Understanding happiness with the happiness Hormones: Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins and Oxytocin
Have you seen rich but unhappy people? Have you come across those entitled, arrogant people with constant frown on their face? Ever wondered why money, power, fame etc cannot buy us happiness?
That’s because happiness comes from inside. It’s our reaction to outside stimulus, which is dictated by our own hormones. Many events can trigger these neurotransmitters, but rather than being in the passenger seat, there are ways we can intentionally cause them to flow.
There are few, about 6-7 neurochemicals responsible for our happiness. Today we will talk about 4 important hormones- Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, which are the key-quartet responsible for our happiness.
Also known as the “feel-good” hormone. Dopamine is an important part of your brain’s reward system. Dopamine motivates us to take action toward goals & desires, and rewards us with pleasure when achieving them. Dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, motor system function, and more.
Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine.
How to get regular dose of dopamine and create regular D-happiness? We have to breakdown our rewards into tiny sub-rewards. This way instead of waiting for one dopamine release, we can enjoy the feeling several times. Remember to celebrate it - buy a bottle of wine, or head to your favorite restaurant.
Recreating the effect- Instead of being left with a dopamine hangover, create new goals before achieving your current one. That ensures a continual flow for experiencing dopamine.
For Corporates - This is especially important for company executives, as this kind of small-steps planning can truly motivate the subordinates. As an employer and leader, recognizing the accomplishments of your team, e.g. sending them an email with others cc’ed on it, or appreciate in front of others, or giving a bonus, will allow them to have a dopamine hit and increase future motivation and productivity.
Most of your staff is already hooked to their phones/apps which are designed to give them unrealistic dopamine-kick, which they haven’t achieved through hard work. As a result, this leaves them feeling unhappy and unwanted and unfortunately, it gets them even more hooked to their phones. And cycle of dopamine addiction starts. This is often distractive and disruptive for office environment and you may want to create policies to manage this.
This hormone (and neurotransmitter) helps regulate your mood as well as your sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability, and memory. Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important.
Loneliness and depression appear when serotonin is absent. Its absence drives people to join cult, gangs and even get involved in criminal activity. Unhealthy attention-seeking behavior can also be a cry for what serotonin brings.
How to get regular dose of serotonin and create regular S-happiness? Do something nice for someone. Help someone with writing a report. Share your cookie. Buy someone a coffee…. I guess you get the idea!
One more natural way to boost serotonin is to expose yourself to the sun for 20 minutes; our skin absorbs UV rays, which promotes vitamin D and serotonin production. Although too much ultraviolet light isn't good, some daily exposure is healthy to boost serotonin levels.
There are 2 other ways to increase serotonin. One is to meditate and other is medicate! Most anti-depressants work by increasing Serotonin, but we would suggest to meditate first.
Recreating the effect- Reflecting on past significant achievements allows the brain to re-live the experience. Our brain has trouble telling the difference between what's real and imagined, so it produces serotonin in both cases. It's another reason why gratitude practices are popular. They remind us that we are valued and have much to value in life. If you need a serotonin boost during a stressful day, take a few moments to reflect on a past achievements and victories.
For Corporates - This is the most important hormone to have good bonding and great work culture, but most difficult to achieve in today’s world. We are so focused on short-term gain, over long-term benefits that we end up creating serotonin-reducing policies.
Serotonin boosts will power, self-esteem, inner satisfaction, confidence and a sense of purpose. Simultaneously it battles cortisol or your stress hormone. People love to follow your purpose when they see in you the confidence, high self-worth and low stress that they seek in a leader. So consider making less stressful environment and give people a reason to empathize with each other.
Often called the “love hormone,” oxytocin is essential for childbirth and strong parent-child bonding. This hormone also helps promote trust, empathy, and bonding in relationships, and oxytocin levels generally increase with physical affection like kissing, cuddling, and sex. Animals will reject their offspring when the release of oxytocin is blocked.
Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and builds healthy relationships. Oxytocin increases fidelity. In one experiment, men in monogamous relationships who were given a boost of oxytocin interacted with single women at a greater physical distance then men who weren't given any oxytocin.
How to get regular dose of oxytocin and create regular O-happiness?
Often referred to as the cuddle hormone, a simple way to keep oxytocin flowing is to give someone a hug. Dr. Paul Zak explains that inter-personal touch not only raises oxytocin, but reduces cardiovascular stress and improves the immune system. So, skip the hand shake, go in for the hug. Best results are achieved with minimum eight hugs each day.
Also, when someone receives a gift, their oxytocin levels can rise. You can strengthen work and personal relationships through a simple birthday or anniversary gift.
Recreating the effect- A single minute of positive social interaction is enough to trigger a short burst of oxytocin. When a family or even a colleague is speaking with you, listen deeply. Both parties experience an increase in oxytocin and you benefit from greater trust.
For Corporates - The cultivation of oxytocin is essential for creating strong bonds and improved social interactions. To increase your oxytocin, take out time to help, encourage, mentor or compliment people at office. Free expression of work-appropriate emotions like laughing together at a common joke, smiling in the form of a greeting and sharing stories supplement your oxytocin levels.
Endorphins are your body’s natural pain reliever, are produced in response to stress or discomfort. They also help to alleviate anxiety and depression. The euphoric "runners high" is a result of endorphins. Similar to morphine, it acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing our perception of pain.
How to get regular dose of endorphins and create regular E-happiness? Along with regular exercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release. Acupuncture is also a terrific way to stimulate the release of endorphins.
Recreating the effect- Even the anticipation and expectation of laugher, e.g., attending a comedy show, increases levels of endorphins. Think about fun stuff and you should see some results. You can also Spotify your endorphins. Eating chocolate, spiking your drink and eating hot-pepper will also work.
For Corporates - Laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release. Taking your sense of humor to work, forwarding that funny email, and finding several things to laugh at during the day is a great way to keep the doctor away. While at desk, contract your muscles and take short deep breaths. This will release endorphins.
Aromatherapy and why it works?
There are direct and indirect way aromatherapy works. Certain scents directly are liked to increasing certain hormones. For example, the smell of vanilla and lavender has been linked with the production of endorphins.
However, there are many more indirect effects. Sense of smell & taste is actually the same sense. When we eat it smell something, it triggers a nostalgic memory. It happens because smell and memories are interlinked and processed by same part of the brain.
The nostalgic memory now boosts the DOSE hormones because our brain has trouble telling the difference between what's real and imagined.
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