If you ask your friends or colleagues what makes them happy you will definitely get answers like “my family”, “my partner”, “my pet”, “money”, “success”, “my job/hobby”. All of these answers have one thing in common: they are describing something external. But all our emotions – positive and negative – are born within our bodies, through a series of chemical processes and reactions. This might be what psychologists and motivational speakers refer to when they say that “happiness starts within”. It’s not just a metaphysical gibberish nonsense. It does start within, with the help of “happy hormones”.
Hormones are special chemical messengers, responsible for all major bodily functions. They make us alert or sleepy, relaxed or tense, exhausted and energetic. But what hormone makes you happy?
It’s not one, not two, but a combination of several “feel good hormones” that do the trick. These are dopamine, serotonin, endorphin and oxytocin.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is sometimes referenced to as a hormone of reward. It’s like a drug for all those determined overachievers. It keeps you motivated whenever you strive to reach your goal, like gaining muscles or losing weight through training or simply completing job tasks. If you want to have this happy hormone in your brain for longer, set reasonable daily and monthly goals that you can complete regularly.
Dopamine is largely associated with sport. Just half an hour of active cardio or running increases the levels of dopamine. Just don’t overdo it or you may accidentally pump up the stress hormone – cortisol.
After you finish your happy hormone exercises, another neurotransmitter takes the spot, while dopamine decreases. And this is…
Serotonin antagonizes dopamine and gives you the sense of accomplishment. It is the most well-known happiness hormone in popular psychology. According to one of the oldest hypotheses suggested by World Psychiatric Association, lack of serotonin plays a crucial part in the development of clinic depression.
One of the simplest ways of getting that precious serotonin flow is exposure to the sunlight. Exercising outdoors and adding tryptophan-heavy foods like nuts, cheese, meat and beans to your regular diet can do magical things to your mood too!
Endorphin is a painkiller neurotransmitter. In the past this hormone helped our ancestors to muster all their physical strength up to run away from the predators or fight with trespassers. Nowadays, it pushes your body through fitness sessions even after we feel like giving up. This is the hormone that gives you giddiness and makes your head light. Rigorous exercise and spicy food are a recipe for a good surge of endorphins! Have you ever felt runner’s high? That overwhelming sensation of joy after a long run or workout session? This surge is actually caused by a perfect combination of released dopamine and endorphins.
This is the most romanticized love hormone, released during intercourse, childbirth and breastfeeding. But just loving touch from a favorite person or hugging children or pets can do. This hormone is responsible for bonding, experiencing love and building trust. This is why relationships are important and physical part of relationships shouldn’t be overlooked. Whenever you have a chance hug your relative or friend, play with your pet or cuddle on a couch with your beloved one. Massage is another way of increasing oxytocin and an obligatory part of any wholistic fitness workout.
To sum up, the best way to get these happy hormones working are:
- Regular exercise
- Outdoor activities
- Balanced diet
- Healthy and happy relationships
As human beings we experience all kinds of "moody" ups and downs. Our bodies and our minds undergo different processes and not all of them are pleasant. But what you can do for sure is take care of yourself and make sure you will always be your own safe space. Stay healthy and mindful!