Mental health: Movement can trigger a set of powerful hormones

Mental health: Movement can trigger a set of powerful hormones <i>(Image: Canva)</i>
Mental health: Movement can trigger a set of powerful hormones (Image: Canva)

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is 'Movement: Moving more for our mental health'.

Let’s face it, sometimes getting motivated to move can feel like a marathon itself! The good news is, even a small burst of activity can have a big impact on how we feel.

Quite simply our bodies and minds are intricately connected. When we move, we trigger the release of powerful chemicals in our brains called neurotransmitters and hormones.

Without turning this week’s column into a science lesson, I thought it would be good to explain a few of these chemicals to you, and how they help us to feel good.

• Endorphins: Often referred to as our 'natural painkillers', endorphins have a two-pronged attack. They not only reduce physical pain but also elevate our mood. Think about that post-workout high you experience after a brisk walk or a fun dance session. That’s the power of endorphins at play. They bind to opioid receptors in the brain, creating a sense of euphoria and reducing our perception of stress and discomfort.

• Serotonin: This neurotransmitter is a major player in regulating mood, sleep, and appetite. When serotonin levels are low, we can experience symptoms like anxiety, depression, and difficulty sleeping. Regular physical activity acts like a natural antidepressant, increasing serotonin production. This can lead to feelings of calmness, improved focus, and a more positive outlook.

• Dopamine: Ever feel a surge of motivation or a sense of accomplishment after completing a task? That’s dopamine at work. This neurotransmitter is closely linked to reward, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. Physical activity triggers the release of dopamine, giving us a sense of accomplishment and boosting our motivation to keep moving.

• Norepinephrine: Feeling foggy-brained and struggling to concentrate? A brisk walk or some light exercise might be just what you need. Norepinephrine helps with alertness, focus, and concentration. By increasing norepinephrine levels in the brain, physical activity can sharpen our mental edge and improve cognitive function.

By getting your body moving, you’re essentially creating a feel-good cocktail in your brain!

This chemical response not only improves your mood but also helps manage stress, anxiety, and even symptoms of depression.

Remember, movement doesn’t have to be about hitting the gym. Even small changes can make a big difference. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

Lastly, just to clarify my previous column on ADHD, your GP cannot make an ADHD diagnosis, but will refer you to a specialist who can. Happy to clear than one up!

Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various modalities and an Instructor Member of Mental Health First Aid England

Anyone can struggle with their mental well-being from time to time. However, if you feel you are in danger of harming yourself or others then please contact your GP, go to A&E, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258