How to live a happy life? How to stay happy in our day-to-day lives? These are questions we ask ourselves almost daily. We keep trying to find ways on how to elevate our mood and more than that, how to sustain it. We’re always advised to exercise, watch something funny, hang out with our friends or family, but we completely brush these tips off, because we think – “Huh! That’s not going to work. It can’t be that easy.” Well, it is this easy.
There is a scientific reason behind why and what activities induce happiness. It’s the “happiness hormones”.
Hormones and neurotransmitters are involved in lots of essential processes, like heart rate and digestion, and also your moods and feelings. They are the body’s chemical messengers, and some of them are known for their ability to help people bond, feel joy, and experience pleasure. These hormones lift and fall throughout the day in our bodies. The four most known types of happiness-inducing hormones are-
What is less known is that happiness hormones are a reflection of your environment, relationships, diet, exercise regime, and, in some cases, even our gut microbes. This means that we hold the key to our happiness in our own hands, through the lifestyle choices we make.
It is also important to note that all these hormones need to be functioning together in our body, for us to feel happy. So, let’s try and understand the function of these hormones.
Oxytocin, is also known as the cuddle hormone, because it is induced by indulging in close relationships. These may be romantic relationships, friendships, or familial relationships. It’s been pinpointed in human bonding, generosity, and establishing trust, while other studies show that it might be what makes some romantic relationships work. Indeed, higher blood oxytocin levels have been linked to greater perceived love, responsiveness, and gratitude in couples.
So, the next time you’re feeling sad, just go ahead and hug a friend, partner, a family member, or even your furry little pet. It will considerably heighten your oxytocin levels.
Dopamine, also known as the motivational molecule, is a chemical messenger between neurons. It is released when our brain is expecting a reward. When we associate a certain activity with pleasure, even mere anticipation of it is enough to raise dopamine levels. For example, if you feel that eating your favourite cookie will make your period pain go away, then even if you smell those cookies being baked, or anticipating that you’re going to eat that cookie somewhere during the day- will release dopamine in your body. And when you finally do consume it, your dopamine levels will rush and make you even more sure that it acted as a painkiller. Hence, every time you experience period pain, you will crave this cookie.
Dopamine is mostly produced in the gut. This means that taking care of our gut microbiome can help our mental well-being and even life longevity. It is even involved in other bodily functions such as blood flow, digestion, executive functioning, memory, and focus, etc. This hormone can function through foods as the body can turn tyrosine — an amino acid — into dopamine via a complex chain of reactions. Tyrosine can be found in foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, Omega-3 rich foods, meat, eggs, etc.
Serotonin, also known as the feel-good hormone, is essential for mood, digestion, sleep, brain function, and circadian rhythm. It is produced in the gut. Hence, we can produce these hormones through our diet, as this hormone is directly associated with certain foods. A balanced whole food diet and a high-fiber diet including mushrooms, onions, oranges, etc.
Several findings based on research have shown that serotonin does not only affect our mood, but also our physical health. And it has a direct relationship with the feeling of happiness. A healthy fitness regime also promotes the health of your gut; hence it should not be a shock that exercise also promotes good mental health and elevated moods.
Endorphins are hormones and neuro-signaling molecules that function as painkillers. They don’t exactly block the transmission of pain signals, as is famously known, but they induce euphoria. The “runner’s high” or people who perform cardiovascular exercises get hooked to it and we wonder, “how can someone be addicted to running?”. It’s because of the big rush of endorphins, and the function of dopamine in combination with this is what certainly helps.
According to research, scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects and promote feelings of happiness.
The next time you’re feeling low, just go ahead and make some little lifestyle changes. Go and hug someone, eat some healthy food, or, indulge yourself in some sort of physical activity. A happy and holistic life can be maintained by very simple things if combined with an embracing positive attitude. Some days can be very hard and pull you down, but remember, you have the power to influence your mood and body. You’re the leader of your mind and body.
There are always ways to manage your life by learning tactics that you can acquire to lead a rounded and positive life. To understand how our hormones or biological system affects our mood and mental health, you can read up on blogs, talk to a professional and get more personalized tips, look for psycho-education, and a lot more.