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Boost Your Happiness Hormones

Happiness, much like all emotions, can be best accepted as fleeting and yet many factors influence how we can improve our overall sense of well-being.

When it comes down to science and brain chemistry, four signaling neurotransmitters contribute to the feeling of happiness. These hormones and chemicals are known as serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. 

Understanding these feel-good brain chemicals can better improve how we can better harness the feeling of happiness. 

When it comes to serotonin, this neurotransmitter is a mood-balancing chemical that impacts our overall sense of well-being and reward system. Natural ways to boost your serotonin levels include spending time outdoors, being kind to yourself and others, keeping physically active, and eating a well-balanced diet consisting of whole, unprocessed foods. Focusing on finding balance within these activities will help harness serotonin and overall contribute to better well-being and happiness levels.

Similarly, the neurotransmitter dopamine is commonly known as the “feel-good” hormone, and is also dependent on a balanced and healthy lifestyle that is consistent in physical activity, expressing kindness to others and a well-balanced diet. A diet rich in protein sources and reduced in saturated fat has been shown to naturally increase dopamine production. Other factors that can naturally improve dopamine levels include getting a full-night’s rest and having a healthy sleep schedule, as well as activities like listening to music or dancing. 

Endorphins can be understood as our body’s natural painkiller that activates and is especially helpful during times of stress and discomfort. Meditation can play a major role in increasing endorphin levels, as it allows one to process any feelings of stress or discomfort by slowing down the mind and nervous system. Along with meditation, regular exercise, laughing and spending time in nature, all naturally help raise your body’s endorphin levels. 

Lastly, the chemical Oxytocin also commonly known as the “love hormone” can be beneficial in helping improve overall happiness levels by engaging in activities that increase this neurotransmitter by showing acts of love and affection, spending time with friends and family, and engaging in sexual activity with a romantic partner. 

Other factors that can play a key role in our overall well-being relate to our work life, income, family, faith, politics and age. With work, the “General Social Survey Research Center” at the University of Chicago shows that 30 per cent of people working either part-time or full-time consider themselves happy, while only 18 per cent of those who are unemployed consider themselves happy. Retired folks showcase the highest percentage of happiness amongst their group with 38 per cent of people considering themselves happy. 

Money can have a direct correlation to our overall well-being and quality of life, with only 23 per cent of those in the United States making under $30,000 considering themselves happy and on the other end of the spectrum, 47 per cent of those making over $150,000 considering themselves very happy. 

Family and faith both play roles in understanding human happiness levels, as those who are married tend to experience more happiness than those who are single or divorced. Additionally, those who practice faith on a weekly basis–regardless of the religion–can be understood to be happier than those who do not. 

Happiness levels are also shown to progressively improve with age as with every decade there is an approximately a 2-5 per cent increase with the highest levels of happiness showcased amongst those who are 65 years of age or older. While there are many reasons that might influence this increase in happiness with age, this statistic reinforces the idea that with time, maturity and wisdom, happiness becomes easier to find and express within one’s life. 

Ultimately, happiness can be best understood as subjective. While there are many ways to increase the natural hormones, looking within to find out what personally contributes to your levels of happiness and life satisfaction reaps the highest reward. 

Taking a look back on your younger years to see what sparked joy in your childhood is one way to understand what truly makes you feel your best. For instance, if painting and artistic endeavours were once a source of joy, re-engaging in this activity in your adulthood can produce the same effects. 

Mental health plays a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy and positive outlook on life, which overall impacts your feelings, mood and emotions. It is especially important to keep good care of your brain health when facing some of life’s hardest struggles, as this can shape our overall outlook and how we choose to move and work through these hardships. It can be easy to repress uncomfortable and stressful feelings and emotions, but talking through these with a licensed professional can be extremely beneficial in reshaping and balancing the outlook on life. 

Although happiness is a fleeting emotion, harnessing our brain’s neurochemistry and acknowledging the role neurotransmitters play in our well-being is key to understanding how one can overall improve life satisfaction. While it can be easy to simply ponder on the larger issues we face in our day-to-day life, ultimately, the present moment is where our focus is most needed and cultivating a mindset that allows for finding gratitude and joy within the smallest moments in life–and truly savouring these moments– is a key ingredient in the recipe of long-lasting happiness. 

Arnav Khosla | Contributing Writer

Spring 2024

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