There are several chemical messengers known to have an effect on mood and these include melatonin, serotonin and dopamine. Melatonin and serotonin are secreted by the pineal gland.
The pineal gland is a part of the endocrine system that also includes the adrenals and pituitary gland amongst others. These glands secrete hormones that affect our entire bodies. It is located deep in the centre of the brain and has been called the "third eye".
The pineal gland produces melatonin which helps to maintain circadian rhythm acting a biological clock for the body. It has an effect on mood and the immune system and is powerful antioxidant and may be anti tumour agent. It is anti-aging and anti-stress because it suppresses cortisol. During darkness the pineal gland releases melatonin and releases serotonin during the day.
There are several ways to activate the pineal gland including binaural beats music, third eye meditation and drinking blue lotus tea. The following is a technique called spinal cord breathing.
Spinal cord breathing:
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
2. Relax, and begin to notice how you feel, dropping into the present.
3. Continue breathing naturally.
4. On your next inhalation, lift your arms shoulder height, keep your elbows bent and your fingers towards the sky (cactus shape). Gently tilt your sacrum backward, arching your spine. Open your chest and allow the rib cage to expand, activating the thymus and adrenal glands. Allow your head to drop backwards and your jaw to soften, your mouth will naturally open.
5. As you exhale, tilt your sacrum forward, tucking your tailbone and rounding your spine as if curling into a ball. Bring your elbows together in front of your chest, and let your chin drop toward your chest as you lightly clench your teeth.
6. Repeat 9, 11 or 18 times, then return your head and spine to neutral and rest with eyes closed.
Serotonin that is also produced by the pineal gland is a key hormone in stabilising mood and feelings of well being and happiness, it is known as the natural anti-depressant. It actually has an effect on the entire body. Exercise is a serotonin booster and there are foods that can also boost serotonin production including chocolate! Following are the instructions for practicing the navel pump which helps to boost serotonin in the body :
Aim to practice first thing in the morning and always on an empty stomach. It is not recommended while pregnant, menstruating, with high blood pressure, ulcers and hiatal hernia. If you feel dizzy during practice, stop and return to normal breathing.
1. Standing knees slightly bent, feet wide and slightly turned out
2. Brace your hands on your knees, fingers turned in. Take a long inhale and long exhale
3. Relax your belly completely then pump your belly/navel in and out. With the exhale held out.
4. Aim for 15 pumps.
5. Relax the belly and inhale. Stand up feel the effects.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter not a hormone and it is produced by nerve cells. It produces its effect by transmitting signals between nerve cells. It is known as the feel good chemical and it affects mood but also memory and focus. We often rely on junk food or our phones for dopamine hits especially when we are feeling lonely and isolated. But the following is great alternative to get your dopamine hit:
1. Sit either on the floor cross legged or on a chair with feet firmly planted on the floor.
2. Take a deep breath in, expand your chest, widen your shoulders
3. Stretching the neck lean your head back, open your mouth, stick out your tongue and bare your teeth.
4. Come back to neutral head position on the exhale with eyes closed and feel the effects. Repeat as many times as feels good to you
Try and incorporate these practices into your morning routine or throughout the day when you need a lift.
By Amanda Wiart the Founder of Yogii Spirit. The Platform for Yoga Living