Unlocking Our Happy Chemicals: 4 Neurotransmitters and 7 Activities to help you harness them!
Updated: Aug 21
The brain’s happy chemicals are exactly what they sound like: chemicals that help us feel happiness. Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins are all chemicals that are released by our brains when we do something it finds rewarding, like eating delicious food or having sex. The release of these chemicals lead us to wanting more.
The brain is an incredibly complex organ that is responsible for regulating our mood, thoughts, and behavior. One of the most important chemical systems in the brain that helps to regulate our mood is the "happy chemicals" system. This system is made up of a group of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, (D.O.S.E. for short) that are responsible for regulating our mood and promoting feelings of happiness and well-being. These “happy chemicals” play important roles in regulating mood and promoting feelings of happiness and well-being. Let’s take a moment to today to learn more about them and what are important activities and habits that help us harness these chemical’s full potential!
The Big 4 Neurotransmitters - D.O.S.E.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is often referred to as the "feel-good" chemical. It is released in the brain when we experience pleasure or reward. These neurotransmitters are associated with pleasure, motivation, and reward. It is released in the brain when we experience something pleasurable, such as eating a delicious meal, receiving praises, sex, and natural rewards such as sunlight and exercise. Low levels of dopamine have been linked to depression, ADHD, and Parkinson's disease.
Oxytocin is a hormone that is associated with social bonding, trust, and intimacy. It is often referred to as the "cuddle hormone" and is released during physical touch, such as hugging or holding hands. Oxytocin is also believed to play a role in reducing stress and anxiety.
Serotonin is another neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating our mood. It is often referred to as the "calming" chemical, as it helps to reduce feelings of anxiety and promote feelings of calm and well-being. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Endorphins are a group of neurotransmitters associated with pain relief and feelings of euphoria. They are often referred to as the "feel-good" chemicals, as they help to reduce feelings of pain and promote feelings of happiness and well-being. Endorphins are released in the brain in response to physical activity, pleasure, and stress.
Overall, the happy chemicals system in the brain plays a critical role in regulating our mood and promoting feelings of happiness and well-being. By understanding how these neurotransmitters work, we can better understand the underlying causes of mood disorders and develop more effective treatments for them. It's important to note that these chemicals are not only related to happiness but also have other functions in the body, and that some of them are released in response to different stimuli.
Sometimes our brain can struggle with creating, releasing and absorbing these chemical when we’d experienced stress, hardship, or trauma in our lives. In these cases, it may take a while for your body to readjust to feeling good again. Sometimes you can remain stuck for a long time. If you are struggling with this, you do not have to be alone in that journey. The purpose of psychotherapy is to help folks understand what has happened to them and help them move forward.
There are several ways to enhance the production of happy chemicals in the brain, Here are 7 essential ways to ensure that your brain continues to provide and produce these feel good hormones routinely!
Physical activity has been shown to increase the production of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins in the brain. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, at least 3-5 times a week.
2) Get enough sunlight
Sunlight exposure helps to increase the production of serotonin in the brain, which can help to improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. Aim for at least 20-30 minutes of sunlight exposure per day, especially in the morning.
3) Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga have been shown to increase the production of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Try to practice mindfulness techniques for at least 10-15 minutes a day.
4) Connect with others
Social connections have been shown to increase the production of oxytocin, also known as the "cuddle hormone" which promotes feelings of love, trust, and bonding.
5) Get a good night's sleep
Sleep plays a critical role in regulating the levels of happy chemicals in the brain, so it's essential to get enough restful sleep each night. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and establish a consistent sleep schedule.
6) Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help to increase the production of happy chemicals in the brain. Avoid processed foods and added sugars, which have been linked to low mood and other health problems.
It is worth mentioning that these are general tips and it's best to check with a medical professional before making any significant changes to your diet or exercise routine, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions. Also, it's important to keep in mind that these tips may not have the same effect on everyone, and if you have symptoms of mood disorders, it is important to consult with a mental health professional.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim recently graduated from Western University with a BA in psychology and criminology. Her interest in learning about people’s behaviors has led her to pursue a role as a content creator with Your Story Counselling to develop a further understanding of how the mind works. Kim is passionate about pursuing a career that supports individuals in their journals to realize their potential within themselves.
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