An improved understanding of your body’s messaging system can help you feel better in your day-to-day life. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins.

These are words you likely recognize.

But what do they mean?

You might have heard phrases like, “I just had the best workout and am full of endorphins.” Or, “I’m so stressed, my cortisol levels must be high today.”

While we might often toss around the names of hormones in everyday conversation, do we know what our hormones really do?

Hormones are secreted directly into your bloodstream by endocrine glands. These include the ovaries, thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands, among others.

The endocrine glands are part of the larger endocrine system, which is controlled by the brain’s hormone messenger center, the hypothalamus.

While hormone levels are most commonly associated with mood, almost everything in the body is controlled by hormones.

Feeling hungry? Hormones.

Feeling cold? Hormones.

Feeling sleepy? Hormones.

These are just some of the many bodily responses our hormones help regulate. They perform a constant dance with one another to help us feel our best.

Luckily, we can take steps to help our hormones positively affect our mood and health.

How? By introducing some gentle lifestyle changes.

Play

What do we mean by play? This change really is simple. Feeling and acting playful boosts oxytocin levels. Oxytocin has been called the love hormone, the cuddle hormone and the happy hormone.

Throwing a frisbee, cuddling with your dog, building a sand castle, giggling with your child—these things can really make a difference. You’ve probably experienced a boost of happiness from these activities. That’s your oxytocin at work.

So lean in. Play more.

Socialize

This past year has brought many changes to how we interact with one another. Human connection has become more important than ever for mental health.

Safely interacting with your family or finding an online meet up with likeminded friends can also make your happy hormones surge. Your happy hormones are oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. Together, they give you that feeling of euphoria you might get after a really fun dinner with friends.

Get into nature

Scientists have long suspected that getting into nature is not only good for the soul, but good for the body, too. And there’s mounting evidence to prove it.

One new study found you can reap positive physiological responses by heading outdoors, including better immune function and lower blood pressure. It can also decrease levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Even a brief outdoor picnic away from the city may help lower stress hormones and improve mood.

Looking for ideas? Take a walk during your lunch break or opt for an outdoor meal on a patio. You’ll feel better physically and mentally.

Lower your sugar intake

This gentle change will help you maintain your hormonal balance, which is important for women of all ages.

A high-sugar diet, which includes not just sweets but also refined carbohydrates, can increase insulin resistance and lead to the development of chronic conditions such as diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome.

This doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally enjoy a tasty ice cream treat on a hot summer day with your family.

For midday snacks, aim for anti-oxidant rich foods such as berries and fiber-rich foods, such as chia seeds and nuts. This will help regulate your hormones and insulin and improve your metabolism—and you’ll feel better all day.

Hey, Mr. DJ

Tune into your favorite playlist—the soothing music you play in the background while you work, or that one song you always jam out to. (You know, the one that makes you dance in your kitchen or in the car. The one that gives those happy hormones a boost.)

Music increases dopamine levels, which can control our ability to feel pleasure. It’s also linked to thinking clearly.

Need to make a plan? Dopamine helps you do that.

Are these tips and tricks the only ways to help you regulate your physical and emotional feelings? Certainly not.

These are just a few suggestions that may help you better understand your body’s messaging system and, ideally, feel better in your day-to-day life.

Some other actions you can take: Get consistent sleep, lower your caffeine intake and engage in an exercise such as yoga.