Hope Molecules —The Basic Science Behind How Movement Makes Us Feel Good

in #health9 months ago (edited)

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AI image, "Painting of Hope molecules moving through a woman's dancing body"

Recently, I stumbled across an interesting article on The Guardian about myokines, also known as 'hope molecules,' which are chemicals that get secreted by our skeletal muscles in response to any movement or muscle contraction. These small proteins travel to the brain and can act as a powerful anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory. Myokines and neurotransmitters (such as dopamine and serotonin) all get released during movement, which support us in feeling good and whole.

I find it fascinating that muscle tissue can communicate directly with the brain and other organs. Here's a Substack piece by Heather Jastremski about these hope molecules:

The brain can sense exercise via peripheral factors within the liver and adipose (fat) tissue and by myokine release into the bloodstream for direct communication between muscle and the brain. Movement is considered an agent by which the brain can remodel itself and acknowledge one’s aliveness and participation in life.

Specific myokines cross the blood-brain barrier to enhance processes enabling new nerve cell formation (neurogenesis), memory, and learning while other myokines alter the chemical balance reducing depression. Myokines may serve as a novel therapeutic intervention, not only for chronic diseases mitigation associated with sedentary lifestyles, but also for good mental health. By inducing movement, skeletal muscle is identified as a mechanism that reduces the detrimental effects of stress, augments resiliency to depression, and provides a hopeful mindset.

Upon release, myokines appear to function as molecular mediators having whole-body effects upon exercising. Typically in our health education courses, we are introduced to some of the body’s primary internal systems, such as circulatory and cardiovascular systems. Yet other less-known systems, such as the body’s internal communication systems, which are incredibly vital to our physical, mental, and emotional health, are less frequently discussed. If we can begin to think in terms of the various “communication and signaling pathways” transpiring between body systems, it may be easier to understand the influences our actions and patterns have on our holistic health and wellness.

Our bodies reward us with pleasure, joy, and hope upon movement. Our physiology nudges us to keep moving by rewarding us with beneficial molecules, peptides, and hormones that amplify elevated emotions and propel our purpose, resiliency, and energy. We have an internal pharmacy within our amazing bodies, and understanding how to activate and influence these natural processes is paramount to our mental, physical, and emotional health.

The body also carries deep intelligence and information about who we are, including all the tension and memories it stores which reveal what we've been through (and what we hold onto as a result). We now know that our heart carries more information to the brain than the brain carries to the heart, which shows the importance of regulating our emotional states through the body. On most days, I try to be conscious about staying in tune with my body. I often fall into the habit of not listening to my body and what it needs. I often push it to the limit, and I sometimes struggle to slow down whether it's eating fast or remembering to breathe deeply throughout the day.

After every sweaty and challenging yoga session, especially when the teacher would invite us to join in on beautiful kirtan chanting or even to acknowledge ourselves for showing up on the mat, I would cry and cry and cry. It was almost like I was grieving all the ways that I neglect my body in subtle and unconscious ways. Yet I also cry because I feel so connected and grateful for my body to the point where it moves me to tears. Thank you body, for all you do to keep me alive and self-regulating in a chaotic world.

Today, I got my hope molecules flowing. It was the first time I shuffle danced in over a week. Needless to say, I was gassed within seconds, given the energy expenditure and power required to engage in the complicated footwork and microbouncing that shuffling entails. After I danced however, I felt deeply refreshed and relaxed.

Hope you enjoy the dance video, Hive community!

TRACK ID:

  1. Tribal Train - Silvano Del Gado (those drums go on forever! what a primal workout hehe)
  2. Healing is Not My Purpose - Toni Jones (the lyrics/mantras make me feel so powerful!)

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Great post. Insightful. And I love watching you groove to good music: )

The first song was inspired by your comment on primal drum sounds :)

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