I recently came across a short narrative article about hormones and happiness doing the rounds on social media. It inspired me to do my own research and write this blog post to share with you. The premise of this article was to make sure we actively promote the production of the four hormones which determine a human’s happiness. These are Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins, which conveniently have the acronym DOSE! They provide our daily DOSE for happiness.
Why are these four hormones so important and how can we stimulate their production?
D for Dopamine
Dopamine is involved in reward, motivation, memory, and attention. In particular, the things we seek out that make us feel good. This could be cake, chocolate, new things, or reaching our goals. It is the ways in which we are rewarded, the things that motivate us and that therefore attract our attention.
An external reward might be a purchase of something fun that provides pleasure and satisfaction. These can provide an immediate short term boost in how we feel or a longer-term elevation if it is something we use repeatedly.
An internal reward is often associated with growth and development. For example, when you master something new or gain a new level of expertise or are acknowledged for your contribution. These internal rewards can be big or little things associated with a sense of purpose. See if you can identify the internal and external rewards that elevate your Dopamine levels.
O for Oxytocin
Oxytocin is released when we become close to other human beings and feel attachment and comfort. It is a key element in social interaction and bonding. When we hug our friends or family Oxytocin is released. When we connect to or touch other living things various amounts of Oxytocin is released. It is increased by socializing in general, eating together or thinking about or doing something for another person or for a pet. Even interaction or providing useful information on the internet by answering questions on social media or providing an online resource can increase Oxytocin.
S for Serotonin
Serotonin is related to our mood. It is also involved in regulating our sleep and digestion and supporting learning and memory. It is released when we do things that make us feel good. This includes exercise, being outside in the sunlight, massage, and recalling or being involved in happy events. Serotonin is impacted by the extent to which we use our will power. If we push ourselves too hard it becomes depleted and is recharged through nurturing ourselves with adequate rest and relaxation and a healthy diet. How do you maintain your balance between making progress on your goals and taking care of yourself?
E for Endorphins
When we exercise, the body releases Endorphins. They are a group of peptides that have an analgesic effect similar to those experienced by pain killers. As natural pain and stress fighters, they help the body cope with the pain of exercising. We then enjoy exercising because they also elevate our mood. Laughter is another good way of generating Endorphins. We need to move our bodies every day and read or watch funny stuff to get our daily dose of Endorphins.
Intentional Manifestation of our Daily DOSE for Happiness
So, it is actually quite simple, we are happy when our lifestyle nourishes us.
We have to accomplish little goals that give us purpose or treat ourselves to get Dopamine. Identify how your small and big achievements and acknowledge how they contribute to you being the person you want to be.
We have to hug and be nice and supportive to our kids, friends, and families to get Oxytocin. Find ways to touch others through physical contact or metaphorically by making a difference.
We need awareness of balancing the level of stress that we experience with activities that sustain us to maintain our Serotonin. Make time for restorative nurturing practices that provide the space for you to reconnect with yourself. This could be being in nature, relaxing, or doing things you find fun.
We have to exercise to get Endorphins. Make time to get your heart rate up and be physically active.
So, get your daily DOSE for happiness by deliberately planning to include these elements in your life and the lives of those around you. Activate these hormones with your daily choices and claim your happiness. This will also give you greater resilience in dealing with your challenges and problems. I would love to hear back from you as to how you the daily DOSE for happiness functions in your own life.