Would you believe me if I told you that you have some level of control over your happiness? You do. Would you believe me if I told you that the quest for happiness is really at the root of most of your new year goals? It is. However, being unhappy and unfulfilled seems to be the new normal. So many people have lost the ability to truly enjoy their lives. Don’t let that be you.
According to science, you can possibly improve your mental and emotional state. Happiness isn’t reserved for the rich and famous. It doesn’t have to be centered around external circumstances. You can choose to be happier and create a strategy that supports you.
“So, what can you do?” Glad you asked.
You can start by learning about the chemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters in your brain that improve happiness and how to boost them naturally. Pretty cool, huh?
According to this scientific article, Thoughts, feelings, activities, learning, and love, are all conducted by the brain. Mood and emotions are not exempt from this role.
Therefore, these natural substances work together to help regulate your moods.
When you have a better understanding of how these chemicals work, you can learn how to regulate and adjust them naturally.
What Are Happy Chemicals?
Our brain stimulates certain glands to release dozens of different chemicals. They’re sent out into the bloodstream and go to different parts of the body.
These chemicals, aka hormones, are involved in various bodily processes. There are hormones that manage digestion, heart rate, and reproduction.
Likewise, these hormones and neurotransmitters have the ability to make us feel joy, sadness, hunger, or pumped up with energy. They’re usually referred to as ‘feel-good’ or ‘happy’ hormones.
These chemicals fluctuate throughout the day. This is why you sometimes feel lethargic mid-afternoon or excited about an upcoming party you’re attending.
Below, you’ll learn about the four main happy chemicals in our bodies. Then, in the following section, you’ll learn how each one affects our moods.
4 Happy Chemicals:
- Dopamine: Sometimes referred to as the happy hormone, dopamine allows you to feel pleasure, satisfaction, and overall well-being.
- Endorphins: This chemical is responsible for that feeling associated with the “runner’s high”. Endorphins are so powerful that they can relieve pain and reduce stress.
- Oxytocin: Often referred to as the attachment hormone, it is responsible for that feeling you get from bonding with a loved one. No one close by to hug, you can get a pet. Simply petting a dog has been shown to release oxytocin.
- Serotonin: Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts your entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. Serotonin is also involved in sleeping, eating, and digestion.
4 Ways To Increase Happy Chemicals
The great thing about these happy chemicals is we have some power over them. Even though these naturally occurring chemicals can decrease with age, we can still increase them through the choices we make each day.
Let’s explore how you can boost these natural happy chemicals:
- Prioritize Exercise
Exercise has so many great health benefits. One of the most overlooked benefits is the powerful effects it has on our emotional and mental well-being.
Studies show that when you exercise for at least 20 minutes, your body releases endorphins. The science behind this is that they induce a sense of euphoria.
Endorphins are also popular among athletes because they can block pain signals. They do this by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system. As a result, your feeling of pain can be considerably reduced.
To take full advantage of your natural mood stabilizers, exercise outdoors. You’ll get some serotonin coursing through your veins in addition to endorphins. If you can find some friends to exercise with, that’s amazing! If not, join a class and exercise with strangers. Who knows? You may end up striking up a conversation with one of them, which your brain will reward you for with a shot of oxytocin.
- Cook With A Loved One
In theory, preparing a meal and enjoying it with someone you love can activate all four happy chemicals! Let’s take it one feel-good hormone at a time.
First, there’s bonding and sharing special times with a loved one. All those feelings tell the brain it’s time to produce some oxytocin, the ‘love’ hormone.
The great thing about oxytocin is it doesn’t specify what type of love. Your brain will release it when you’re with your partner on a romantic night out or when you’re shaking someone’s hand.
Now, let’s talk about endorphins and dopamine. These are released whenever you’re eating something delicious.
Having someone special to share the meal with just boosts their levels even more. Don’t forget to laugh, as well. Studies show that laughter is ‘the best medicine’ because it triggers endorphin release.
Finally, there’s serotonin. Try eating certain foods that restore your gut health, especially those that contain tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. It’s vital for your health, but your body can’t make it. So, you have to find foods that contain this amino acid, which your body transforms into serotonin.
Eating probiotic foods is also a terrific way to support healthy gut bacteria. By taking care of your microbiome, you can regulate your mental and emotional health.
So, eat right, and be happy. It’s that simple. Fascinating, right?
Check out just a few of the foods that help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Some of them contain tryptophan as well, so it’s a win-win!
- Wheat and oats
- Onions and garlic
- All types of berries
- Citrus fruits
- Enjoy The Sunshine
According to research, spending about 10 to 15 minutes outdoors works wonders for our moods. It can help stimulate the production of not one, but two, happy chemicals: endorphins and serotonin.
Even if it’s a bit cloudy out, take a few minutes to enjoy being outdoors. Getting a breath of fresh air as you walk around the block can do wonders for your mood.
If it’s sunny outside, then all the better. Why? When you’re outside, your body absorbs Vitamin D from the sun. This activates the production of an enzyme that converts tryptophan into serotonin. How cool is that!
Not only that, but the natural light from the sun cues certain areas in our retinas to produce serotonin. This phenomenon explains why many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in winter when the days are shorter.
- Get Enough Sleep
You know that most adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. However, few people recognize the link between sleep and their hormones.
When you don’t get the sleep your body craves, you create an imbalance of chemicals in your body. Dopamine is especially affected, and accordingly, you wreak havoc on your mood. You start suffering from mood swings, lethargy, and lack of focus.
This flows onto your mental health and you begin spiraling towards feelings of despair. It can even lead to depression. Not surprisingly, your physical health will start to suffer as well.
To prevent all that, all you have to do is get some quality sleep. Just those few hours can really make a world of difference.
First off, they can help you to regain the balance of happy chemicals you need to feel good. You’ll also be able to manage stress better and improve your concentration skills.
There are tips and tricks you can try to get those invaluable hours of sleep each night.
- Limit caffeine at least six hours before bedtime
- Avoid heavy meals several hours before going to bed
- Turn off all screens an hour or more before bedtime
- Reduce the lighting and noise in your bedroom
- Meditate or practice deep breathing for at least five minutes before bedtime to relax and reduce stress
- Schedule going to bed and getting up at the same time, even on weekends.
We all deeply desire to live happier and more fulfilling lives. Bringing awareness to our personal habits is a great place to start. You may not be able to go on a luxury cruise around the world or host a huge gala right now, but you can simply take charge of your daily life and improve your self-care habits. You will be astonished at how much better you feel and how your outlook on life begins to brighten. Remember, to take one step at a time and enjoy the journey to a happier, healthier lifestyle!
Be well + prosper,