Did you know there is more you can do to become happier than you are today? How about doing the same for your spouse, kids, and friends? Well, the secret lies in optimizing the 4 happy chemicals inside your brain.
Also called the feel-good hormones, the happy chemicals include dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins – (DOSE).
These chemicals are known to induce positive sensations such as excitement, relaxation, relief, pleasure, positive mood, bonding, trust, love, and general happiness.
If you wish to maximize the benefits of the above hormones, you must watch what you eat and do, and improve your interactions with family, friends, and nature.
A journey through the world of happy chemical hormones
Overall, hormones and neurotransmitters are the holy grail of body regulation and function. They are messenger molecules of sorts, charged with coordinating and controlling multiple body activities.
Hormone levels will go up and down throughout the day to enable numerous organ activities and functions to take place.
For example, the melatonin hormone is released early in the night to prepare us for a good night’s sleep, while cortisol is released in the morning in preparation for a bright new day.
There are over a hundred hormones and neurotransmitters in the human body. Amidst the pack, four special ones are charged with the task of keeping the body happy.
Here they are in detail:
Serotonin is a ‘feel-good’ hormone/neurotransmitter primarily found in the brain and the intestines. It is known for boosting and regulating mood, emotions, digestion, and the human body clock.
It contributes to a feeling of well-being, general happiness, and is actually produced when you get the feeling of significance and importance.
Serotonin also influences factors such as body stability and mobility, and states of mind such as sleep, memory, learning, and concentration.
Elsewhere, scientists believe it is crucial in regulating neurological disorders, blood clotting, and eye, bone, and heart health.
Lack of serotonin in your body will manifest in a bad mood, a feeling of loneliness, poor memory, poor learning abilities, and poor vision.
Insufficient levels of this hormone occur due to lifestyle, poor nutrition, and drug abuse.
To boost serotonin levels in the body, you need to do the following:
- expose the body to day time sunlight for at least 20 – 60 minutes – depending on your skin color
- engage in physical exercise
- prioritize meditation
- serve prebiotic and tryptophan diets
A prebiotic diet induces the growth of microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria, which is necessary for digestive health.
The prebiotic diet includes vegetables such as onions, garlic, apples, green vegetables, bananas, oats, barley, and bean varieties.
A tryptophan diet is protein-based and includes eggs, milk, cheese, fish, seed varieties, nuts, soy, and poultry.
Lastly, cut down or eliminate stimulants such as Ecstasy.
Oxytocin is a happy neurotransmitter released in the brain by the hypothalamus. It is also commonly known as the cuddle hormone. Elsewhere, it is called the love hormone or bonding hormone.
Females tend to generate more of the hormone than males probably because it is associated with childbirth and breastfeeding. Its production spikes during these times to cement the mother-child bonding.
Oxytocin is also good for the nervous system, stress regulation, and healing the body from pain.
In a broad sense, oxytocin is a catalyzer of sorts for relationship traits such as bonding, empathy, generosity, contentment, security, and trust. High levels of the hormone may explain successful romantic relationships.
Unlike other hormones mentioned here, the amount of oxytocin in your body is dependent on the well-being of your personal life, your relationships, and the community where you live.
The better the state of your relationship and the wellness of your community, the more likely the levels of oxytocin in your body will spike.
For example, frequent cuddling, hugging, kissing, eye, contact, communication, and sexual intimacy – including orgasm will supercharge the production of oxytocin in your body.
You can also meditate, sing and listen to music, spend time with friends, and indulge in a massage to release the hormone. The animation movie Trolls probably explains well the role of music in supercharging the hormone.
Oxytocin does not alter your romantic relationships magically. The onus is upon you to make it work! If you are already bad at relationships, oxytocin will not make you any better!
To sum it up, the happier you are in your relationship and community, the more oxytocin your body releases, and the happier you will be.
Endorphins are neurotransmitters produced in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus in your brain to help relieve stress and pain and to give you a sense of excitement.
It is much like an opioid prescription, which is designed to supercharge excitement following periods of stress and pain.
How this works is that you deliberately indulge in positive activities following periods of stress, anxiety, and other depressive disorders. For example, laughter is derived through attending lively activities such as comedy shows or reading well-told stories.
Elsewhere, physical activity such as running is known to release the ‘feel-good‘ therapy known as runners high. What happens is that the hormone is released when you are running well and suddenly develop a euphoric feeling.
This is good enough to make you forget your stresses, anxiety, and pain.
Other ways endorphins are released in the body:
Dopamine is a complex ‘feel-good’ hormone of pleasure and works as a neurotransmitter of anticipation and curiosity. It is a crucial motivational factor towards achieving set goals, desires, and wants.
The production of the hormone reaches its peak when you are expecting a reward more than when receiving the reward. It is produced at a time when you are anticipating shopping, food, drug use, betting, sex, or any other pleasurable activity.
For example, dopamine levels will spike in your child when you tell her to go buy ice cream. It is also evident when you reach out for your phone (anticipation) following a notification tone.
No wonder employers manipulate dopamine in employees for purposes of motivation, alertness, and focus.
A good employer makes it a habit to appreciate and recognize employee accomplishments by promising and giving bonuses and ‘thank you‘ messages. These lead to dopamine spikes and therefore boost motivation and productivity!
Besides being a happy chemical, dopamine will also facilitate the following:
- better blood flow
- motor control
- executing functioning skills
- memory and focus
- stress response
- heart and kidney functions
A shortage of dopamine in your body will manifest in procrastination, a lack of self-belief, boredom, and ultimately a lack of enthusiasm!
Other symptoms of lower levels of dopamine:
- Lack of focus
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sugar cravings
- Lower motivation
You can boost dopamine levels in your body by
- getting healthy and sufficient sleep
- participating in physical exercise
- listening to music
- eating food rich in tyrosine
… tyrosine is found in bananas, avocados, eggs, legumes, fish, almonds, and poultry products.
The happy chemicals antidote!
Like you have probably noticed, the secrets to boosting the four ‘happy chemicals‘ lie in eating well and living a healthy lifestyle.
- eat plenty of vegetables and fruits
- serve plenty of legumes and nut seeds
- eat the right amount of protein-rich foods
- get out of the house and enjoy the benefits of the sun, and nature
- while outdoors, make good use of your four senses: sight, hearing, smell, and taste
- engage in physical exercise every day
- make friends and ensure that friendships count
- avoid too many distractions in your life
- find time to meditate for religious and spiritual reasons
- cultivate a true sense of self-awareness, empathy, and care for yourself and others
- laugh and keep laughing
- and get quality sleep at night
When you harness the gifts of the neurotransmitters described above, you will definitely make yourself a notch happier than you are today.