Happiness hormones, we know they exist but we often take them for granted.
It’s safe to say that nearly all of us want to feel good in one way or another and when we can achieve this naturally, it can make a world of difference in our life.
The human body has 4 natural built-in mood enhancing chemicals which can help combat stress and even relieve pain. What most people don’t realize is just how good their bodies are designed to make them feel. Knowing how to trigger the release of these chemicals can literally be life altering.
So what are these 4 “feel good” hormones and what are some ways to help boost them?
These natural chemical compounds are produced in the human body and interact with receptors in the brain. They can help to reduce pain, increase focus, and improve ones overall mood.
Endorphins are so powerful that they are comparable to opiate painkillers and prescription anti-anxiety medication, minus all of the risky side effects.
How to boost endorphins
They are most famous for being associated with physical exercise but can be released in a number of other ways:
Laughter – Not only does laughter boost serotonin levels, it can even help increase pain tolerance levels.
Healthy diet – Increase your consumption of protein, healthy fats, and plant based food while limiting alcohol and caffeine.
Sunshine – Regularly spending time outdoors in the sun can regulate the release of endorphins.
Aromatherapy – Soothing scents such as those found in essential oils can help with the release of endorphins in the body.
My most favorite way of releasing endorphins is through exercise! just an hour at the gym or better yet, running outdoors is enough to make me feel “high” for a few hours. It helps boost my energy, confidence, and makes all of the daily stressors of life much easier to cope with.
Endorphins are regularly released opiate chemicals in response to stress or fear and have a huge benefit to the mind-body connection. Before you reach for your pain-killers this week, try one or a combination of the aforementioned methods to release this powerful hormone!
Perhaps the most well known (and controversial) chemical compound, dopamine is one of the chemical signals that passes information from one neuron to the next using the tiny spaces in between.
Dopamine is released during pleasurable moments or situations and helps to regulate how pleasure is perceived and experienced.
Once released, this neurotransmitter can cause a person to seek out and engage in a desired activity over and over. Some examples of these activities include eating, especially foods that are high in sugar, gambling, and sexual intercourse
Dopamine is responsible for our motivation, concentration, pleasure, bliss, and euphoria. Dopamine is so powerful that a deficiency can cause a wide range of problems such as restlessness, depression, drug addictions, inability to sleep, and even in severe cases, Parkinson’s Disease.
How to boost Dopamine
Limit Sugar intake – Although sugar is linked with raising dopamine levels, the “high” achieved is only temporary and is linked to a wide array or illnesses.
Cut back or eliminate caffeine – Yes, caffeine can also raise dopamine levels but studies show that increased caffeine in take can actually cause an increase in tolerance and can lead to lowered or even diminished dopamine release in the long run.
Connect with others – Human contact such as hugs from your kids, kisses from your spouse, or even simply shaking hands with a friend or colleague is enough to help boost dopamine levels.
Meditate – Meditation and mindfulness helps the body relax through deep breathing and calming of the nervous system. This in turn helps with the release of dopamine.
Music – Listening to music you enjoy helps to trigger our pleasure center thereby releasing dopamine. Many people also claim that music helps with motivation, which comes from the release of dopamine.
Although there are literally hundreds of ways to boost dopamine, my personal favorite is getting immersed in something creative. Whether It’s writing, drawing, photography, or simply coming up with fun ideas for the kids, I find that shutting out the world and focusing inward helps to get me focused, and driven.
Although dopamine is linked to many unhealthy and risky behaviors, when used in the right way, it can help keep us hungry, motivated, and ready to take on the next challenge in life.
Like dopamine, serotonin is also a neurotransmitter; however the two are almost polar opposites. While dopamine is more of an excitatory neurotransmitter, serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
So what does this mean? to put it simply, dopamine is responsible for our excitement and motivation while serotonin is responsible for calming us, suppressing pain, and regulating our mood and sleep cycles.
Serotonin is found mainly in the gastrointestinal tract, platelets, and the nervous system and helps with providing an overall sense of well-being and happiness.
Low levels of serotonin are linked to a wide variety of ailments including but not limited to: anxiety, depression, anger, low self-esteem, migraines, feeling overwhelmed, and insomnia.
How to boost Serotonin
Massage – Aside from being invigorating and relaxing, regular massages can help lower the stress hormone cortisol, and help increase both dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain/body.
Affirmations – Regularly reciting positive affirmations can help almost re-wire your thinking. numerous studies show the effects of positive thinking can help with serotonin synthesis while lowering cortisol.
B-Vitamins – Vitamins B6 and B12 are directly linked to lowered levels of depression and when taken regularly, can help boost overall feelings of well-being.
Gardening – This one may seem strange but studies show that microbes contained in soil can lead to a rise in serotonin simply through inhalation.
There are dozens of other ways to help boost serotonin but my top favorite is simply spending time with my friends and loved ones. I find that regularly scheduling girls nights with my friends helps to keep me refreshed and happy.
This hormone and neurotransmitter is best known for Its role in breastfeeding and childbirth. It’s produced in the hypothalamus and females have been shown to have higher levels than males.
Often referred to as the “love” hormone, it gets released during an orgasm and other physical contact such as cuddling. It’s also associated with relationship building including bonding and empathy.
Oxytocin has been linked to higher self-esteem, trust, optimism, and mastery and can help lower stress and blood pressure.
How to boost Oxytocin
Cry – Suppressing ones emotions can lead to lower oxytocin levels which can cause stress as well as various physical issues within the body. We often hear that a good cry can help us heal both emotionally and physically; turns out that It’s true!
Give – This can be in the form of volunteering or simply making a generous donation. The act of giving and/or bonding with others can help increase oxytocin levels and make us feel good overall.
Physical touch – As from a spouse or loved one. Oxytocin helps to trigger the reward system in our brain when we are in healthy and loving relationships. Oxytocin is also released during orgasm for both men and women although for men, it seems to only be released when the orgasm is associated with someone they love.
Encouragement – Whether we are getting it, or giving it, words of encouragement go a long way in the release of oxytocin. Compliment and encourage one another every chance that you get!
My personal favorite way of increasing my Oxytocin levels are spending time and cuddling with my 2 kids. I find that it helps me bond with the 2 of them when we are immersed in playing, laughing, and just being happy together.