Eleanor Roosevelt has rightly said that “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” Yes, happiness is a byproduct of our emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. You experience joy when your brain releases certain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
The evolutionary biology ensures that everything necessary for your survival, makes you feel good. Your brain is a wellspring of self-produced neurochemicals that turns the struggles of life into pleasure and make you feel happy when you achieve them.
The feeling of happiness is related to certain chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. When released they transmit a message from one neuron to another nerve, cell, organ or tissue. In this entry, we’ll talk about nine brain molecules linked to happiness and efficient ways to boost them.
We will talk about both hormones and neurotransmitters that’ll make you happy. Hormones belong to your endocrine system, whereas neurotransmitters belong your nervous system. Our ultimate goal is to help you achieve happiness through natural means. So we’ve grouped all these under the heading happy hormones.
Endocannabinoids (Bliss Molecule). The Anandamide is a neurotransmitter produced in your brain that binds to THC receptors. It’s called the bliss molecule, aptly named after “Anada,” the Sanskrit word for bliss, joy or happiness.
Anandamide is considered an endocannabinoid, a substance produced in the body that binds to cannabinoid receptors. It does more than providing a state of heightened happiness.
Anandamide plays a significant role in appetite, pain, and fertility. It helps to put brakes on cancer cell proliferation. By increasing the formation of new nerve cells, anandamide exhibits anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties. It breaks down very quickly and therefore doesn’t produce a perpetual state of bliss.
You can include dark chocolate, black truffles in your diet to boost this molecule’s levels. A state of heightened focus, super concentration, and peak performance also called the “zone” increases anandamide levels.
Dopamine (Reward Molecule). Otherwise called as the reward hormone, dopamine motivates you to take action towards your goal, desires, and needs. It gives a surge of pleasure when you achieve them. If you have low levels of dopamine, you may suffer from self-doubt, procrastination, and lack of enthusiasm.
Be known that research studies say that serious health problems can arise if you produce too much, or too little dopamine. If your brain release too few dopamine molecules, you can develop Parkinson’s disease, while an excess can lead to mania, hallucinations, and schizophrenia. So moderation is the key.
Break big goals down into small attainable ones. Instead of allowing your brain to celebrate when you hit the finish line, create a series of little finish lines, which releases dopamine. Instead of being left with dopamine hangover, try to build new goals before achieving your current one. That ensures a continuous flow for experiencing dopamine.
Oxytocin (Bonding molecule). Oxytocin is a hormone that has direct links with human bonding. It directly increases trust and loyalty and reduces anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also improves social functioning in people with autism.
Often referred to as the cuddle hormone, oxytocin starts to flow when you hug someone. The higher the oxytocin levels, the higher your happiness and well-being, in particular for women.
Your interpersonal touch not only raises oxytocin levels but reduces cardiovascular stress and improves your immune system.Rather than just a handshake, go in for a hug, says Dr. Paul Zac. He recommends eight hugs each day.
When you receive a gift, your oxytocin levels rise. You can strengthen your work and personal relationships through a simple, thoughtful gift. In this cyber world, try to maintain “face to face”human bonds and tribal connections within your community.
Endorphin (Pain killing molecule). Endorphins are your body’s opioids. The name endorphins translate into self-produced morphine. These brain chemicals get released in response to pain and stress. They help to alleviate anxiety and depression. The surging “second wind” and euphoric “runners high” during and after a vigorous run are the results of endorphins.
Researchers say that HIIT releases endorphins in your brain. Along with exercise, laughter increases endorphins. The smell of vanilla and lavender also increases endorphin release. Dark chocolates and spicy foods can cause your brain to produce endorphins.
GABA (Anti-anxiety molecule). GABA is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain. It gives your neurons time to recover by decreasing nerve transmission. Thus it reduces stress and anxiety and creates a sense of calmness. This molecule helps you to maintain control and enhances your focus. You can increase GABA naturally by doing yoga and practicing meditation.
Serotonin (Confidence molecule). Serotonin starts to flow when you feel significant and important. You suffer from loneliness and depression when you lack serotonin. When you feel depressed, try to reflect on your past achievements. Your brain may have trouble telling the difference between what’s real and imagined and so, it starts to produce serotonin. Practicing gratitude significantly boosts your serotonin levels.
This confidence molecules not only boosts your self-esteem but promotes and improves sleep, diminishes craving, fights depression, prevents agitated depression and worrying. Exposing yourself to the sun for just 20 minutes helps your skin to absorb UV rays, which increases vitamin D and serotonin production.
Norepinephrine (The energy molecule). Norepinephrine is a precursor to adrenaline;this neurotransmitter is a stress hormone that coordinates the fight or flight response. It arbitrates many of the physical components of emotion such as increased heart rate, alertness, decision-making behavior and cognition.
When mixed correctly, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine appear to work like a happiness cocktail. In the 1960s, the late Dr. Joseph J. Schildkraut, a Harvard psychiatrist, established that deficiency of this hormone is a biological basis for depression.
Exercise improves your norepinephrine levels. The amino acid tyrosine is necessary to increase this hormone. Eat three balanced meals a day which contains lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables.
Estrogen (The Pink molecule). Estrogen is an important female hormone, which can boost your happiness and has impressive health benefits. Estrogen which is present in the first two weeks of the ovulation cycle has a positive effect on your mood. Estrogen increases your brain’s serotonin levels, the hormone most associated with happiness. Practicing yoga and meditation increases your estrogen levels.
Progesterone (Feel-good molecule). It is one of the important hormones in a woman’s body. Progesterone plays a significant role when you’re in your childbearing years. It helps you to get pregnant and keeps your baby healthy. It’s responsible for giving pregnant women the glow and keeping them upbeat and happy.
It protects your breasts, ovaries, and uterus from cancer. Progesterone works as a natural diuretic and decreases PMS and the severity of periods. Keep progesterone levels optimum by eating well, avoiding saturated fat and sugar, getting regular physical exercise and avoiding stress.
Effective Ways to Boost Happy Hormones
One of the main side-effects of living in a digital age that you’re increasingly removed from your physicality and each other. Your biology is short-circuiting. The balance of neurochemicals that developed over millions of years gets disrupted by your modern way of living. It makes you more prone to anxiety, depression, and malcontent.
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