Wednesday, May 4, 2022

What Brain Chemical Makes You Happy

Don't Miss

Brain Chemicals That Make You Happy

The Brain Chemicals that Make You Happy | Lets Meet Your Happy Chemicals

We spend a lot of time discussing ways to be happier – maintain close friendships, look on the bright side, drink more water. But we dont often think about how we feel happiness. Did you know that the warmth you feel from a long hug is caused by an entirely different chemical sensation than the high you feel after a long run or bike ride?

DOSE: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins

So then, whats the real cause of our happiness? What makes us feel sensations of happiness, closeness, and joy? Brain chemicals! There are four primary chemicals that can drive the positive emotions you feel throughout the day: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins .

How To Boost Your Serotonin Levels

The following are natural ways that you can boost your serotonin levels:

  • getting more exposure to sunlight
  • doing plenty of exercise
  • counselling and meditation

If youve been experiencing a low mood for a considerable period of time, your doctor might prescribe you an antidepressant medication known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors .

SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressants in Australia. They work by stopping the nerve cells reabsorbing the serotonin again so quickly, so that there is more available to keep transmitting messages.

How Are Neural Pathways Formed

Our neural pathways are mainly formed when we are young.

Each time we experienced something nice as a child, a neurochemical connection was built. For example, the experience of being hungry probably made you feel bad. If your mom gave you a cookie to ease your hunger, then you most definitely felt better. If this happens a few times, then a connection between eating cookies and happiness is built, and hence eating cookies now makes you feel happy.

Understanding how the limbic system works and how neural pathways are formed, we must first understand the role of our four happy brain chemicals.

You May Like: How Does A Brain Look Like

Can I Get Too Much Adrenaline

The body is pretty good when it comes to self-limiting adrenaline production. When the threat or emotion passes, the production of adrenaline stops. However, there are some medical conditions, like sleep apnoea or adrenal tumours in which adrenaline overproduction creates a chemical imbalance.

Sometimes, stress and worry can cause your body to release adrenaline when it doesnt need to. For example, when youre trying to get to sleep at night but stressing out about the following day. Its both annoying and uncomfortable, and if stress is prolonged, your health can suffer.

One way to help relieve these feeling is to try and activate your parasympathetic nervous system, known as the rest-and-digest system. This can override the fight or flight response that your body is experiencing in times of stress. Some ways to do this include:

  • deep breathing
  • meditation and mindfulness
  • trying relaxing movement like yoga or tai chi
  • talk to friends or family about whats bothering you so you can switch off at night
  • self-care eating well and getting regular exercise
  • limiting caffeine and alcohol
  • avoid devices before and at bedtime

Our Stress guide has lots of information on practical ways to help de-stress at home, like how to get started on mindfulness or journaling. You can also learn about programs and services we can offer if you need a little extra help. 

Cook A Favorite Meal With A Loved One

infographics: You Have Power Over Your Brain

This tip could in theory boost all 4 of your happy hormones.

The enjoyment you get from eating something delicious can trigger the release of dopamine along with endorphins. Sharing the meal with someone you love, and bonding over meal preparation, can boost oxytocin levels.

Certain foods can also have an impact on hormone levels, so note the following when meal planning for a happy hormone boost:

  • spicy foods, which may trigger endorphin release
  • yogurt, beans, eggs, meats with low-fat content, and almonds, which are just a few foods linked to dopamine release
  • foods high in tryptophan, which have been linked to increased serotonin levels
  • foods containing probiotics, such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, which can influence the release of hormones

There are several supplements that may help increase your happy hormone levels. Here are just a few to consider:

Experts studying the effects of supplements have found varied results. Many studies involved animals only, so more research is needed to help support the benefits of supplements for humans.

Supplements may be helpful, but some arent recommended for people with certain health conditions. They can also interact with certain medications, so make sure talk to your healthcare provider before you try them.

If you do take any supplements, read all package instructions and stick to the recommended dose, since some can have negative effects at high doses.

You May Like: How To Improve Brain Fog

How To Hack Happiness Hormones

1. Eat Healthy Foods

Did you know that simply eating nourishing foods can promote the production of your happy hormones, like dopamine? In fact, some foods are called brain foods because they help release neurotransmitters.

Some of the best foods for your happy hormones include:

  • good-quality protein
  • antioxidant fruits and veggies

2. Play With Your Pet

Playing with a pet can certainly boost your brain chemicals, especially oxytocin, which is your love hormone. If you have a pet, petting him or her or playing around is actually great for your own mood and well-being.

No pet? Thats what friends and neighbors are for!

3. Hug Someone

Want to boost your oxytocin naturally? Bring it in for the real thing.

Hugs bring on feelings of comfort, togetherness and joy.

Humans benefit from several hugs a day and make sure they last about 20 seconds or longer. The extended hug is really what gets your love hormone going.

4. Take a Walk Outdoors

Im sure this isnt the first time youre reading that walks outside are good for your health. Its grounding and brings on feelings of peace and relaxation.

It does this by promoting the production of serotonin, which regulates your mood, energy levels and pain perception.

5. Exercise

Exercise or any form of physical activity is a great way to boost serotonin levels. This can be running, swimming, cycling, weight lifting, yoga and more.

Moving your body and getting your blood pumping leave you feeling energized and in a better mood.

Why You Help Others

Serotonin is released when we give back. We feel it when we act in a way that benefits others and when we give to a cause thatâs beyond our own benefit.

Helping an old lady cross the street, for example, brings literally no benefit or gain to you, and yet it can make you feel good and give you a sense of pride for the whole day or even the whole week. It fills your heart in a way that you cannot get from dopamine or endorphins.

Serotonin is released when we connect with people on a deep, human level.

When was the last time getting a shiny new watch or going on a run brought you legitimate happiness and pride for more than a few hours?

Itâs why we often see billionaires become philanthropists later in their lives.

When they have already used up so much Dopamine from all the material things they could have and all the accomplishments theyâve achieved, they turn to serotonin to feel happiness.

You May Like: What Causes Confusion And Memory Loss

Understanding The Chemicals Controlling Your Mood

While there are many external factors that can influence your mood like the weather and your relationships, there are also four main chemicals that play a big role, including serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline and oxytocin. But to understand this, you need to first know a little bit about how our brain works. So, whats the relationship between brain and mood? The brain controls the release of certain chemicals called neurotransmitters which communicate with other areas of the brain to stimulate or calm us. This then has influence on our mood, emotions and behaviour.

Its also important to know that a chemical imbalance in your brain, is when youre making either too much or too little of certain neurotransmitters. This may contribute to a mood disorder or mental health condition if left uncorrected. However, the reasons why mental health issues develop in some people and not others is much more complex than their levels of brain chemicals alone.

We now have many medications available that work on correcting chemical imbalances in the brain, to help improve or reverse symptoms of mental illness.

Lets dive into four different types of neurotransmitters, to find out more about the amazing chemical reactions going on in the brain. Plus, learn a few tips on how to get more feel-good chemicals in your life, naturally.

Social Studieswhy Laughing At Yourself Can Boost Your Health

Happy Brain Chemicals: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphin

Travel writer Clemens Sehi uses a smile not just to feel better, but also as a way of setting an amicable tone with strangers abroad.

When traveling there is one thing that one realizes quite fast: a smile can change everything. It can open doors and the hearts of other people whose culture you do not even know. A smile is the most international language that everyone knows.

Don’t Miss: What Causes Slow Brain Waves

Risks And Side Effects

These are easy and natural ways to boost your happy hormones, or brain chemicals. There are no risks or side effects to taking these small steps to promote a better mood and greater happiness.

If you try these actions but feel like you cant get out of a slump, seek advice from your health care professional.

Chemicals In The Human Brain And Their Functions

Numerous chemicals in the brain help in receiving and interpreting information. Read this article to learn more about such messengers and their functions.

Numerous chemicals in the brain help in receiving and interpreting information. Read this article to learn more about such messengers and their functions.

There are approximately 100,000 chemical reactions, which go on in a human brain every second. The human brain is like a radio transmitter that emits measurable electrical wave signals. The various chemicals that are produced in your brain help in reliving all major stress that a person goes through.

You May Like: Where Is Broca’s Area Located In The Brain

The Role Of Unhappy Chemicals In Our Happiness

If youve seen the Pixar movie, Inside Out, you know how important our unhappy chemicals are to our survival. Cortisol is one such unhappy chemical. Cortisol is triggered whenever our survival is threatened. Cortisol still remains a complex brain chemical and still leaves the medical field perplexed as to why and when its released by the brain. Every time our happy chemicals fulfil their function, the brain releases a spurt of cortisol. Even though you are in your happy or normal state, things still dont seem quite right, resulting in a feeling that you need to fix something. This is the reason why we reach for an ice-cream or chocolate even when we are not hungry, simply to feel happy or normal again.

The reason we feel like doing something is that our brain is always looking for potential threats. So if youre nervous about answering a tough exam tomorrow, the nervousness will remain even after the exam is over. Your brain will simply find the next thing to worry about: the results, your future plans, etc. So how do you tackle this problem? The answer is by getting used to the risk. Your brain will always look for opportunities to improve survival but at the same time, these opportunities may come with risks which are not desirable. Ultimately, managing your happiness involves taking risks and constantly making decisions. Dont be like those people who doubt every decision that theyve made and keep lamenting about squandered opportunities.

Factors That Promote The Production Of Happiness Hormones

Meet Your Happy Chemicals

1. Exercise

Exercise not only keeps us fit and healthy, but also protects us from disease and degeneration. It stimulates the production of various hormones, including:

  • Growth hormones that are crucial to repair and growth.
  • Testosterone, which helps to refresh and reinvigorate the body and aids muscle growth.
  • Insulin and thyroid hormones that help to regulate blood glucose levels and aid metabolism.

Additionally, exercise can assist the brain in producing hormones associated with happiness, such as:

  • Dopamine, the hormone responsible for making us feel good. If we are able to achieve our body shape or weight goals, this hormone will be produced in greater quantities.
  • Serotonin, which can help reduce the symptoms of depression.
  • Endorphins, which are directly related to happiness, meaning they can help to reduce physical pain or symptoms of injury in our muscles due to its chemical properties being similar to morphine, which is used for pain relief.

2. Partaking in fulfilling activities that leave a smile on your face

Visiting new places, getting a relaxing massage, or partaking in activities that leave a smile on your face, whether they involve family members, friends or loved ones, can all provide a welcome relief from the stress and problems that may accumulate in our daily lives. Furthermore, keeping a smile on your face when encountering difficult circumstances can aid the bodys production of serotonin and endorphins, both of which are directly associated with happiness.

Read Also: Can An Eye Stroke Lead To A Brain Stroke

Can Foods Increase Dopamine

The decline in dopamine signalling with age has led to research into how to solve this problem. Dopamine cant be found in food, so you cant eat it, which is why scientists looked to its precursor molecules for answers.

As it happens, the body can turn tyrosine – an amino acid – into dopamine via a complex chain of reactions. Tyrosine is found in food, and many online sources tell people to eat tyrosine-rich foods to boost their dopamine levels.

However, the reality is somewhat different. Studies looking at tyrosine supplementation to support dopamine signalling in the brain offer very different results. Some indicate that it can help but only when dopamine function is intact, while others show that it doesnt, and may even be detrimental in older people.

Is dopamine an endorphin? No, endorphins naturally relieve pain and cause euphoria. Dopamine happiness comes from the brains reward system.

Happy Hormones: The Take

These hormones or neurotransmitters are involved in promoting a happy mood and positive feelings, and you might know them by different names too. For example, serotonin is also called the happiness hormone, dopamine is a feel-good hormone, and oxytocin is the cuddle hormone.

The gut microbiome has a positive role in the production of neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin. These not only allow neurons to communicate with each other, but also connect the nervous system with the gut. In other words, a happy gut means a happy mind!

There are some natural ways to increase your levels of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin which will boost your mood, emotions, and even cognitive function. Activities like exercise, eating a meal with loved ones, and increasing your intake of prebiotics and probiotics are all beneficial.

You May Like: Does Weed Make You Lose Brain Cells

A Brief History Of Your Mammal Brain

Lets start by talking more about your primitive brain.

This is something I teach in Grow You and it helps immensely to learn more about why you think the way you do and how to optimize that thinking.

Personal development is all about creating the growth that you want for yourself.

Well, your brain is at the center of that growth, and when you understand it better and know why its wired the way it is, it helps you create better results.

You inherited a survival brain from your ancestors.

This is incredible when you think about it because your brain was inherited from people who survived some incredible challenges.

The kind of challenges like where to get your next meal, or how to defeat predators.

Even though you may not be focused on survival in your daily life, your primitive brain is.

This incredible organ is always scanning for potential threats because its most important task is protecting you.

Think about the last time you may have been excluded from something or a time you didnt get an invite that you wanted.

Consciously, you know youre not going to die from being excluded from the group or not being invited, but your primitive brain thinks that you are.

This scenario was a real threat throughout evolution and now it has carried over into modern times.

It wasnt easy to survive back then so your brain is always interpreting everything you do in your life as safe or dangerous.

This happened because of natural selection each feeling has a job.

What Are Brain Chemicals

Your Power to Re-wire Your Happy Brain Chemicals (#1 of 7)

There are millions, or even billions, of chemical reactions occurring in the brain at any given moment. These reactions make up the dynamic system that controls mood, perception and more.

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that send messages from neuron to neuron. Neurons are present throughout the brain and work to send and receive messages.

Researchers have found that electrical and chemical signals allow for communication within and between neurons. This is how the brain communicates with itself.

Neurotransmitters can be classified into two categories: excitatory and inhibitory. Excitatory messengers work to stimulate brain activity, while inhibitory messengers slow down the chemical reactions.

Recommended Reading: What Does The Pons Do In The Brain

Chemicals That Activate Happiness & How To Gamify Them

Nicole Lazzaro is a world-renowned game designer. And if youre thinking, what does game design have to do with a website that covers workplace software, you havent been paying attention.

Gamification is changing how companies build software and how consumers interact with it, not just at home, but at work as well.

To get an insiders perspective on this revolution, we spoke with Nicole about her theories on the science of fun. Listen to our short interview then read on for more about why gamification works so well .

If youre interested in hearing more from Nicole, check out her website, 4k2f.com. And if you need a gamification platform for your own business, check out these great options.

Serotonin Controls Our Moods

Serotonin flows when you feel satisfied, accomplished and important. However, a lack of serotonin can make you feel lonely, bleak and unhappy. Unhealthy attention-seeking behaviour can also be a cry for serotonin.

Our brain cant tell the difference between whats real and imagined, so it produces serotonin in both cases. This is why gratitude practices are popular; they remind us that we are valued and have much to value in life. If you need a serotonin boost during a stressful day, take a few moments to reflect on past achievements and victories. Alternatively, engage in a random act of kindness, or write a text or email telling one of your friends or partner how much you appreciate and value them. You can also spend a minute or two reliving a moment in your head that you cherish. These are simple mood boosters, just because they increase serotonin. We also know that vitamin D helps to expand our brains serotonin production.

You May Like: What Covid Does To The Brain

Oxytocin The Cuddle Hormone

Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes bonding and trust, and it is particularly active during childbirth where it stimulates contractions. One of its lesser-known, but equally important, functions is as a neurotransmitter that helps regulate stress responses and calm the nervous system.

Its been pinpointed in human bonding, generosity, and establishing trust, while other studies show that it might be what makes some romantic relationships work. Indeed, higher blood oxytocin levels have been linked to greater perceived love, responsiveness, and gratitude in couples.

Oxytocin secretion happens in response to stimuli perceived by the brain, which is carefully monitoring your environment for threats using your ears, eyes, taste, touch, and smell. Its produced in response to touch and even the right kind of eye contact, but also in times of stress to counterbalance the effects of cortisol.

In recent years, the scientific community has discovered that oxytocin plays a much wider role than initially ascribed, regulating the immune system, healing, and even pain perception. You wont be surprised then to discover that your gut bacteria have got their finger in this pie too.

Although most of the studies have been conducted in mice, it was shown that gut microbes can stimulate oxytocin production, thus promoting wound healing and muscle health, leading some to suggest that this chemical might contribute to healthful longevity.

Dopamine The Motivational Molecule

How To Hack Into Our Happy Chemicals

Dopamine is another hormone that makes you happy while also keeping you alive and alert. Its involved in a wide range of activities, and a number of severe conditions are associated with the dysfunction of the dopamine system. Here are some systems its involved in:

  • motor control and cognitive function
  • the brains motivation and reward system
  • memory and attention
  • maternal and reproductive behaviours

This chemical is part of the brains reward system – its what gives you pleasurable sensations and keeps you coming back for more. Dopamine is considered to be the motivational cog in this system, and its naturally released when you perceive food or sex, but before you consume it.

FACTDopamine is the active neurotransmitter in addictions to substances and behaviours .

Recommended Reading: Can Hitting Your Head With Your Hand Cause Brain Damage

Make Time For Exercise

Exercise has multiple physical health benefits. It can also have a positive impact on emotional well-being.

If youve heard of a runners high, you might already know about the link between exercise and endorphin release.

But exercise doesnt just work on endorphins. Regular physical activity can also increase your dopamine and serotonin levels, making it a great option to boost your happy hormones.

Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine Serotonin Endorphins And Oxytocin

Image Credit: Pixabay.

We might not have a money tree, but we can have a happiness tree. Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins are the quartet responsible for our happiness. Many events can trigger these neurotransmitters, but rather than being in the passenger seat, there are ways we can intentionally cause them to flow.

Being in a positive state has significant impact on our motivation, productivity, and wellbeing. No sane person would be opposed to having higher levels in those areas.

Here are some simple ways to hack into our positive neurochemicals:

Dopamine

Dopamine motivates us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them. Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine. Studies on rats showed those with low levels of dopamine always opted for an easy option and less food; those with higher levels exerted the effort needed to receive twice the amount of food.

Break big goals down into little pieces — rather than only allowing our brains to celebrate when we’ve hit the finish line, we can create a series of little finish lines which releases dopamine. And it’s crucial to actually celebrate — buy a bottle of wine, or head to your favorite restaurant whenever you meet a small goal.

Serotonin

Oxytocin

A version of this article first appeared on The Utopian Life.

Don’t Miss: Where Is Sensory Information Processed In The Brain

Adrenaline Helping Us Stay Safe

Adrenaline, or epinephrine, is responsible for your bodys fight or flight response. It helps you react quickly in a dangerous or stressful situation. Adrenaline is the hormone released when your brain perceives excitement, danger, fear, or a potential threat. You might feel a mix of all of those emotions when doing something like skydiving for example, which is a time when your body is likely to be full of adrenaline.

Gamification Isnt Silly Its Science

Foods That Makes You Happy / Happier | Helps With Brain Function | Review

There are four major chemicals in the brain that influence our happiness :

  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Endorphins.
  • As Nicole explains, each plays a different role in happiness. And guess what? They are all triggered by gamified experiences. Lets dig a little deeper.

    Dopamine is what we normally think of as the happiness drug. However, thats a big misconception. Dopamine is actually involved more with anticipation than the actual happiness feeling. Nicole describes it as a striving emotion.

    Oxytocin is the neurochemical that has allowed us to become social creatures. It makes us feel empathy which helps us feel close and bonded to others when its released.

    If youre in a good mood, youve got serotonin to thank. And if youre in a bad mood, youve got serotonin to blame. Its a regulator. Interestingly, Nicole explains, 80 percent of serotonin exists in the gut, and is governed by your state of hunger .

    Endorphins are responsible for masking pain or discomfort, which explains their association with the fight or flight response. When it comes to designing happiness, endorphins help you power through. Nicole, for example, is an avid runner. Endorphins allow her to push farther and harder as she works towards distance goals.

    Recommended Reading: What Can Cause A Brain Bleed

    More articles

    Popular Articles