Happiness chemicals and how to hack them
I believe it is safe to say that we would all desire to be happier. While we can all agree on that, I’m sure we can all agree that happiness is brief and transitory.
In this blog article, we will look at the chemicals that science has discovered that help to cause emotions of happiness, as well as the activities that have been proved to assist enhance these chemicals.
First, let’s define these compounds (also known as hormones) and their function in the body.
Happiness Hormones, what are hormones and where do they come from?
Hormones are small chemical messengers produced by the Endocrine System, which is a network of glands and organs responsible for producing and delivering hormones into the bloodstream. They are the means by which our bodies communicate with one another. This system includes the Pituitary gland, Thyroid gland, Adrenal gland, Ovaries, and Testes, as well as many more lesser-known organs. Endocrinology (the study of this system) still has a lot to learn about hormones and the glands that make them.
These hormones impact our behaviours and moods as they are produced throughout the day, even though we are often oblivious of it. I’m fascinated by the interplay between mind and body, as well as the reality that we’re all just walking bags of chemicals. The human body is a wonderfully magnificent entity, yet we still don’t know much about its inner workings and all of its activities.
In the case of hormones and feelings, we know from Endocrinology that the delightful surge of warmth and contentment you feel while engaging affectionately with those closest to you is Oxytocin. It promotes and rewards actions that improve family relationships.
After going for a jog, do you get that blissed-out, high-energy, and satisfied feeling? That’s Endorphins at work, lowering your sense of pain and increasing sensations of pleasure.
But, instead of simply waiting for hormones to be released when we do something that makes us happy, what if we did things to actively activate them; to inspire us to develop healthier habits in our work, leisure time, and relationships?
Even if you don’t want to, a long hug (lasting 20 seconds) after an argument with a loved one will cause the maximum release of Oxytocin (as well as Serotonin, the mood stabilising and happiness hormone), making you feel closer, reducing stress, and telling your brain that you feel safe and loved again. With the warming support of Oxytocin, this helps to restore the link you believed was shattered.
The four Happiness chemicals and how to hack them
Oxytocin is commonly referred to as “the bonding hormone.” When we feel comfortable, connected, and close to individuals we trust, we unleash it.
Its goal (apart from birthing) is to enhance human relationships, assist parents in bonding with their babies, sustain family units, and bring mates closer together.
Oxytocin hacks to stimulate naturally –
- Stroking a pet, interacting with animals lovingly
- Being in close company of friends and family and being affectionate
- Giving compliments
- Holding hands
- Hugging for 20 seconds
- Giving or receiving massage (scalp massage)
- Preparing and sharing food with loved ones
This word undoubtedly sounds familiar to you because it is frequently mentioned in song lyrics and is thought to be the hormone that regulates happiness and mood. You may also be familiar with serotonin because it is a brain chemical that is increased by most antidepressants that are taken.
Serotonin is most frequently linked to improved happiness, reduced anxiety, regular sleep cycles, and mood management.
Serotonin hacks to stimulate naturally –
- Getting some sun (where possible) enjoying the warmth of sun on your eyelids can greatly enhance mood and also help to boost your levels of Vitamin D
- Aerobic exercise such a running, swimming or cycling helps to release Tryptophan in to the bloodstream which is then converted in to Serotonin
- Getting out for a walk in nature. Try escaping the city for a leafy country or woodland walk
Dopamine is the reward hormone that is naturally released when anything good happens, such as praise, a successful outcome, winning, or food.
provided our body with a motivation to keep returning for more during evolution (in the wild, going back for more when it comes to food and success is pretty important).
Dopamine hacks to stimulate naturally –
- Eating your favourite foods as a treat ( in moderation )
- Having gratitude for the little wins in life
- Practicing self care
- Listening to feel-good music
- Finishing a task or project you started
Breaking larger tasks down into smaller ones and rewarding yourself internally each time you finish one of them releases additional dopamine, which encourages you to finish the entire task. This is a useful productivity hack.
Endorphin is a substance that plays a significant role in the fight-or-flight response and is a natural analgesic. It is released when we are stressed, in pain, working up a sweat at the gym, or eating. It works on the same opiate receptors in the brain that morphine does to help manage pain, reduce stress, and increase pleasure.
Endorphin hacks to stimulate naturally –
- Laughing with friends, watching/listening to comedy
- Being creative through art or design, gardening or anything that gets your juices flowing
- Aromatherapy oils like rosemary, lavender, citrus etc
- Last but not least, having sex
You now have access to a few simple tips that can help you maximise the release of happy hormones.