Fake it till you feel it
As scientists continue to explore how brain function is linked to emotional health, one thing is for certain: brain chemicals play a critical role.
Our brain chemicals are the messengers, sending signals to nerves throughout the brain that impact the way we feel. So small actions can positively impact your mood, energy, and mental health thanks to these brain chemicals, aka happiness hormones.
What are happiness hormones?
Known as the “feel-good hormone”, dopamine plays a key role in everyday behaviors, like how we feel, move and eat. We get a flood of dopamine in moments of pleasure. Dopamine is also strongly linked to the brain’s reward system, promoting feelings of reinforcement and motivation. On the flip side, when dopamine levels run low, we can feel helpless and less motivated.
Known as the “love hormone”, oxytocin plays a role in sexual pleasure and social bonding. When you’re excited about social engagements, you actually get a burst of oxytocin, which makes us want to socialize even more. Because oxytocin makes us feel calmer with a sense of joy and security, the hormone also boosts our ability to react to stress in a healthy way.
Serotonin is a well-known hormone, and for good reason - it does a lot. Serotonin works to regulate mood, memory, behaviors, energy, pain, appetite, as well as motor and cardiovascular function. Because of this, serotonin is used to treat several disorders, including depression, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, OCD, and more.
High levels of endorphins are associated with feelings of euphoria, pleasure, sexuality, pain relief, and an overall sense of well-being. Low levels of endorphins are associated with emotional and physical pain.
How to Hack Happiness Hormones
Eating nourishing foods can increase the production of happy hormones and release neurotransmitters. Look for “brain foods” like good-quality protein, beans, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and antioxidant fruits and veggies.
Play with your pet
Petting or playing with your pet can certainly boost your brain chemicals, boosting your mood and well-being.
Hug it out
An easy way to boost your oxytocin naturally is to hug. A simple can bring a huge amount of comfort. Humans benefit from several hugs a day. Make sure they last at least 20 seconds because the “extended hug” is really what gets your love hormone going.
Take a walk outdoors
Walking outside has a ton of benefits for your health. Walking outside helps you feel more grounded and relaxed by promoting serotonin levels, which in turn regulate your mood, energy, and pain.
Similar to walking outside, exercise is a great way to boost serotonin levels. It doesn’t have to be anything intense, just something that gets your body moving and blood pumping will leave you feeling energized and in a better mood.
Give a compliment
Receiving compliments is great but did you know that complimenting someone can improve your mood too? Giving a compliment can be a small gesture with a big impact, triggering an uptick of oxytocin and subsequently promoting feelings of love, protection, and security.
Joke around with friends
No joke – laughing increases endorphins, the brain chemicals associated with pleasure, motivation, and social connection. Cracking a joke with friends can improve your mood and even provide pain relief.
Humans need physical contact. The simple act of holding hands can promote the release of your oxytocin and cause feelings of togetherness.
Small acts of kindness can help increase the work of oxytocin and dopamine. It can be something small or simple like holding the door for a co-worker or even smiling at a stranger.
Spend time in the sun
Getting your daily dose of vitamin D helps increase serotonin, which in term improves your mood, memory, digestion, and wound healing.
Get a massage
The sense of touch promotes the production of oxytocin, leaving you feeling less stressed, and even boosts your immunity.
Complete a task
When you complete a task, you get an instant boost of dopamine. It’s why checking things off your to-do list feels so satisfying. There’s never been a better reason to be productive.
Get a good night's sleep
Not getting enough quality sleep can lead to an imbalance of dopamine and other hormones. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night so your body has a chance to recharge and rebalance the hormones in your body.
Some supplements may help increase happy hormone levels:
- tyrosine increases dopamine levels
- green tea promotes dopamine and serotonin promotion
- probiotics may boost serotonin and dopamine
- tryptophan can give serotonin a lift
Listen to music
Listening to instrumental music can increase dopamine production in your brain. Simply listening to any music you enjoy may help put you in a good mood because it increases serotonin. For musicians, they may also get an endorphin boost when they create music. According to research, creating and performing music by dancing, singing, or drumming led to endorphin release.
Plan a romantic evening
Oxytocin is not nicknamed the love hormone for nothing. Both simply attraction and physical affection contribute to an increase in oxytocin.
It doesn’t always have to be physical, simply spending time with someone you care about can also help boost oxytocin levels. If you really want to feel those happy hormones, dancing and sex both lead to the release of endorphins, while orgasms trigger dopamine.
Everyone is different but we could all use a boost of our happy hormones these days so give these suggestions a try and see if they help!