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Happiness isn’t just a state of mind. It affects your overall health. Linda Halbrook, MD, a family practice physician on the medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, explains that when we’re happy, levels of serotonin—the main “happiness” hormone—are optimal, and our other neurotransmitters are functioning well.
“Being happy helps create proper homeostasis—or balance—of all the organ systems,” Dr. Halbrook says. “These neurotransmitters help regulate heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature; support the immune system; and favorably affect the gastrointestinal system. Plus, serotonin affects sleep, which is restorative.”
So, what can you do to help boost your serotonin levels?
1. Choose happiness. While some people are genetically predisposed to having lower serotonin levels, Dr. Halbrook says, happiness is a decision.
“We can make changes,” she says. “There is a choice in whether we see the glass half-empty or half-full.”
2. Get moving. “Exercise is a natural way to raise your endorphins,” Dr. Halbrook says. These hormones increase your feelings of well-being.
3. Soothe stress. “We have to handle our stress. Find time for yourself,” she advises. “Get a massage, spend time with friends, do something you find fun.”
4. Be social. Reaching outside of yourself and spending time with others, she notes, can help you find happiness.
5. Get a pet. “Dogs love everybody,” Dr. Halbrook says. But more important, being around animals is a form of social interaction. “When pets are brought into cancer wings or nursing homes, those patients typically do better,” she says.
6. Donate time to charity. There are people worse off than you who need your help, Dr. Halbrook reminds us. And doing something for others can give you perspective on your situation.
Signs of depression include an under- or over-active appetite, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, unexplained fatigue, a lack of enjoyment in life’s activities, feelings of guilt or thoughts of harming yourself. If you are experiencing these emotions, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional right away. Call the Baylor Plano Behavioral Health Center at 469.814.4850.
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