Written by
Łukasz Olczyk

Łukasz Olczyk

Four Hormones of Ice Bucket

Over just a few months, millions of people decided to be poured with ice cold water. The, so called, Ice Bucket Challenge is a noble fundraising effort, aimed to support people diagnosed with ALS. Once I decided to join our own attempt, I started wondering – how come this one caught up that much? After all, there were plenty of viral charity actions up to date, yet none of them grew popular that fast. One might say it is “cool” thing to do – and, indeed, it’s actually ice cold – but that’s not the point. In a brief moment of mindless relaxation over home-cooked ugly-yet-healthy lunch (“almost entirely unlike food”), I nearly choked when I realized the factor behind it. Long story short, IBC is popular as it gives us a shot of four out of four happiness inducing hormones.

First, there is endorphine. The endurance hormone. It kept cave man chase and hunt his food for 20 kilometers one day, then come back to his “home” and then rinse and repeat, every single day. It keeps me doing (supposedly boring) crunches and pushups every morning. It provides joggers with runners high. It masks physical pain. Make no mistake, being doused with ice cold water is actually pretty painful experience – endorphine will follow.

Then, there is dopamine. A powerful, incredibly addictive hormone, providing us with perseverance. We get a small shot once we do a small step towards a goal of ours, then a bigger one over a milestone, then a huge hit once we’re done. And then we want more. It’s one of the factors pushing us forward, one that actually wires us for overexpansion. With IBC, first we make a decision (or become challenged). Then we go a step forward – a dose. Then we’re standing outside with the bucket – a dose. Then we’re pouring the water on us – boom! Huge hit of dopamine. Let’s go on.

Next there’s serotonin, which is responsible for being a part of something bigger, e.g. a social group. Once we feel we’re part of the community, its level raises and we feel a touch better. That’s one of the reasons behind fact, that – on average – religious people are happier over the lifetime than their atheist counterparts. They are always part of an exclusive community. It’s even the same with wearing designer clothes, driving BMWs, ostensibly flashing Rolex watches and so on. Thing is though, this effect wears off once you’re naked, far from the car and without the shiny gold thing on your wrist, contrary to being a part of something bigger. With IBC – well, you’re being one of millions worldwide, with common and noble goal. And the serotonin is there to support you.

Finally, the oxytocin. You get a shot once you do some good deed and expect nothing in return. Ever helped someone push the car out of snowbank? Ever chased someone with a bunch of papers that just felt out of his backpack? Ever spent half day in a hospital as a stem cell donor? How did it feel? Good. Even more, it’s contagious. Everyone witnessing this got a dose of oxytocin as well. Would you like to go further? The higher the oxytocin, the stronger the internal urge to do more good. And you can’t buy it. It only works for two universal commodities that we all share: health and time. Rich and poor alike don’t really enjoy the stem cell transplant. Also, no matter of your net worth, your day has only twenty four hours. As you probably see by now, the Challenge gives you that as well. You consciously put yourself to threat of losing some health and it will certainly take some time of yours. Time, which you could happily spend on urgent tasks, like playing PlayStation games or putting new cover sheets on your TPS reports.

With that all, today is my time to get wet. I cannot afford losing all that. So… when’s your turn?

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2 thoughts in Comments

  1. Peter Brookes-Smith

    Really well done to all taking part and those who raise money for other good causes too. Thanks to you all!


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