In a earlier post and in my novel I state that part of our daily regimen is taking melatonin tablets. Melatonin is a hormone that our pineal gland secrets when we are exposed to darkness. This natural hormone helps us to fall asleep. Unfortunately, as we age the body secretes less and less melatonin. This is why falling asleep becomes more difficult as we age. Supplemental melatonin can speed up the process of falling asleep by up to 6 minutes according to a 2017 Sleep Medicine Review.
We take 5 mg immediately before lights out. If the lights are not out within 15 minutes of taking the pill, it may not trigger sleep.
By now you may be asking what melatonin has to do with hugging. Well…melatonin has nothing to do with hugging. So..what’s my point?
Great question. Hormones are the point. Different glands in the body release many different kinds of hormones and they all have different functions.
Originally I wanted to entitle the post How To Make A Hormone. It’s an old, juvenile and bad joke that teeters on dirty and offensive. So, I changed the title.
COVID19 related changes and mandates have resulted in increasing depression and suicide. Reduced production of 4 ‘happy’ hormones could have a huge influence on COVID19 related mental health issues.
The hormones that I refer to are endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.
Most of us are familiar with endorphins. The pituitary gland secretes endorphins when we exercise. Endorphins are a natural opioid that reduces the pain that physical exercise can have on the body. It is our bodies way given us a natural ‘high’. People that normally exercise on a regular basis and suddenly stop miss the endorphin high. COVID19 mandates closed most gym and sent ‘unessential’ employees home to work which expanded the number of couch potatoes and reduced the production of endorphins for many.
Dopamine is produced by the brain and released when the brain is anticipating a reward for an action. Dopamine is released when we accomplish a task, and when anything enjoyable happens to us like going out for an evening, having great food. For some it may be the released when they shop, for others when they have sex, for many it is chocolate. Basically, we get a dopamine rush whenever anything we enjoy happens to us. There have been no live attended entertainment, movie theaters have been mostly closed, sporting arenas mostly empty, restaurants at 25% capacity, events cancelled everywhere. Many enjoyable stimulants have been nonexistent. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol can elicit dopamine too, abuse is on the rise thanks to COVID19…
Serotonin is a hormone released through the digestive system that stabilizes our emotions and moods, regulates our ability to…well…poop, tells us when to wake up, and tells our blood when to clot. Serotonin levels are increased when we perform good deeds. Fortunately, we can do for others at all times in our lives.
Oxytocin is the hormone that I think has been most effected by COVID19 and was the catalyst for choosing the cover picture for this post. Oxytocin is produced by the pituitary gland in the hypothalamus when we engage in human touch. It is most important between a new born baby and mother when breastfeeding. It creates a sense of trust and relationship building. However, we can’t underestimate the damage to our psyche when we are told,thanks to COVID19 that we can no longer hug, shake hands or even be within 6 feet of people that we do not live with.
We are social creatures that crave human contact. Breaking bread, congregating and enjoying the company of more than those we live with. Getting back to normal and producing these important feel good hormones is needed and soon.