When someone asks what makes us happy, we often think of our family and friends, circumstances, and possessions.
However, happiness has more to do with the chemicals in our brains than with what’s going on in our lives.
In fact, there are four main neurotransmitters associated with the feelings we refer to as happiness: endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine.
Here’s the good news. By boosting the levels of these four brain chemicals, you can be a lot happier regardless of what’s going on in your life. Below is a guide on how each of these chemicals works and how you can boost them.
Endorphins are responsible for what is known as the runner’s high. They relieve stress and pain and produce a feeling of euphoria. As such, people with low levels of endorphins are likelier to suffer from depression and fibromyalgia.
There’s no better way to get a runner’s high than to go for a run or do some other form of vigorous cardio exercise. However, if you’re not exactly in the mood for a run, try laughter, dark chocolate, or spicy foods, all of which have been proven to boost endorphin levels.
Serotonin is often referred to as the feel-good hormone. However, it also affects almost every function in your body, from digestion to blood clotting. Deficiencies have been known to cause Insomnia, cravings for sweet foods, and several mood disorders.
Studies show that there’s a connection between the amount of time spent in sunlight and serotonin production. Therefore, spending as little as five minutes outdoors can raise your serotonin levels and boost mood.
Regular cardio exercise can also raise your serotonin levels. This is why exercise is often prescribed for anger, anxiety, and depression.
This neurotransmitter is commonly known as the reward chemical. It’s produced when you accomplish something, reach a goal, or perform an act of kindness.
You can boost your dopamine levels by seeking out new experiences. It could be something grand like skydiving or something as simple as trying a new recipe — however, the newer the experience, the bigger the dopamine rush.
If the thrill of trying new things doesn’t appeal to you, try volunteering. It brings on thoughts of loving-kindness, which boost your dopamine levels.
Oxytocin is also known as the love hormone because it helps you bond with others by fostering feelings of closeness. It’s also been shown to reduce blood pressure and stress.
A quick way to boost oxytocin is to listen to music. And if you want a double dose of oxytocin, listen to music with someone else and bond over your shared interest in music. Better still, throw in a couple of hugs for a greater oxytocin rush.
These four brain chemicals are responsible for your mood and happiness. Thankfully, you don’t need to do much to boost their levels. A simple hug, an act of kindness, a bar of dark chocolate, some spicy food, or a quick run outdoors can help you snap out of a gloomy mood and keep you feeling happy all day every day.
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