This is clearly difficult if you live on your own, so you may have to work on the other three hormones mentioned. 

Endorphins trigger the release of positive feelings and have an analgesic effect (a naturally released painkiller).  Exercise is a fantastic way to release endorphins, and laughing also works. Watch a comedy, laugh and joke and spend time with funny people – it is contagious. 

Regardless of your stage in life or whether you are male or female, living with a pandemic as we are is surely leading to decreased mental wellbeing. Aiming to activate these positive hormones by exercising, getting outside, sharing time with family (no choice really!) and friends, doing fun things and sneaking regular ten second hugs may have potent benefits.

Best wishes, Lisa 

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