Happiness Chemicals & How To Boost Them
How we experience life depends on the chemicals in our brains. Whether we are happy or sad, angry or worried, any emotions we feel all can be traced to what’s going on inside our heads.
Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins are four chemicals that are responsible for our happiness. Here are some simple ways to hack into these positive neurochemicals:
Known as the 'reward' chemical, this feel-good hormone and neurotransmitter is an important part of your brain's reward system. Dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations. It is responsible for learning, memory, motor system function, and more. This chemical motivates us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs. And at the same time, it gives us a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure when we achieve them. If you’re prone to procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of willpower or enthusiasm, it could be linked with low levels of dopamine. You can boost dopamine levels by:
- completing a task
- celebrating small wins
- doing some self-care activities
- eating something delicious and nutritious
Also known as a “mood stabilizer”. This hormone and neurotransmitter is responsible for your mood, sleep, digestion, appetite, learning ability, and memory. Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. When you feel lonely or depressed it can be a signal of absent serotonin. Unhealthy attention-seeking behavior can also be a symptom of serotonin lacking.
Here are some ways to boost your serotonin:
- walking in nature
- exercising lightly
- spending time in the sun with friends or family (don't forget to wear SPF!)
Oxytocin is also known as the 'love hormone' because it helps to promote trust, empathy and intimacy. With physical affection like kissing, cuddling, and sex, oxytocin levels naturally increase. In order to create strong bonds and improved social interactions, we need oxytocin.
As well as kissing, cuddling and holding hands, you can also boost your oxytocin by:
- playing with a dog
- playing with a baby
- giving compliments
Known as the 'pain-killer', endorphins are your body's natural pain reliever. They are released in response to pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression. Similar to morphine, endorphins act as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing our perception of pain. You can boost your endorphins by:
- laughing with friends
- eating dark chocolate or spicy foods
- trying aromatherapy (lavender and vanilla are particularly good for this)
The bottom line is, that when you're not feeling your best and need some natural pain relief, you can hack your happiness chemicals to give yourself a boost and feel accomplished. Go out for a walk, laugh with friends and family, go on a date! Do whatever it is you need to feel a little bit brighter.