World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. World Mental Health Day this year focuses on mental health in the workplace. It’s an opportunity for everyone working on mental wellbeing to talk about their work.
I recently came across some useful tips that are easy to adopt and which trigger pleasure hormones in our brain thereby improving our mood. According to neuroscience, there are 4 major chemicals in the brain that influence our happiness: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins. Learning how to activate these “happiness chemicals” you can help you to improve your mental wellbeing and thereby manage the challenges at work more effectively.
Why not try and do as many of these as you can through your working day and encourage others at work to actively do something to improve their mental wellbeing at work?
- Practice the art of gratitude. One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. Ask yourself, what 3 things are you grateful for today.
- Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals —it engages the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety.
- The power of touch. A hug, especially a long one, releases oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala. Hand holding, pats on the back, and handshakes work, too.
- Give yourself accolades on every win – small or big. It is crucial to congratulate yourself for every success you achieve to release dopamine in the brain.
- Exercise. It can make you less stressed and more productive. Specifically, it boosts dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. The exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous. Simply taking a walk or climbing some stairs will achieve a good dopamine hit.
- Listen to music. Research has shown that music actually increases our levels of dopamine.
- Eat dark chocolate. Dark chocolate helps boost the production of “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins. Consuming chocolate has also been found to increase dopamine levels, which is known for being crucial in motivation. Stick with dark chocolate at least 70 percent cocoa or higher, eat it regularly (about 2-3 times a week), and consume around 1.5 to 2 ounces for best results.
- Stand up straight. Assuming a strong posture, even for as little as 2 minutes, has been shown to increase confidence levels and decrease stress hormones like cortisol, which works directly against neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
- Increase your intake of Tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid and is found in soy products, chicken, fish, almonds, avocado, bananas, dairy products, lima beans, pumpkin and sesame seeds, green tea, watermelon, coffee and yogurt. Tyrosine is considered the building block of dopamine.
- Get focused on something you enjoy. When you are focused on something you feel passionately about, you work in a ‘flow state’ i.e. a way of working that seems effortless, driven on by your interest in, and passion for, what you are doing. This can be something relating to work or home.