Healthy LifeStyle

How to Hack Your Happiness Chemicals

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We have to choose to be happy. Our ability to act in ways that cause the brain’s happy chemicals to release is what determines our level of happiness. How do you keep yourself content? 

The four happiness chemicals and how to manipulate them will be covered in this article.

What Chemicals Cause Happiness?

Our body produces four essential hormones that regulate how we feel. They are oxytocin (the love hormone), serotonin (the mood stabilizer), dopamine (the reward chemical), and endorphin (the pain killer).

These hormones can either be positively or negatively impacted by the things we do, the food we eat, and the environment we live in. The best way to get these “happiness hormones” to function in a way that’s good for our health is to develop regular mood-enhancing habits.

How Can You Generate More Happiness Chemically?

It’s not particularly complex to manipulate your happiness chemicals. Other than some understanding of your own neurochemistry, there is nothing you are lacking. 

Our brains operate in a fairly basic manner. 

  • Option 1: We carry out a specific act. Because of this behavior, our brain experiences a chemical reaction that makes us feel bad.
  • Option 2: A specific action is taken by us. This causes a chemical reaction in our brains that puts us in a positive emotional state.

Happiness Chemicals

1) Dopamine – The Reward Chemical

Imagine checking your phone and finding 100 likes on your most recent post. You suddenly smile, look over, and discover that your closest friends have made amazing, uplifting comments…there it is. THE reward feeling IS IN THAT.

However, these “you’re a winner! ” messages are activated by more than just social media and slot machines.” bells. Dopamine can actually be released by simple events like:

  • Completing a task,
  • Doing a self-care activity (even just taking the time to paint your nails or meal prep can do the trick),
  • Eating food you enjoy,
  • Taking time to celebrate even the smallest wins in your day

ACTION STEP – Why not list out one win (no matter how small) you’ve experienced in your day and experience that reward right now?

2) Oxytocin – The Love Chemical

We’re severely lacking our 8 daily hugs in this season of social withdrawal. If you can’t cuddle up with your best friend, why not try these straightforward activities?

  • Play with a dog—go ahead, bury your face in your pet’s plush fur!)
  • Play with a baby (come on, those giggles are contagious)
  • Holding a hand
  • Hugging a family member
  • Giving a compliment

ACTION STEP – Try this: think of a person you love and text them a compliment Let the love shine now, my friends!

3) Serotonin – The Mood Stabilizer

Want to feel calmer, more anchored, and more at ease? Then engage in these activities.

Our brains are literally built to wander when we are relaxed…but often it backfires and we get caught in ruminating about the past (“why did I say that?! ), our never-ending lists of things to do, and worry about the future. This is actually very evolutionary adaptive; it keeps us resolving issues, moving forward, and clear of threats or things that might impede our progress. However, boy is it exhausting!

It is crucial to involve your mind and body in these mood-stabilizing activities because they help you divert your attention from the negative and help you live in the present.

After a successful spin class, focus on your heartbeat and sweat or let your eyes wander over the breathtaking hues of the sky and trees. Your brain can release serotonin by changing your focus and practicing mindfulness, which calms and grounds you in the present rather than making you worry about the future.

Today, try the following exercises to increase serotonin:

  • Meditate (download the Calm app or Headspace and, if possible, pay particular attention to the gratitude or happiness meditations!)
  • Go for a run
  • Get in the sun
  • Walk in nature
  • Swim
  • Cycling or biking

4) Endorphin – The Pain Killer

You can definitely feel the rush of pain as your body says, “OUCH!” when we get hurt, such as when we cut our finger while chopping food or touch a hot stove. But did you know that endorphins come to the rescue to assist in reducing pain as your body launches the healing process? Endorphins are necessary for physical recovery, but what about emotional recovery?

To kickstart the less well-known (but still significant) emotional hurts you might be going through, try these techniques for emotional healing and wellness:

  • A Laughter Exercise: Sit next to someone and look at them while competing to see who can laugh the loudest when they lose. I challenge you to resist laughing.)
  • Essential Oils (my favorite is peppermint for a quick refresh or anything citrus for a bright sunny wake-up call)
  • Eat some Dark Chocolate
  • Exercise

Final Thoughts

The only thing left to do is to start acting on this knowledge now that you have a better understanding of the chemicals responsible for happiness as well as the behaviors that encourage their release.

Try putting some of the advice from this article into practice. I promise that if you follow through consistently, your general well-being will improve over time.

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