What brings you joy? Is it your friends and family? Do you feel awesome when you’re outdoors or nibbling your favourite comfort foods?
Millions search for happiness – that elusive feeling of peace and tranquillity, excitement and contentment. What is it? How do we hold it in our hands? When you feel “happy” that’s a complex network of synapses firing up in your brain at the same time.
For some, happiness is difficult to achieve; you may have daily concerns about your future and what it holds. While it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes your happiness, four chemicals can account for a significant portion of that: dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin.
Hack your happy hormones!
Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate everything from physical function to emotional wellbeing. Many of these hormones are influenced by our thoughts, activities, and even the foods we eat, which is quite fascinating. (You are what you eat!) Understanding these chemicals and how they function can help you develop specific strategies to help you feel better.
Dopamine, also known as the "happy hormone”, triggers feelings of happiness. It spikes when we experience something pleasurable, like falling in love, receiving positive feedback at work, shopping, sex, or any other activity that we genuinely enjoy doing.
Serotonin is also known as a "natural antidepressant". It’s responsible for helping to curtail anxiety and depression. The most common type of medication used to treat these conditions is Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) which raise serotonin levels in the brain. Exercise, spending time outside, and getting a good night's sleep can all help up your serotonin levels.
Good old endorphins are powerful hormones that act as natural pain relievers and can reduce discomfort while increasing pleasure. For healthy endorphin levels, laugh more, eat your favourite foods, meditate, and get a good relaxing massage. Exercise also boosts endorphin levels.
Oxytocin, also known as the "love hormone", is that giddy little fellow that helps you fall in love. During childbirth and nursing, oxytocin floods a woman's system, bringing mom and baby together for bonding sessions and attachment. Any type of intimate touch, like holding hands, cuddling, kissing, massage, and sex, causes this hormone to spike too. Encourage the release of oxytocin by doing yoga and engaging in activities with your loved ones. Spending time with your family and friends may also be beneficial.
Certain hormones play a big part in how you feel on a daily basis. Similarly, happy hormones can make you feel upbeat and joyful. To help stimulate the production of these happy hormones, aim for a healthy diet and lifestyle with plenty of fresh air, social incentives, and fun activities.
If these techniques aren't working for you and you're still depressed, talk to your doctor. You could be lacking in certain nutrients. Your doctor is there to help you come up with a proactive plan to get you back on track and receive the proper treatment you need.
This article is for informational purposes only. Always check with your doctor or medical practitioner about any health concerns, before embarking on any fitness or nutrition programme, and usage of any medication.