Happy Hormones

File Photo
File Photo

Morotsung Longchar
Kohima

Mental Health is a very important aspect of a healthy life. But what actually does Mental Health mean? Mental health refers to cognitive, behavioural, and emotional well-being. It is all about how people think, feel, and behave. People sometimes use the term “mental health” to mean the absence of a mental disorder. Mental health can affect daily living, relationships, and physical health. However, this link also works in the other direction. Factors in people’s lives, interpersonal connections, and physical factors can all contribute to mental health disruptions. Looking after mental health can preserve a person’s ability to enjoy life. Doing this involves reaching a balance between life activities, responsibilities, and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety can all affect mental health and disrupt a person’s routine.

According to World Health Organization, “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Now coming back to the overall situation at the moment in Nagaland we can definitely say there is a total lack of awareness among the people when it comes to issues related to Mental Health. The current ongoing pandemic has also contributed a lot to mental stress and anxiety among the people. A lot of people are suffering silently and one must understand that mental health problems are as damaging to one’s health as physical ailments and sickness. We must also understand that Mental Health problems can lead to serious health problems if not addressed at the right time. However there are several ways to treat mental health problems readily available be it through medical practitioners and medications, regular sessions with trained psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, etc. But the most important thing we all should know is that mental health is a very personal affair and no matter what it all boils down to the individual himself and when it comes to treating mental health issues self help is the best help. Now this brings us back to the “Happy Hormones”.

What are “Happy Hormones”? When we ask ourselves what makes us happy, we often think of the circumstances, possessions, or people in our lives. In reality, happiness is largely a chemical experience. Four main neurochemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters generated in the brain are fundamentally responsible for creating the sensations and emotions we’ve come to associate with happiness. Serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins are famously happy hormones that promote positive feelings like pleasure, happiness, and even love. Now let us further delve into more details about these four happy hormones.

Endorphins are opioid neuropeptides, which means they are produced by the central nervous system to help us deal with physical pain. They also make us feel lightheaded and even giddy at times. One non-painful (well, not too painful) way to induce endorphins is exercise. Endorphins are released after both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. In one study, as little as 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill for 10 days in a row was sufficient to produce a significant reduction in depression among clinically depressed subjects.

Serotonin may be the best-known happiness chemical because it’s the one that antidepressant medication primarily addresses. Serotonin is neurotransmitter that is naturally triggered by several things we can do each day. Exposure to bright light, especially sunshine, is one way to increase serotonin. Exercise and happy thoughts also stimulate production of this chemical. Some research has found that a higher intake of tryptophan-heavy foods, relative to other foods in the diet, may do the trick as well.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter often referred to as the “chemical of reward.” When you score a goal, hit a target, or accomplish a task, you receive a pleasurable hit of dopamine in your brain that tells you you’ve done a good job. But you can also get a natural dose of dopamine when you perform acts of kindness toward others. Volunteering has been shown to increase dopamine as well as have other long-term health benefits. And some research has even found that it only takes thoughts of loving kindness to bring on the dopamine high.

Mothers may be familiar with oxytocin, the hormone produced in abundance during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Oxytocin is primarily associated with loving touch and close relationships. This hormone provides a multiple whammy of warm fuzzies, by stimulating dopamine and serotonin, while reducing anxiety. To get your hit of oxytocin spend quality time with your loved ones, even spending time and playing with pets definitely helps.

Mental Health, as mentioned earlier is a very personal matter and it fully depends on the individual himself. A healthy lifestyle with proper exercise, diet and sleeping habits can contribute a lot to our mental wellness. Simple habits like meditation, listening to music, doing acts of kindness and helping others all affect our mental state and contributes greatly towards a healthy mental state. We all know that the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic and the frequent lockdowns have taken a toll on our mental health and has given way to a lot of stress, anxiety and depression but we must also realise that we can all overcome these issues by simply changing our lifestyles and adopting simple healthy habits. It is not just about helping ourselves but these habits also affect the ones around us in a good way. Happiness is contagious and the feel good factor eventually rubs off to the people around us and thus helps in creating a healthy environment for everyone. Till date we have all seen that more than 90 percent of the COVID-19 cases in Nagaland are asymptomatic and so we must all realise that our fight against this pandemic is much more of a mental one than a physical fight. The stigma and discrimination against the infected persons and their families must stop immediately because the infected persons are suffering more because of the mental trauma they go through because of all the stigma and discrimination meted out to them by us. We are all in this together. It may be someone else today but we never know it can be me or you tomorrow. 

We all have to realise the importance of mental health and take life in a truly positive way. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has not resulted in everything that is bad infact it has also given rise to some good things among our people. For example it has greatly brought about changes in our lifestyles be it things related to our personal hygiene, it has brought families together and have allowed them to spend more time together, it has brought out many hidden bakers and at this rate Nagaland will soon be the baking capital of the world and the best part is that our towns are finally becoming cleaner day by day, the environment is healing and pollution levels are going down and so on and so forth. We have also realised the value of our local produce and we are slowly learning to be self-reliant. Agriculture in our state is finally getting its due importance. If we look at it carefully we as a community is slowly moving forward and what we Nagas need right now is a positive state of mind.

Nagas are Kind and generous by nature but we must not always dwell on the physical aspects of our kindness and generosity. We need to contribute and help our society in uplifting the general mental state of the community as a whole. We need to be generous with our words of appreciation and thankfulness to those that need it most and give credit when it’s due. We need to start showing kindness with words of encouragement and speak about forgiveness and expressing sympathy. 

Mental Health issues have always been there in our society and will continue to do so in the days to come. It is just that we all have been indifferent to it so far but the current pandemic have opened our eyes to it to some extent. We all talk about the “New Normal” and we must all realise that it is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. The mental state of a community as a whole is detrimental to its development and hence we Nagas need to be more aware to the various aspects of Mental Health and how it affects the society as a whole. It is time for us to realise the importance of mental health and the need for positivity in our lives. All it takes is a simple change in our lifestyles and it is upto you, me and everyone to be the change and be the catalyst for something that will make all our lives Happier. Indeed the Dalai Lama rightly said, “Happiness is the highest form of Health”.

(The writer is an Information Assistant, Department of Information and Public Relations, Kohima Nagaland)