Your Daily DOSE of Happy
Written by HappyDOSE contributor: Danyelle Guernsey
We all know happiness when we feel it. It’s the satisfaction of checking off to-do lists, the warm fuzzies from hugging a friend, the pride from a job well done, or the rush that comes after an intense workout. While it can be found in the smallest moments, for many, happiness is just that: a fleeting emotion that dissolves as the moment ends.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
What do you mean?
At HappyDOSE, we believe that happiness doesn’t have to be something you chase after, but something that you create through action, reflection and insight. It’s like a muscle you can train. Don’t just take our word for it — countless studies have been conducted to understand what happiness is, what it looks like in our brains, and how our actions affect it.
While overall happiness is based on both genetic and environmental factors, studies have found four key chemicals in the brain that regulate (and boost!) our well being and mood. The best part? We can deliberately induce the production of these chemicals with targeted activities. That’s right- you really can train your brain to be happier!
These four “happiness chemicals” are Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins– DOSE for short. Although all of them contribute to our happiness, each chemical elicits a specific feeling of its own. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Dopamine is often called the “reward center” of your brain. It’s that high we get after beating a tough level of candy crush…and the need to beat another. You know that mood bump you get after someone likes your instagram post? That’s dopamine in action. Enjoying that tasty second piece of cake? Dopamine.
Often linked to short-term pleasure and gratification, dopamine is responsible for creating feedback loops in the brain that make us want to do more dopamine-inducing activities over and over again. So what are some healthy activities that increase dopamine in the brain? We have a few ideas:
- Learn a new recipe — Learning something new is a favorite for dopamine, especially when it involves tasty food!
- Read 10 pages of that book you’ve been avoiding — Accomplishing small tasks sets off the reward feedback loop in your brain.
- Smile at a stranger — Smiling at someone new not only triggers dopamine in your brain, it can actually make the other person happier too.
Known fondly as the “love hormone,” oxytocin is often released when we bond with another person. The warm fuzzies you get from hugging a friend or sharing an intimate moment with someone? That’s your oxytocin firing. The effects of oxytocin are most commonly experienced during childbirth, when showing empathy, and during sex.
Oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus and is largely responsible for our feelings of social connectedness. Strong feelings of trust, intimacy, and yes, love, are often associated with this hormone. Here are some ways you can boost your own oxytocin levels:
- Hug someone close — Physical closeness and intimacy is perhaps the easiest way to get oxytocin flowing.
- Call an old friend — Reminiscing about positive memories is an excellent way to boost your oxytocin levels.
- Cuddle with your pet — Did you know that your pet may very well get that same rush of oxytocin as you do from cuddling? Research has shown that our pets often experience a similar increase in oxytocin as we do when we’re petting them.
Serotonin is seen as a full-body stabilizer. It impacts your mood, sleep, motor skills and even your digestion. So the feeling of accomplishment you get after completing a big project, the calm that comes over you from a deep meditation, and the feeling you get from a great night’s sleep can all be traced back to this nifty chemical.
As a neurotransmitter, serotonin can affect your mental, physical and emotional well-being. So what activities can naturally increase serotonin levels?
- Get dressed up — Serotonin is often linked to feelings of pride and wearing a great ‘fit can help boost feelings of self-confidence.
- Eat a piece of dark chocolate — By eating delicious foods high in tryptophan, you’re not only rewarding your tastebuds, but your brain too!
- Take a deep breath — Regulate your breathing and release some tension. Stress releasing activities are perfect to stimulate serotonin.
Classified as the relief hormone, endorphins are often produced in response to intense physical activity or to reduce pain. Like oxytocin, endorphins are released by the hypothalamus and are the main culprits behind the infamous “runner’s high.”
Exercise is used as a common countermeasure for depression and anxiety because it stimulates the production of this feel-good chemical. In fact, some studies show that exercise can be as effective as medication in both treating clinical depression and preventing remission. Check out these fun ways to get your endorphins pumping:
- Rock out to your favorite song — Getting your heartrate up kick starts your endorphins. Fun fact: music has been found to dramatically decrease stress as well!
- Take a swim — Low-impact physical activities, like swimming can give you an incredible full-body workout while getting your endorphins pumping.
- Play tag with a friend — Working out doesn’t have to be a drag! Find a friend and unleash your inner child while boosting your mood.
Long Story Short
Using what we know about the four DOSE chemicals, we can start to train our brains to better regulate our overall well being. Through science-backed activities, we can take control and build habits to promote long-lasting happiness.
At HappyDOSE, we’ve taken out the guesswork and provided you with a complete roster of happiness-promoting activities. Each activity targets one of the DOSE chemicals to give you an extra boost during the day. Bonus: all of these activities will positively affect all four chemicals to varying degrees. The simple act of completing one activity daily can dramatically increase your overall happiness.
Are you ready for your daily DOSE? Download HappyDOSE today, and put your happiness in your own hands.