The 2 Most Important Vitamins for Aging Well (You’ve Never Heard of Them!)
You know about Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. I’m sure you do your best to eat a balanced diet of all nutrients. But have you taken your daily dose of Vitamin J and Vitamin P?
“What?” you may say. “Vitamin J and Vitamin P aren’t in my multivitamin, and my doctor never told me about them!”
The reason that you haven’t heard of them is because I made them up. Vitamin J stands for Joy, and Vitamin P stands for Peace.
In my work with older adults, I’ve noticed that these two key “vitamins” tip the balance for wellness in mind and body. Here’s what you need to know, and how to get your daily dose.
The Daily DOSE
I first learned about “The Daily DOSE” from Chris and Dudley Tower of Dynamic Living Institute. They taught me that to age well we must continually replenish our supply of four key hormones and neurotransmitters.
D = Dopamine
O = Oxytocin
S = Serotonin
E = Endorphins
Dopamine and serotonin naturally decline with age. First, we’ll go over what these brain chemicals and hormones do for you, and how we can boost our production. Then I’ll show you how to make it really simple to get Vitamin J and Vitamin P every day.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is triggered by pleasure and reward. When our dopamine levels are optimal, we feel mentally alert and motivated.
Positive ways to release dopamine include setting and achieving goals, exercise, choosing a balanced diet, and meditation. We release dopamine when we check off a task on our to-do list. Negative ways to release dopamine include excessive eating, drinking, shopping, and gambling.
The best way to produce and release dopamine is to create a sense of meaningful purpose. At earlier stages of life, our daily activities provided plenty of opportunities to set and achieve goals – at work, raising a family, and making a home.
Our goals and purpose were often external. They were handed to us by the need to make a living and do what was necessary.
In later stages of life, we must identify our inner purpose. For many of us, it’s the first time we’ve had the freedom to do so, and it can feel overwhelming.
It can be challenging to feel motivated if we don’t need to work anymore and aren’t connected to volunteering or family activities where we feel needed. Dopamine is what gets us out of bed and into the world each day.
To develop your sense of purpose, build on success. Find what you’re good at and do more of it! If you know that you’re good with kids, arrange your schedule to spend time helping them. If you know you’re great at taking care of animals, volunteer with a shelter or serve as a foster home.
Celebrate what you do well. Celebrate your small wins. Set a small goal that you know you can achieve and do it. Then set a slightly bigger one – and do that.
Oxytocin is sometimes called the “love drug” or “love hormone.” And yes, it is released through touch. We make oxytocin when we snuggle with a human or animal, or even when we touch ourselves.
It doesn’t need to be sexual or sensual touch. You can take a little extra time putting lotion on your body or massage your own feet!
As you age, you may notice fewer opportunities for touch. You may live alone or far away from family. The good news is that oxytocin is also released when we look into someone’s eyes, and when we feel compassion and empathy for others. We can feel compassion anytime, even in our minds, by simply thinking of loved ones.
To increase your daily dose of oxytocin, give more hugs to others, yourself, and animals. Love and nurture your body. Even if you are not a “touchy” person, take a few extra seconds to make eye contact and smile at others.
Serotonin is powerful and complex. It regulates mood, appetite, metabolism, and bone formation. If you have gone through a crisis or depression, you may have been prescribed a medicine to regulate how your body uses serotonin.
One of the best ways to help your body regulate serotonin is to “go with your gut.” I mean this literally and figuratively.
90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in your intestines. Ensuring that you have healthy digestion involves choosing whole foods, consuming probiotics, and reducing stress. Check out this blog post about serotonin, probiotics, and gut health.
Endorphins are released when we exercise or feel physically invigorated. The phrase “runner’s high” refers to the feel-good sensations of endorphins. They provide natural pain relief.
I have a colleague who went through an excruciating injury that still causes him a lot of pain. His daily exercise allows him to manage the pain without drugs.
Aging does have its share of aches and pains. It may be harder to get the same intense exercise of the past, as we must exercise around injuries or arthritis. As Margaret always encourages on Sixty and Me, find what you CAN do, such as yoga or water aerobics, to get those endorphins.
Get Your DOSE of Vitamin J and Vitamin P
Now that you know the basics of DOSE, let’s make it really simple.
First, good food, sleep, and exercise go a long way to healthy balances of these neurotransmitters and hormones. If you like choosing whole foods and healthy lifestyle habits, it makes it easier to get your DOSE and age well.
Second, there are some things that are proven to help you balance your daily DOSE. These are:
- Giving to others through service, gifts, or time
- Feeling love and empathy
- Celebrating small wins
- Aromatherapy (or just enjoying good smells!)
- Being in nature
Here are 10 More Ways to Boost Good Feelings from Psychology Today.
Finally, and most importantly, do what brings you joy and peace! It doesn’t matter what other people do. I love to hike in the woods, but not everyone loves being in the woods with bugs and dirt.
I don’t like gardening, but other people love it. I feel peaceful being by myself at home for long stretches of time, but I have friends that need to socialize often to feel good.
You get your daily DOSE of Vitamin J and Vitamin P when you do what makes you feel joyful and peaceful.
It’s important to cultivate activities that are physical and non-physical. I love walking outside. It gives me joy. Recently I had a foot injury, and on some days I could not walk at all. I missed it, and I missed my dose of Vitamin J.
Even if we do everything possible to stay physically healthy as we age, we will have some inevitable obstacles to physical activity. So, cultivate non-physical activities as well, such as reading, movies, meditation, singing, or listening to music.
- Make a list of 10 things that bring you joy and peace. Include both physical and non-physical activities.
- Post the list somewhere visible.
- Do 1 thing every day!
What brings you joy and peace? How do you get your daily DOSE of Vitamin J and Vitamin P? What favorite activities could you do more of? Please share in the comments below.