Especially lately with the corona virus pandemic raging and so much new, unexpected challenges in our daily lives, many people have been struggling emotionally. The crisis affects everyone personally and fosters fear and insecurity for many. In a tricky situation like this, I think it is fair to assume that you could use some more happiness, right?
Luckily, you can achieve happiness also using science: Certain chemicals affect your mood and you can introduce these chemicals into your brain on purpose – And no, I am not encouraging anybody to take chemical drugs, there are much more healthy options to achieve this!
A little 101 on Happiness chemicals
There are several hormones that influence your mood and happiness, among them the four most important ones:
Let’s take a closer look into how these chemicals work and what you can do to release them to biohack your emotions!
1. Endorphins: The all-natural pain killers
The name endorphins is a shortcut for “endogenous morphine”. This already describes it quite well: These hormones that your body produces itself can act like a strong pain killer. Endorphins limit the communication of pain signals inside the body and can also cause euphoria .
How to release endorphins into your brain:
- Eating dark chocolate
- Laughing and having fun (with friends, by watching a comedy or reading something funny, …)
2. Serotonin: The mood stabilizer
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects many different parts and functions of the human body. It is known for its effect on the human sleep cycle. In regards to emotions, it acts like a mood stabilizer: It limits aggressiveness and impulsiveness and instead makes you feel relaxed, calm and happy .
How to release Serotonin into your brain:
- Running, swimming or cycling
- Sun exposure
- Taking a walk in nature
3. Dopamine: The reward drug
Dopamine is involved in your feelings for reward and pleasure: Whenever you grant yourself something or treat yourself, dopamine is why this gives you a good feeling. It also is related to motivation and incentives.
How to release Dopamine into your brain:
- Finishing open tasks (e.g. clean or tidy up)
- Eating something
- Doing a self-care activity
- Celebrating a small win
4. Oxytocin: The love and cuddle hormone
The famous “cuddle hormone” is released for example when you are being touched by a loved one. Furthermore, it plays an important role during childbirth and in relationships. Studies show that with more oxytocin in their system, people act more trusting toward others. In addition, the hormone strengthens the bond between people .
How to release Oxytocin into your brain:
- Playing with animals or kids
- Physical contact to another person (hugging, holding hands)
- Giving a compliment
My favorite mood booster
Besides all this theory, I have investigated my own personal mood boosters. Especially lately, it has given me a lot of strength to keep close contact with family and friends by talking and Zoom calls. I have been using physical exercise (in my case running) to improve my mood and release stress for many years now. But one of the quickest and most effective mood improvers for me is music: I have several playlist dedicated to certain moods. It might be a heavy playlist for when I am angry and want to let it out, or a smooth mood play list for when I need to calm down… but especially on my morning commute I have been using “good mood” songs to prepare myself for the day to come and gain optimism for a productive work day.
What are your mood boosters?