Have you ever thought about what makes you happy? What causes happiness? What are the happiness chemicals?
It’s a reflection I often have with myself. I want to make sure I’m always a ray of sunshine kind of person! And that starts with the inside. Growing you learn a lot about happiness, whether it’s on a biological level or an emotional one, you discover what makes you happy and what matters to you. It can be instinctual or by experience, but there are ways to increase your happy brain chemicals almost instantly if you understand its science!
There are 4 hormones that promote happiness in your brain; Serotonin, Dopamine, Endorphins, and Oxytocin. You need to understand each of them and find a way to balance them throughout your day for maximal mood improvement. Obviously, that won’t be the only thing to add/retract to your happiness, as your environment also play a role in your mood. So while reading this article, understand that the production of these hormones is complex and depends on many factors… genetics, environment, stress, and many more.
So let’s look at each happy hormone and how you can hack them into your life!
Serotonin, for good mood.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced in the body, primarily found in your brain, gut, and blood. It does a lot for you, such as regulating your mood, anxiety, appetite, sleep, and other physiological processes.
Theoretically, the more serotonin you have, the better your mood is, and you have a feeling of well-being and happiness. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. It also regulates the body’s internal clock, which helps with your sleep cycle, appetite, and digestion.
But how would you increase your serotonin production? There are a few ways that seem to work, and you can try them yourself. They might not work for you, it’s a trial-and-error but remember to give yourself time to adapt. You might not see changes immediately, especially if you have to change a habit.
- Exercise: It doesn’t have to be a long training session. It can be as small as a walk around the block. Aim for 15 to 30 minutes every day and look at your mood changing, feeling less anxious and stressed and simply happier.
- Diet: Eating a healthy diet rich in tryptophan, which will get converted into serotonin. The body doesn’t produce that amino acid naturally, so it’s important for you to get it from your food. Foods high in tryptophan include milk, canned tuna, turkey and chicken, and much more. 90% of your serotonin is produced by your gut, so it’s paramount that you take care of it.
- Sunlight: Sunlight is the principal source of Vitamin D, which is essential for serotonin production. It also helps to regulate your sleep cycle.
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep is a must for your overall health, especially your mental health. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- Social Support: Social connections can help you boost your mood. Spending time with your friends and loved ones, and engaging in activities that you enjoy will help with your mood.
Dopamine, for pleasure and reward.
The second neurotransmitter, dopamine, found in the brain, plays a role in regulating movements, emotions, motivation, and the feeling of pleasure and reward. It creates a reward system in the brain and helps to regulate the body’s response to pleasure.
Having low dopamine can cause you to feel a lack of motivation, you could be tired, you’re moody and anxious, you can have issues concentrating on certain tasks (ADHD), you may stop feeling pleasure from past pleasurable experiences, and much more. A few mental illnesses including depression, schizophrenia, and psychosis were linked to low dopamine.
It has been said that drugs like cocaine and amphetamines help with the release of dopamine in the brain, which can create an addiction very quickly to get that euphoric feeling.
Thankfully you can do a few things to release dopamine naturally and in a healthy way that will make you feel better, and they are:
- Diet: Eating foods that are high in tyrosine, such as soy products, chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, avocados, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
- Music: Listening to music can increase dopamine levels by activating the reward system for an enjoyable experience and just the anticipation of hearing your favorite song can have the same reward. Parkison disease which involves low dopamine levels has seen a good response from music therapy in controlling fine motor symptoms.
- Supplements: Vitamin D3, Omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics may also help to boost dopamine levels.
- New experiences: Doing something you have never done before could help produce more dopamine.
- Do something creative: Creating something new helps with activating the reward system in your brain as well as helping you focus to achieve your task. Additionally, it increases the feeling of accomplishment and self-esteem.
Endorphins, for pain and stress.
The third natural happy chemicals are endorphins. They are part of the body’s opioid system and are known for their pain-relieving and mood-elevating properties.
They bind to opioid receptors in the brain, which reduces the perception of pain and stress and can create a sense of happiness. They also interact with other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which can further enhance their respective mood-elevating effects.
So many things can happen to your body when you have low endorphins such as increased pain sensitivity, depression and anxiety, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and issues with coping with stress.
These are a few things you can do to raise your endorphins levels:
- Laugh: Laughing and having a positive attitude can release endorphins as well as suppress stress hormones like cortisol. You can watch a comedy show from time to time.
- Eat spicy food: The activators in your mouth and gut will sense the heat and pain and release the endorphins as a natural painkiller and mood elevator. Your body will also release some adrenaline which will also produce endorphins.
- Acupuncture: The process of acupuncture consists in inserting needles into the skin to stimulate your nervous system which will release endorphins
Oxytocin, for love.
And the best for last is oxytocin. Known as the love hormone, it plays a role in social bonding, sexual interactions, and childbirth.
Oxytocin has been linked to a few psychological and behavioral effects, such as more trust and empathy, less fear and anxiety, and better mood and social bonding. Research suggests that people with higher levels of oxytocin may have stronger relationships and be more resilient to stress.
Some symptoms of low oxytocin are social isolation, poor sexual function, more irritability, more stress, and anxiety, or difficulty breastfeeding if you have a baby. Low oxytocin is a key element seen in people on the autistic spectrum.
Not to worry you can raise your oxytocin levels by doing these:
- Physical touch: Oxytocin is also referred to as the “cuddle hormone,” and physical touches such as hugging, holding hands, and massages are game changers.
- Social interaction: Positive social interactions, such as spending time with loved ones is a great way to increase your oxytocin levels.
- Mindfulness practice: Mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can also help to increase oxytocin levels.
To hack the happiness chemicals, you should, first of all, analyze yourself and your behavior to see what a deficiency in one of the 4 happy hormones looks like on you. Then make a list of activities you can partake in that you know will stimulate the production of those hormones. And lastly, remember that you should be consistent with your activities to see if they work and are worth your time.
The goal is long-term happiness, so make sure you incorporate all those little tricks as much as possible into your lifestyle.
Let me know in the comments below what you personally do to stay happy, and you have some extra tips to share with the whole community!
Until next time,