Our bodies are incredibly complex systems, and the way that our nervous system regulates our state of mind and body is one of the most fascinating aspects of human physiology. One key aspect of this regulation is the interplay between several different neurotransmitters and hormones, which are responsible for a wide range of functions. One powerful combination of these chemicals is the catecholamine-cortisol-endorphin trifecta.
Without going too deep into the mechanisms of these neurotransmitters know that the catecholamines include dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals are responsible for increasing alertness and motivation, and are commonly associated with the fight-or-flight response. Deliberate cold exposure, such as taking a cold shower or jump in cold water, and viewing morning sunlight can trigger the release of catecholamines for many hours, leading to increased alertness and focus throughout the day.
Viewing morning sunlight also has a positive effect on our physiology by increasing cortisol levels in a healthy manner. Cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone,” but in the right amounts it is beneficial for our focus and immune system. Every single human, just as soon as possible after waking up, should go outside and get at least 15 minutes of direct natural light. Expose as much of your skin as possible, take a walk and bathe in the mornings glory. And dont worry, even on a cloudy day there is plenty of UV to soak up.
Exercise is another powerful tool for regulating our neurochemicals, especially for increasing the catecholamines. Depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise, it can also lead to an increase in endorphins, the so-called “feel-good” chemicals. Endorphins are responsible for reducing pain and increasing pleasure, and are often associated with the “runner’s high” that people experience during intense exercise. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight, maintain weight loss or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more. Reducing sitting time is important, too.
By combining the above three practices each day – with at least the first two done early in the day and ideally the exercise as well – you establish a powerful trifecta of neurochemicals that lead to increased feelings of well-being, alertness, and focus all day long, and improve sleep at night. And, of course, be safe, never stare at any lights, sunlight or otherwise so that it’s painful. Blink as you need to so as to always protect your eyes.
It’s important to note that while this trifecta can be an effective way to improve your overall well-being, everyone’s bodies are different and it’s always important to listen to your own body. Cold exposure should be uncomfortably cold but safe, and the intensity and duration of exercise should be tailored to your individual needs. With that said, by taking these simple steps each day, you can improve your focus, energy levels, and mood throughout the day and improve your sleep quality at night.