Happiness is, of course, incredibly spiritual and personal, but it’s also chemical. Hard science defines our abilities to feel different levels of contentment and joy. The good news is that you can create happiness on your own with the correct information.
Our body runs on the functionality of many hormones, and it hangs in an incredibly complex balance. However, there are four primary chemicals tied to mood-boosting, and these are what we want to exercise control over throughout our daily lives. By understanding how these chemicals work, we can better improve our overall well-being.
Endorphins are our built-in painkillers. They are active chemicals brought about by activity or outside pleasurable stimuli—aka “reward circuits”—like eating chocolate, laughing hard, or smelling an intoxicating scent. They are released in response to physical pain or stress; however, these neurotransmitters encourage our bodies to function regardless of injury or perceived stress.
Endorphin boosting hacks: They are most bioavailable from exercise, so getting in a quick HIIT, a brisk walk, some yoga, or even just five minutes of skipping can spark an influx of endorphins. You can also get a hit of endorphins from smiling, laughing, crying, meditating, watching a comedy, creating art or music, stretching and dancing. On a more passive level, light a candle, or use some essential oils, including rosemary, citrus fruit and frankincense.
Basically, suppose we’re feeling stagnant, unmotivated, or unsexy. In that case, it’s time to lay out the mat or strap on some trainers and close our practice with a well-earned nibble of rich dark chocolate.
Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps regulate our nerves within many of our systems that contribute to our mood. It helps with sleep, digestion, appetite, memory, and our ability to pick up new skills and information. This is the one that helps keep depression and anxiety at bay, which is why it’s so commonly used in psychiatry and neurology.
Serotonin boosting hacks: Depression medications typically trigger an uptake of serotonin, but we don’t have to medicate to reap the benefits. Getting some sunlight for about 10-15 mins can also increase serotonin and vitamin D too. Walking in nature, a brisk walk or run, and even mediation and breathing exercises can give us a much-needed surge. You can also try a cold shower or massage therapy to help hack your overall serotonin levels.
Associated with pleasure-seeking, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is also tied to reward. That’s why exercise—which activates it—can be considered addicting. The brain releases it when we get the attention we crave, eat our favourite foods, have sex, or derive any other feelings of pleasure. It boosts mood, motivation and deeper sleep, keeps our attention, and regulates movement, our potential to learn, and our ability to express emotions.
Dopamine boosting hacks: Dopamine is fantastic, but we have to be healthy about how we choose to receive it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeking likes on Instagram or having another glass of wine or chocolate cake—it’s important to find healthy rewards and keep everything within moderation. It’s great to allow ourselves the dopamine hit of a small task completed, a cold shower, trying something new, or a self-care ritual. Celebrate the small wins, and yes … sometimes, eat the cake.
Oxytocin is all about love. It’s a soothing mechanism to help the body stay calm. It’s also responsible for uterine contractions during birth and even lactation. New mothers get a huge hit when they breastfeed, which is why the often painful practice is so pleasurable. It’s a bonding hormone, meaning we feel it most when forging a deep connection with someone or something. It makes us maternal and nurturing and enriches our attachments to one another.
Oxytocin boosting hacks: Access this happiness hormone by snuggling up to your pet, smiling at a baby, holding hands with a loved one, or long embraces. Other ways to connect and release this hormone include talking with friends, getting a massage or reflexology, trying cold showers, exercising, meditating, giving compliments, or performing random acts of kindness.
What are you waiting for? Go and give someone a hug.
Besides releasing Happy hormones, Dark Chocolate also helps relax your muscles as it contains magnesium and Omega-3 fatty acids.