“In essence, not exercising is like taking a depressant.” – Tal Ben-Shahar
There’s a scientific method to achieving happiness. How you experience your everyday life boils down to the chemicals in your brain. Specifically, the quartet responsible for our happiness includes dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins.
Your brain works like a positive feedback system – being happy often leads to more happiness. Many events can trigger the four neurotransmitters – a.k.a., your “happy brain chemicals” – so that your brain starts feeling good and heading on its upward cycle.
Don’t doubt the power that you have in taking control of the brain and hacking into your happy brain chemicals. Rather than sitting in the passenger seat, there are ways you can intentionally cause your happy brain chemicals to flow. We’ve outlined some simple steps – backed by neuroscience – to get each of the four positive neurochemicals flowing.
Dopamine (The Reward Chemical)
Dopamine motivates us to take action to achieve our goals, desires and needs. It gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when you succeed at them. High dopamine hits you with motivation and productivity. Low dopamine create procrastination, self-doubt and depletes your enthusiasm.
Access your dopamine system by simply completing a task. Whatever the activity is – work, self-care, eating healthy or celebrating little wins – just create finish lines. It’s the feeling of getting to the finish line that releases dopamine. Knowing this, you can break big goals down to little pieces and celebrate a series of small finish lines rather than one grand finale.
Serotonin (The Mood Stabilizer)
Serotonin starts flowing when you feel important. This is why low serotonin is linked to loneliness and depression. It’s also why gang culture and unhealthy attention-seeking behaviour draws people in, it’s the addicting rush of serotonin that fuels the fire.
You can get your serotonin boost by experiencing imaginary or real achievements – your brain has trouble telling the difference. Thus, set some time aside to practice gratitude; thinking about how much we are valued and the things that we value in life will trigger serotonin production. You can also get serotonin flowing by sitting in the sun; UV rays promote vitamin D and serotonin production in our bodies.
Oxytocin (The Love Hormone)
Known as the love or cuddle hormone, oxytocin creates the intimacy and trust that builds healthy relationships. It gets released by men and women during orgasm, mothers during childbirth and breastfeeding, or simply laughing with a friend. The cultivation of oxytocin is essential for creating strong relationships.
Release oxytocin by playing with a dog or baby, holding hands, hugging a loved one or giving someone a compliment or gift. In turn, the receiver of your touch gets a simultaneous oxytocin boost and so the relationship strengthens.
Endorphin (The Pain Killer)
In response to pain and stress, endorphins kick in to help alleviate our anxiety. Endorphins are what kicks in during a “runners high” during exercise. Like the effects of morphine, it diminishes our perception of pain.
Along with exercise, laughter works to pump out your endorphins. Even the anticipation of laughing in the future (e.g., attending a comedy show) increases endorphin levels. You can also try using essential oils and eating dark chocolate for a quick endorphin boost.
On Practice Shraddha, we offer the classes that you need to support your happiness. We have routine-based classes to schedule a daily release dopamine, meditation and gratitude journaling classes for serotonin, self-care workshops for oxytocin and faster-paced vinyasas for endorphins. Click here for access to our site and start your free 7-day trial if you haven’t done so already to bask in all the benefits.