Whether you realize it or not, your brain acts as a full-time internal pharmacist, managing your body’s natural biochemistry. I imagine my inner pharmacist wearing a white medical coat with her name embroidered on the pocket – Doris. I’m not sure why her name is Doris, but somehow it fits. Doris is a natural at her job, but I supervise her closely.
The body is a complex biochemical system awash in neurotransmitters, hormones, peptides and more that impact your mood, thoughts and bodily function. Usually the body’s biochemistry operates outside of conscious awareness. Doris is doling out my body’s natural pharmaceuticals whether I’m paying attention or not. But I can take charge of my inner pharmacist by engaging in specific behaviors to modify the biochemicals flowing through my brain and body.
An easy way to change your inner chemistry is to slow your breathing. A long exhalation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases the flow of stress hormones, such as cortisol. For an even stronger benefit, meditation orders a natural anti-anxiety concoction.
Paying attention to your posture is another simple way to impact your biochemistry. A collapsed, slumped body position is associated with increased cortisol and lower testosterone. By pulling your shoulders back and expanding your body stance, you can improve your confidence biochemically.
You’ve probably heard of a runner’s high. After extended vigorous exercise, the body releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers, leaving you refreshed, invigorated and happy. Although I don’t exercise hard enough to activate these inner opioids, my workouts increase serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, the neurochemicals most associated with mood regulation. Movement is the body’s natural anti-depressant.
Connecting with your friends, family and pets is another way to engage your inner pharmacist. The comforting experience of interacting with a loved one is in part due to the activation of oxytocin, a soothing stress hormone that creates an experience of warmth and calm.
Be intentional about impacting your biochemistry. Bio-behavioral interventions can significantly improve your mood, clarity of mind and body functioning. However, sometimes we need to employ the external pharmacist. For example, while milder depression can be dramatically improved through lifestyle choices such as healthy diet, exercise and social support, clinical depression is a medical condition that usually requires prescription medication and therapy.
Emotions and thoughts are biochemically driven. Pay attention to the physiological impacts of your lifestyle choices. What’s your inner pharmacist’s name? Work with her or him to order up some joy juice today!