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“Love On The Brain” is not just one of Rihanna’s best songs, it’s also something we should be doing every day for ourselves: loving on our brains and finding out how to stimulate the release of good-feeling chemicals like serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin and dopamine. These chemicals make us feel vibrant, happy, energized and uplifted. Here are just a few ways to make your brain happier every day:

Hug someone

Hugging increases emotional intimacy and comfort, and prompts the release of oxytocin, the love hormone! The love hormone not only deepens trust between huggers, it also minimizes stress hormones and lowers heart rate. Studies show that those who hug more generally have lower levels of high blood pressure, so you’re doing your relationships, mind, AND body a favor. If there aren’t any humans around to hug, your furry friends work as well! Learn more from PIH Health about the benefits of hugging.

Listen to mood-lifting music

When you’re blasting your favorite song through your earphones and can’t help but bounce, skip, dance, or nod your head while you walk to class, know that there’s a reason! Music triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine, the chemical linked to our brain’s reward system. That’s why we want to listen to our favorite song ON REPEAT — because our brains know it’ll make us feel great. Learn more from NBC News and Jeff Smith, Ph.D., a consulting professor at Stanford University’s music department and co-founder and CEO of Smule.

Get enough sleep

I know you need to finish Bridgerton ASAP, but consider saving the next episode for tomorrow. Many studies show that sleep may be one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, factor in feeling happy. Sleep re-energizes us, increases our productivity, improves our memory, and more. When you wake up well-rested, a lot more has to happen for you to feel irritable or stressed than if you get up on the wrong side of bed. Learn more from Harvard Medical School about how sleep affects mood and how to cultivate good sleeping habits.

Get a massage

This is your excuse to blow money at the spa: mental health! According to the Mayo Clinic, an hour-long massage can lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels by an average of 30 percent — and when stress hormones are reduced, serotonin levels increase dramatically. Receiving a massage brings feelings of wellbeing and comfort, and it doesn’t even have to be by a human. Chair massages can lower stress levels and blood pressure, too. Studies show that regular massages not only improve mood but can reset circadian rhythms so you can sleep better (which, if you’re paying attention, I just said was good for you!) Everything bleeds into everything, so when you start practicing multiple beneficial habits at the same time, you will definitely reap the benefits. Learn more from the Mayo Clinic and the American Massage Therapy Association

Eat healthy

A Harvard Health Blog post by Dr. Eva Selhub mentioned that about 95 percent of serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, which means our digestive system has a huge role in regulating our mental and emotional healths. Good bacteria from healthy food can influence the nerve cells in your GI tract, minimizing inflammation and even activating neural pathways from your gut to your brain. Dr. Selhub also shared that studies show the risk for depression is 25-35 percent lower for those who eat a healthier diet with less refined sugars, like the Mediterranean or Japanese cuisines. Of course, allowing yourself an indulgent snack once in a while is important, but try to keep your diet as free of processed and refined ingredients as possible. Learn more from Harvard Medical School about nutritional psychiatry

BRB, I have to go listen to Carly Rae Jepsen on my way to my massage appointment. But seriously, try committing to one or more of these habits for at least a few weeks, and see if they make a difference in your mood! Daily life can produce more stress and chaos than we’re aware of, and it’s easy to neglect the simple fact that when we intentionally stimulate our brains and bodies in the right ways, we can naturally feel great — and that’s what we deserve!

Hannah Cheng

Pepperdine '22

Hannah is a Pepperdine student majoring in Integrated Marketing Communications, and she is passionate about health, lifestyle, current issues, and ultimately working with the women around her to fulfill their potential as individuals and a community. She has always loved storytelling and writing, and is so excited to be here at HC.
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