What are happy hormones and how can we feel more of them?
Happiness is not just a feeling, it is actually a balance between 4 hormones that keep your mood and mind functioning optimally. Hormones act as chemical messengers that are produced throughout your body and each carries out specific tasks to keep your body operating properly. Hormones are also extremely influenced by our thoughts, habits, and even the foods we eat. One of the important functions your hormones are responsible for is regulating your mood. These hormones are known as the "happy hormones" and they promote positive feelings such as happiness and pleasure.
These "happy hormones" include:
Dopamine is known as the ultimate "happy hormone." It's also a neurotransmitter that is critical to your brain's reward system, which is associated with and drives one to pleasure-seeking behavior. A great way to boost this hormone is by setting realistic goals for yourself and achieving them, in addition to seeking out healthy pleasurable activities that positively impact your life. Alternatively, when dopamine levels are low it can result in low self-esteem and energy, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
Serotonin is commonly known as the "feel-good" hormone and is a mood-boosting neurotransmitter that helps your body regulate your mood, sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability, and memory. Serotonin plays a vital role in fighting off anxiety and depression. One of the most effective ways to boost serotonin is through daily exercise. Signs of low levels of serotonin may include extreme moodiness, depression, and anxiety. Foods high in tryptophan like eggs, free-range chicken, nuts and seeds are shown to be serotonin boosters.
Oxytocin is often called the "love hormone," which is associated with bonding and attachment. In addition, it plays a critical role in childbirth, breastfeeding, and strong parent-child bonding. These hormones also promote feelings of trust, empathy, and bonding in relationships. In addition, oxytocin levels usually increase with physical touch like holding hands, cuddling, kissing, sexual intimacy, and getting a massage. On the contrary, cravings for sugar and highly processed foods may be a sign your body might be low in oxytocin.
Endorphins are hormones that are considered to be your body's natural pain reliever and are commonly linked with exercise. Your body actually is prompted to produce this hormone in response to stress and discomfort. Levels may rise when engaging in reward-producing activities such as working out. You may need to increase your endorphins levels if you find yourself depressed, overweight, stressed, and anxious.
Fortunately, there are many ways to produce more of these "feel-good" hormones naturally, like:
Go outdoors! Research shows that going outdoors and being exposed to sunlight actually increases the natural production of serotonin and dopamine. Try spending time outdoors for at least 15 minutes or more a few times a week to improve your mood and feel good overall.
Exercise! The benefits of exercise are endless and have a profound impact on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Exercising regularly has been shown to increase endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin levels. In addition, there have been studies conducted that show how to maximize your workout to see a significant increase in your happy hormones. For example, invite your friends to a group workout or do an exercise routine outdoors.
Laugh! Have you heard the saying, "Laughter is the best medicine?" Let me give a disclaimer that laughter will not treat serious health concerns of course, but it can help relieve stress and anxiety. Research actually shows that social laughter triggers an endorphin release. Plus, if you are bonding over something hilarious like a funny video, movie, or joke with a loved one or friend it may trigger an oxytocin release.
Cook and eat with a loved one! In theory, this approach can boost all four of your happy hormones. The release of dopamine and endorphins can be triggered when enjoying a delicious meal with a loved one. In addition, the process of preparing a meal with someone you love can boost oxytocin levels naturally. Furthermore, certain foods can actually trigger the production of specific happy hormones. For example... - Spicy foods trigger an endorphin release. - Beans, eggs, meats, and almonds are shown to release dopamine.
Listen to or play some music! Listening to instrumental music has been shown to increase the production of dopamine. However, in general, any genre of music that puts you in a good mood can boost your serotonin levels. Performing music, especially in a large group like a choir, for example, can increase the release of endorphins.
Pet your dog! Giving your fur baby, if you have one, love and affection have been shown to boost oxytocin levels for you and your dog. Even if you do not have a dog of your own, you may experience an oxytocin boost when you see a dog you know and like. Moreover, if you are a dog lover it may happen anytime you pet a dog you come across.