There is a lot of advice going around right now on how to make the best out of lockdown, what routines to implement and how to look after your mental health. I for one, am a bit overwhelmed. This is how I simplify things and make sure I'm still doing the basics when it comes to looking after my emotional health, and giving myself the best chance of staying in a good state of mind.
Our bodies have 4 main 'happy hormones'. Each one works in a completely different way and each one will effect you for a different amount of time. Most people don't know this but it's extremely important to get a balance of these if you want to feel any contentment or stability in your positive moods.
I'll run through them quickly in the D.O.S.E format -
Dopamine is the reward hormone, it's released when you feel good about something you've done. Triggered by crossing something off your to-do list, junk food or by approval from others (think likes, comments and compliments). Dopamine has the shortest lifespan out of all out feel good hormones, it spikes and falls again in less than a minute. It feels a bit like excitement or a 'buzz'.
Oxytocin is also known as the 'love drug' it's mostly released by positive physical touch, cuddling etc. It can also be released when we are having conversations with people we love and trust, eye contact helps this. Oxytocin is thought to have a positive impact that can last for years! It's generally accepted to last weeks to months at a time. It feels like contentment.
Serotonin helps a lot of our bodily functions like digestion and sleep go smoothly. When we get up and go to sleep at similar times each day and get enough daylight (especially morning light before 10am) this helps to balance serotonin levels. Balanced levels help you to feel calmer and have less mood swings. Serotonin is thought to last between a few hours and a few days.
Endorphins are actually our bodies natural pain killer! After exercise we produce endorphins to mask the pain of thousands of tiny muscle tears (which are completely normal). The release of endorphins can feel a bit euphoric but for most of us just feels like a gentle positive mood lift, or a break from negative mood if you're suffering from depression. The effects of endorphins usually last a few hours.
Now that you know how long each of our happy hormones last and where we get them from, you can start to see if your daily habits are lacking in terms of producing the balance needed for overall emotional health.
I've started to check in with myself each day to see if I've had my 'Daily D.O.S.E' and on the days that I have I notice a big difference in my mood.
I advise placing importance on the hormones that will have the longer term impact, it just makes sense! So hugging your family (that you're in lockdown with only!), speaking daily with your besties on FaceTime and getting outside for a walk (preferably in the morning) should be top priority. After that try to steer yourself toward the more productive dopamine hit of crossing things off the to-do list, but if you're not feeling up to it, you've already done great things that has impacted your mood positively, so well done you!
I hope this helps you to understand your feelings a bit and feel a little more empowered. You got this!
Love and positive vibes