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How to recover from a breakup by balancing your brain chemicals

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Healthy romantic relationships bring happiness and promote mental wellbeing. They enhance emotional bonding and contribute to positive social connections. Your brain chemicals are intimately involved in the way you feel when in love. Sometimes, relationships end in heartbreaks. The feelings of depression after a breakup are a result of imbalance in these chemicals. Break ups can pave way to self-growth and maturity. There are ways to ease your journey through them so you can come out stronger. 

Science of heartbreak: What happens in your brain?

Love can be considered as an intense chemical reaction in the brain producing chemicals that make you feel euphoric:

  • Serotonin, your happiness brain chemical promotes good mood and regulates your sleep and appetite.
  • Your brain sees love as a reward, thus pumping out dopamine, your reward and pleasure brain chemical when you spend time with your loved one. Brain scans showed that looking at pictures of partners activated the reward system [1].
  • Oxytocin, your bonding brain chemical, is released during sexual activity and promotes attachment to your loved one [2]. 

This potent mix of chemicals is responsible for the happiness felt in love. During a break-up, the levels of these chemicals fall, making you feel low for days. The best way to get over a breakup is to re-balance their levels. Finding alternative healthy ways to increase serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin can bring back your zest for life. 

How to feel better after a breakup

A magical cure to instantly cure a breakup is yet to be discovered. Patience, perseverance and practical steps can go a long way. There are easy and effective ways to increase serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin:

  • Serotonin to feel happy again.
  • Tryptophan, found in protein rich foods (tofu, chia seeds, chicken) is converted to 5-HTP, which is then converted to serotonin. For a quick and direct production of serotonin, you can opt for its supplemental form, 5-HTP in the world’s smallest nutrient dense 100mg tablets [prod shot]. 

    In a small study of 15 participants experiencing a breakup or romantic stress, 12.8mg 5-HTP was taken for 6 weeks. The participants reported feeling better with reduction of stress upon 3 weeks of intake [3]. 5-HTP can be a helpful tool in your breakup recovery kit to boost your mood. Another way to boost serotonin levels is by spending time outdoors during sunny days. This activates serotonin production [4]. This is a good incentive to get yourself outdoors and enjoy some sunshine when everything feels gloomy.

  • Oxytocin to feel loved again.
  • Breakups can feel isolating, connecting with friends and family can lift your spirits. Spending time with pets can also increase oxytocin levels [5]. Focus your energy on positive social interactions and try oxytocin-making activities like singing, volunteering, and getting a massage [6][7]

  • Dopamine to feel the pleasures of life again.
  • Dopamine is made from its building block, tyrosine found in protein rich foods (cheese, tofu, beef). Tyrosine is also found in supplemental form for a quick increase in dopamine levels, like the world’s 1st natural 800mg capsule. [prod shot]. Another way of increasing dopamine levels is to engage in regular exercise. A break-up can be a good opportunity to reinvent yourself by focusing on your physical health. Animal studies found that exercise increased dopamine levels by 40% and the levels stayed high for a week [8]. If you are looking for more relaxing activities, try practising meditation, an act of mindfulness which can also increase dopamine by 65% in a 1 hr session [9].

    Turn breakups into a learning experience and take charge of your mental wellbeing. Boost your brain chemicals to ease the lows because you are stronger and it gets better. 

    References

    1. Seshadri K. G. (2016). The neuroendocrinology of love. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism20(4), 558–563.
    2. Carter, C. S., & Perkeybile, A. M. (2018). The Monogamy Paradox: What Do Love and Sex Have to Do With It?. Frontiers in ecology and evolution6, 202.
    3. Emanuele, E. et al. (2010). An Open-Label Trial of L-5-Hydroxytryptophan in Subjects with Romantic Stress. Act Nerv Super Rediviva, [online] 52(2), pp.52020–52025. 
    4. Sansone, R. A. et al. (2013). Sunshine, serotonin, and skin: a partial explanation for seasonal patterns in psychopathology?. Innovations in clinical neuroscience10(7-8), 20–24.
    5. Marshall-Pescini, S. et al. (2019). The Role of Oxytocin in the Dog-Owner Relationship. Animals : an open access journal from MDPI9(10), 792.
    6. Zak, P. J. et al. (2022). Oxytocin Release Increases With Age and Is Associated With Life Satisfaction and Prosocial Behaviors. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 16, 846234. 
    7. Morhenn, V., Beavin, L. E., & Zak, P. J. (2012). Massage increases oxytocin and reduces adrenocorticotropin hormone in humans. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 18(6), 11–18.
    8. Bastioli, G. et al. (2022). Voluntary Exercise Boosts Striatal Dopamine Release: Evidence for the Necessary and Sufficient Role of BDNF. Journal of Neuroscience, [online] 42(23), pp.4725–4736.
    9. Kjaer, T.W. et al. (2002). Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. Cognitive Brain Research, [online] 13(2), pp.255–259.
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