Happiness is not just a feeling we get from time to time. Inside our bodies are chemicals that are trying to get us to do the best things for us, things that put a smile on our face. Things that keep us healthy and kind and ensure our survival on an individual level and as a group. We thought all this was pretty interesting and decided we would give a simple summary of those chemicals and how they’re activated within your body so if you’re ever feeling a little down this should help you to figure out how to trick your body into feeling happier. The core chemicals are endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.
To get an endorphin hit do some exercise or laugh.
This chemical masks physical pain. When you exercise or push yourself physically your body releases endorphins to get you through it. You feel good while you exercise, you feel good after you exercise, afterwards you start to ache because the endorphins are gone. They are what makes exercising addictive & why laughing feels good - your internal organs are convulsing with endorphins there to mask that pain. If you’re in fits of laughter for a long time and the endorphins disappear - that’s when something is so funny it hurts.
To get a dose of dopamine, work to achieve or accomplish a tangible goal.
The whole purpose of dopamine is to make sure we get things done. Think of checking something off a to-do list, or accomplishing something you’ve spent time working towards. That feeling of accomplishment that makes you feel good is dopamine. It must be a tangible goal though, you must be able to see or imagine it happening, and writing down a goal actually makes it more tangible. As humans, things that we can see or touch make them more real - so it’s important to write down what you want to achieve.
Dopamine does come with a caveat though - it’s what causes addiction. Other things that release dopamine are alcohol, nicotine and gambling (we don’t really recommend these for your health). Also when we get a new notification on our phones it can release dopamine and cause us to become addicted to our tech. Try and achieve this chemical in productive manners as if it’s achieved in an unbalanced manner it can be quite dangerous.
Serotonin comes from working with others and being recognised for your accomplishments. It makes us feel proud and enforces our bonds with others.
When you have serotonin running through your veins you’re feeling pride and status and recognition, either of yourself or of others you care about. Your confidence goes up with serotonin. It’s why we have awards and ceremonies to recognise accomplishments. The moment you feel pride, anyone who helped you get to that point will also feel proud. Think of bonds between parents and children, tutor and student, boss and employee or teams working together. It exists to enforce bonds between people. It comes when our status is elevated, it feels really good and in return it makes us want to give back to the world and look after others so they can accomplish the same.
Oxytocin (the best one)
Oxytocin is the feeling of love, trust and friendship and it’s released by acts of trust and generosity that are there to strengthen our relationships.
The cuddle chemical as it’s lovingly nicknamed comes from a variety of things but it’s again there to strengthen our bonds with other humans. Relationships with others are solidified by physical touch. Such as shaking hands with someone you’re going to work with to show you can trust each other. Or how cuddling helps us to connect with our loved ones. When women have babies they have a huge surge of oxytocin rush through their bodies connecting mother to child.
It also comes through acts of kindness and generosity. Sacrificing something so that others may be better off and not expecting anything in return - usually time or energy (giving money doesn’t feel good because we put a premium on time). When you perform an act of kindness not only do you feel the oxytocin, but the person on the receiving end feels it too, as well as people who are around to witness the act of kindness (even if they’re not participating). One of the amazing things about oxytocin is that the more you have running through your veins the more generous you become. The more you do, the more you want to do. It increases problem solving and creativity while also inhibiting addiction (think back to dopamine) and boosts your immune system so there are real physical health benefits from acts of generosity. It’s why happy people and couples live longer which is really amazing.
Happiness. It’s all in those four little chemicals and if you do it right the happier you become & the happier the world around you becomes. So brb we’re off to go cuddle some loved ones, do some exercise, tick off our to-do lists and perform some acts of generosity. Happy happy-ing.