Eleanor Roosevelt has rightly said that “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” Yes, happiness is a byproduct of our emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. You experience joy when your brain, releases certain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
The evolutionary biology ensures that everything necessary for your survival, makes you feel good. Your brain is a wellspring of self-produced neurochemicals that turns the struggles of life into pleasure and make you feel happy when you achieve them.
The feeling of happiness is related to certain chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. When released they transmit a message from one neuron to another nerve, cell, organ or tissue. In this entry, we’ll talk about nine brain molecules linked to happiness and efficient ways to boost them.
We will talk about both hormones and neurotransmitters that’ll make you happy. Hormones belong to your endocrine system, whereas neurotransmitters belong your nervous system. Our ultimate goal is to help you achieve happiness through natural means. So we’ve grouped all these under the heading happy hormones.
Endocannabinoids (Bliss Molecule). The Anandamide is a neurotransmitter produced in your brain that binds to THC receptors. It’s called the bliss molecule, aptly named after “Anada,” the Sanskrit word for bliss, joy or happiness.
Anandamide is considered an endocannabinoid, a substance produced in the body that binds to cannabinoid receptors. It does more than providing a state of heightened happiness.
Anandamide plays a significant role in appetite, pain, and fertility. It helps to put brakes on cancer cell proliferation. By increasing the formation of new nerve cells, anandamide exhibits anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties. It breaks down very quickly and therefore doesn’t produce a perpetual state of bliss.
You can include dark chocolate, black truffles in your diet to boost this molecule’s levels. A state of heightened focus, super concentration, and peak performance also called the “zone” increases anandamide levels.
Dopamine (Reward Molecule). Otherwise called as the reward hormone, dopamine motivates you to take action towards your goal, desires, and needs. It gives a surge of pleasure when you achieve them. If you have low levels of dopamine, you may suffer from self-doubt, procrastination, and lack of enthusiasm.
Be known that research studies say that serious health problems can arise if you produce too much, or too little dopamine. If your brain release too few dopamine molecules, you can develop Parkinson’s disease, while an excess can lead to mania, hallucinations, and schizophrenia. So moderation is the key.
Break big goals down into small attainable ones. Instead of allowing your brain to celebrate when you hit the finish line, create a series of little finish lines, which releases dopamine. Instead of being left with dopamine hangover, try to build new goals before achieving your current one. That ensures a continuous flow for experiencing dopamine.
Oxytocin (Bonding molecule). Oxytocin is a hormone that has direct links with human bonding. It directly increases trust and loyalty and reduces anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also improves social functioning in people with autism.
Often referred to as the cuddle hormone, oxytocin starts to flow when you hug someone. The higher the oxytocin levels, the higher your happiness and well-being, in particular for women.
Your interpersonal touch not only raises oxytocin levels but reduces cardiovascular stress and improves your immune system.Rather than just a handshake, go in for a hug, says Dr. Paul Zac. He recommends eight hugs each day.
When you receive a gift, your oxytocin levels rise. You can strengthen your work and personal relationships through a simple, thoughtful gift. In this cyber world, try to maintain “face to face”human bonds and tribal connections within your community.
Endorphin (Pain killing molecule). Endorphins are your body’s opioids. The name endorphins translate into self-produced morphine. These brain chemicals get released in response to pain and stress. They help to alleviate anxiety and depression. The surging “second wind” and euphoric “runners high” during and after a vigorous run are the results of endorphins.
Researchers say that HIIT releases endorphins in your brain. Along with exercise, laughter increases endorphins. The smell of vanilla and lavender also increases endorphin release. Dark chocolates and spicy foods can cause your brain to produce endorphins.
GABA (Anti-anxiety molecule). GABA is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain. It gives your neurons time to recover by decreasing nerve transmission. Thus it reduces stress and anxiety and creates a sense of calmness. This molecule helps you to maintain control and enhances your focus. You can increase GABA naturally by doing yoga and practicing meditation.
Serotonin (Confidence molecule). Serotonin starts to flow when you feel significant and important. You suffer from loneliness and depression when you lack serotonin. When you feel depressed, try to reflect on your past achievements. Your brain may have trouble telling the difference between what’s real and imagined and so, it starts to produce serotonin. Practicing gratitude significantly boosts your serotonin levels.
This confidence molecules not only boosts your self-esteem but promotes and improves sleep, diminishes craving, fights depression, prevents agitated depression and worrying. Exposing yourself to the sun for just 20 minutes helps your skin to absorb UV rays, which increases vitamin D and serotonin production.
Norepinephrine (The energy molecule). Norepinephrine is a precursor to adrenaline;this neurotransmitter is a stress hormone that coordinates the fight or flight response. It arbitrates many of the physical components of emotion such as increased heart rate, alertness, decision-making behavior and cognition.
When mixed correctly, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine appear to work like a happiness cocktail. In the 1960s, the late Dr. Joseph J. Schildkraut, a Harvard psychiatrist, established that deficiency of this hormone is a biological basis for depression.
Exercise improves your norepinephrine levels. The amino acid tyrosine is necessary to increase this hormone. Eat three balanced meals a day which contains lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables.
Estrogen (The Pink molecule). Estrogen is an important female hormone, which can boost your happiness and has impressive health benefits. Estrogen which is present in the first two weeks of the ovulation cycle has a positive effect on your mood. Estrogen increases your brain’s serotonin levels, the hormone most associated with happiness. Practicing yoga and meditation increases your estrogen levels.
Progesterone (Feel-good molecule). It is one of the important hormones in a woman’s body. Progesterone plays a significant role when you’re in your childbearing years. It helps you to get pregnant and keeps your baby healthy. It’s responsible for giving pregnant women the glow and keeping them upbeat and happy.
It protects your breasts, ovaries, and uterus from cancer. Progesterone works as a natural diuretic and decreases PMS and the severity of periods. Keep progesterone levels optimum by eating well, avoiding saturated fat and sugar, getting regular physical exercise and avoiding stress.
Effective Ways to Boost Happy Hormones
One of the main side-effects of living in a digital age that you’re increasingly removed from your physicality and each other. Your biology is short-circuiting. The balance of neurochemicals that developed over millions of years gets disrupted by your modern way of living. It makes you more prone to anxiety, depression, and malcontent.
Pharmaceutical companies are eager to readjust this with a pill. Our goal is to prescribe simple lifestyle choices and changes in your behavior that’ll improve your brain chemistry. These tips will make you feel better and motivate you to maximize your human potential.
Make time with friends. Trust triggers your oxytocin levels. Spend time with positive people. Talking about the good things in life and being grateful increases your happiness. Spending good times with friends and laughing boosts your endorphins.
Happy people are more social and have strong relationship ties. If your friend is happy, then you become happy too, because happiness is contagious. A 2011 study, says that spending time with friends decreases your stress levels.
“A sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health, and happiness,” Karyn Hall, Ph.D., director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, Texas, writes in Psychology Today blog.
On the other hand, your friend could turn out to be your best exercise buddy too. When you set goals and achieve them, you could increase your levels of dopamine hormone.
Connecting to others makes you more compassionate. Scientists say that making new friends can lift your spirits through the release of oxytocin in your body. Not only does your friendship increase your happy hormones, but it is scientifically proven to help you live longer. This benefit may be the part of the real influence; they have on your daily behavior.
Exercise. Improved self-esteem is the key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. Exercise nearly boosts most of the happy hormones. Any form of exercise can increase your happy hormones. Be it
- House work especially sweeping, mopping or vacuuming
- Playing tennis
- Low impact aerobics
- Yard work especially moving or raking
Joining a group exercise class may also be beneficial. When you exercise, you enter into a state of heightened focus, which releases the bliss molecule anandamide. Progesterone, norepinephrine, endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine are triggered when you start to exercise. Training also provides you these added benefits:
- It increases your energy level
- Strengthens your heart
- Improves muscle tone and strength,
- Lowers blood pressure
- Strengthens and build bones
- Help reduce body fat
- Makes you fit and healthy.
Meditate. Meditation is the most invaluable gift you can give yourself. The demands and daily hustles of life can have a toll on your life. If you meditate, you can obtain joy, happiness, and peace of mind, self-friendship, insight, clarity, and presence.
Meditation significantly triggers the release of anandamide, GABA, serotonin, and estrogen. There are so many different ways to meditate; the best way is to try them and see what works for you. “True meditation is spontaneous, natural, arising from within, while the technique is simply the learned method that helps us have that experience,” Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of The Unexpected Power of Mindfulness and Meditation write in HuffPost.
Diet. Your brain needs certain nutrients like vitamin B12,folate and iron to make the neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Poor eating habits shrink your brain and increase the risk of brain disorders like dementia and depression.
Rules of Happiness Diet:
- Lower the amount of processed food you eat
- Eat more veggies, fruits,and whole grains
- Opt for grass-fed meat because they are rich in omega three fatty acids
- Strive for variety, the greater range of whole foods you consume, the broader the range of brain-boosting nutrients your diet will indeed contain- and the sharper, more energized and merrier your mind will be.
Foods that Increase Your Happiness:
- Foods for thought: eggs, grass-fed butter, grass-fed beef and anchovies
- Foods for energy: Arugula, coffee, walnuts, and blue or red skinned potatoes
- Foods for good mood: wild salmon, tomatoes, beets Chile peppers and garlic.
Aromatherapy. Smell has a strong impact on your brain than any of your other senses. Sometimes if you take the sniff of the right aroma, you can alter your mood. When you’re feeling down or depressed, like everything you do is taking so much out of you, use the principles behind aromatherapy to jumpstart the production of happy hormones.
Scents that boost happy hormones:
- Citrus scents revitalize your brain. It also brings about a lighter more cheerful disposition. Lemon, lime, grapefruit or oranges all have the similar effect.
- The scent of geranium reduces your anxiety and stress. In the middle of the day, when things are getting desperate, and still you have a lot to do, geranium can put you in a better frame of mind.
- Rosemary and basil act as focus boosters. They’re the best option when you’re working, studying or need to think.
- Allspice, cinnamon, and cloves have a spicy scent that is vitalizing and eye-opening. These scents are best when used in the early morning to boost your spirit and energy.
According to research in the Journal of Clinical Nursing nurses, working in accident and emergency department, reported that their anxiety levels fell when they were given aromatherapy massages while listening to music.
Happiness is an important element in your overall health. Apart from the five ways to boost your happy hormones, here are some science-backed ways to increase your happiness. Quit your Facebook for a month, people who left Facebook for a week reported an increase in their average happiness rating according to Happiness Research Institute.
Walking your way to work, looking at the picture of cute animals, getting a good night’s sleep, planning a vacation to far off places, spending time with happy people, doing charitable deeds, and listening to music greatly increases your feeling of happiness.
Though happiness is hard to define, it’s not that hard to find, if you know where to look. Try our tips and see for yourself.