Hormones and Happiness

There’s a meme on social media that caught my attention. The title is “Happiness chemicals and how to hack them”. It lists dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphin as the four happiness chemicals. That makes it sound like something that takes place in a science class. The four chemicals listed naturally occur in our bodies. They are hormones produced by different glands. They travel with the bloodstream, acting as messengers and have a role in many bodily processes.

One of the important functions of each of these four hormones is mood regulation, specifically the promotion of positive feelings. Here’s the overview:

  • Dopamine is known as the feel good hormone. It drives the brain’s reward system. It’s that feeling you get when you achieve a goal or get praised for doing a good job. 
  • Serotonin helps to regulate our moods as well as sleep, appetite, digestion, learning and memory.
  • Oxytocin is often called the love hormone. It’s essential for childbirth, breastfeeding and parent-child bonding. It can improve trust, empathy and bonding in relationships.
  • Endrophins are our body’s natural form of pain relief. The “runner’s high” is one of the better known examples of the body response to a stressful situation. 

It’s amazing that all of this is built into every one of us. The idea behind the meme was to remind us that we have 24/7 access to these chemicals/hormones and how to get at ‘em. It’s stuff that we already know but that we push aside to get other things done that leave us feeling overwhelmed and under appreciated. 

To get the four hormones flowing it’s about getting back to the basics:

  • Dopamine: complete a task, celebrate little successes, eat (choose good food or that creates another problem) or take a nice bath.
  • Serotonin: meditate, exercise (run, walk, cycle, swim), spend time in nature (running, walking, cycling or swimming) or get out into the sun.
  • Oxytocin: play with a baby or dog, hug a friend, or give a compliment (simple, huh?)
  • Enphorin: Laugh, exercise, watch a comedy or eat dark chocolate (guess that’s more painful than eating milk chocolate).

Look for opportunities to test out these ideas. I’m going to enjoy the burst of dopamine I’m going to get as I finish this article. Then I’m going to play with the dog and eat some dark chocolate. After that I’ll hug a friend. Seems easy enough.

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