by Sophia Ruan Gushée
Updated November 25, 2020 to include Practical Nontoxic Living podcast episode 18: Essential Features of a Healing Space. Originally published on February 14, 2019.
It feels like there's a tremendous collective craving for more true connections, kindness, and sincere love. Especially love for oneself.
I don't know if my stage in life makes me more observant of this, if it's my particular lens and/or my surroundings (NYC), or if it's a new reality. Regardless, I hope this article raises awareness to common triggers (like social media) of feel-good hormones.
By learning more about triggers of feel-good hormones, I have become more mindful of my habits with social media and technology. It has also pinpointed how I rather spend my time: When I have an urge to check my emails at bedtime, I am aware that I can choose other triggers of feel-good hormones, like hugging my kids or husband.
As I more proactively (rather than reactively) manage my schedule, I now more often ask myself: will this be good for my soul? What kind of cascade of hormones might it trigger? And with what risks?
I hope that question might help you too because there are low-risk triggers of feel-good hormones that are also good for our souls.
Two important feel-good hormones are oxytocin and dopamine. They are available in our brains and bodies, but released upon triggers. Popular triggers include online social networking, and other offline experiences.
Oxytocin is referred to as the love hormone, or the cuddle hormone.
In pregnant women, oxytocin triggers labor and the pregnant body's delivery of the baby. Producing feelings of affection and contentment, oxytocin is also key to promoting a mom's bonding with her baby. Oxytocin is key to bonding experiences in general, and underlies trust. It also promotes a sense of calm and love.
Other triggers of oxytocin include:
Oxytocin has been described as an antidote to depressive feelings, according to an article published in Psychology Today.
Wow: Triggers of oxytocin can help counter depressive feelings.
However, not all triggers are the same. Low-risk triggers include hugging a caring person. Other triggers of oxytocin carry more risks.
Neuro-economist Paul J. Zak (Claremont Graduate University) discovered and scientifically proved that social networking releases oxytocin. Given my last article "Depression: Does social media make it worse?," you can consider the tips at the end of this article with more appreciation.
Dopamine is a chemical in our brain that controls our reward and pleasure centers. It causes us to seek, desire, and search. Dopamine affects movement and emotional responses, and influences our behavior to seek rewards. Thus, it's a key player in addictions.
Dopamine becomes activated by unpredictability, small bits of information, and reward cues. Using social media meets this criteria and, in fact, triggers a dopamine high. One study even found that Tweeting can often be harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol.
Other triggers of dopamine:
While online social networking can facilitate true connection and be rewarding, mindful use is necessary as online activities can easily lead us toward addiction. Below are 8 tips on low-risk practices for releasing feel-good hormones.
In 2020, we're deconstructing our home, habits, and things to reconstruct a practical nontoxic and healing lifestyle. We're bringing consciousness to unconscious choices.