Ever wonder why a pack of M&Ms soothes a broken heart? Or how chicken soup energizes you at the end of an exhausting day?
Or how does the presence of family and friends lift our mood, even on the most challenging days?
What's the real cause of happiness?
The real cause of happiness are the happy brain chemicals — Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins.
They are neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that carry signals from one neuron to another.
Various neurotransmitters and hormones have specific jobs — each being activated in a certain way, signaling certain emotions, and stimulating specific areas of your brain.
How to harness happy hormones
As we navigate life, we develop personal preferences and learn who we truly are.
We pick our comfort food or discover the best way to relieve stress. We find people that always make us feel better.
These events trigger the production of happy brain chemicals. Let's look at things from a Neuroscience perspective and discover how our brain works.
Dopamine plays a role in motivation, pleasure, and reward. It triggers that little happy feeling when someone likes your post on Instagram.
Elevate dopamine levels through exercise, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, relaxation techniques, new experiences, and supplements.
However, happiness induced by dopamine can be fleeting and addicting.
So watch out if you're getting too hooked on social media and online shopping and divert your attention to something else.
Oxytocin promotes social bonding and trust. The brain releases oxytocin during physical contact with others.
It is the feeling behind love and friendship and the reason why human beings are social in nature.
Unlike dopamine, which is mainly responsible for instant gratification, oxytocin gives us lasting feelings of calm and safety.
Oxytocin enhances our immune systems, makes us better problem solvers, and shields us from the addictive qualities of dopamine.
It can be increased through physical touch, social interaction, exercise, massage, spending time
in nature, and practicing gratitude.
Working in teams, eating together, giving gifts, opening up emotionally, and listening to someone foster Oxytocin levels.
There are studies claiming that oxytocin boosts wound healing.
Serotonin plays a role in mood, appetite, and sleep. It is another social chemical, but it functions differently playing a role in the dynamics of pride, loyalty, and status.
When we feel valued, we are experiencing the effects of serotonin. Therefore, serotonin can create strong, positive emotions.
Serotonin motivates leaders to excel and grow their influence while compelling followers to do well and not let their leader down.
It's believed to affect digestion, bone growth, and even organ development.
It can be increased through exercise, sunlight, a healthy diet, relaxation techniques, adequate sleep, and supplements.
Endorphins are natural painkillers and mood elevators.
It is the good feeling that comes after playing a game of tennis and pushing your body outside your comfort zone.
Exercise, laughter, social connections, acupuncture, music, and time in nature boost endorphin levels.