Have you ever wondered how hormones can impact your happiness, outlook and wellbeing?
Happiness is a mental game of having meaning, having purpose, developing oneself, connecting with others and taking joy out of life’s events. That said, if you could understand the chemistry behind your hormones, you could more reliably boost your happiness every day with some simple hormone boosting actions!
You’ve probably heard of hormones such as Adrenaline, Cortisol and Insulin that have varying impacts such as preparedness to act, respond to stress and shuttle nutrients into our muscles. Then you’ve got Testosterone and Oestrogen, the sex hormones that create the physical and character traits of being masculine or feminine.
These guys are critical to wellbeing, and whilst they can indirectly effect your happiness and mental outlook, there are four other hormones that have a far more significant impact on mental health. And the beauty is, for the most part, you can deliberately boost the production of these hormones and reap all the benefits in simple and free ways.
Introducing the Happy Hormone Quartet
Please give a warm welcome to the stars of our happy life – Serotonin, Oxytocin, Endorphins and Dopamine. Together, they create the circumstances for us humans to experience joy, build relationships, love and act to receive rewards. They are the good guys in the story of our life, and if encouraged to be ever present in healthy levels can bring us enormous satisfaction and joy, as well as minimising stress, anxiety and depression.
SEROTONIN – the “Significance” Hormone
🎯 Serotonin’s Mission: To make you feel good about yourself and your future, by providing confidence and significance to lead your life and others.
💼 Serotonin’s Duties & Insights:
- Natural Mood stabiliser
- Impacts almost every part of the body
- Controls Sleep, Anxiety, depression, metabolism, bowel movements, heal wounds, and maintain sexual health
- 80-90% of the human body’s total Serotonin is found in specialised cells in our gut
- The valgus nerve connects gut to brain (gut-brain axis) in a two-way connection. Our gut’s microbiome plays a critical role to happiness and health
😊 Healthy Levels of Serotonin:
- Flows and causes feelings of significance or importance.
- boosts your self-esteem
- Gives sense of purpose and meaning
- Mental health – keep mind calm, focussed, happy , emotionally stable and less anxious.
- Feelings of pride, status, leadership, social recognition and
- Helps build meaningful relationships
😔 Serotonin Deficiency:
- Loneliness and sense of isolation
- Lack of worth and sense of subordination
<strong📈 Naturally Boosting Serotonin:</strong
- ✅ Tryptophan-rich Proteins – meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, walnuts
- ✅ Eat Carbs with low GI – this helps spike insulin and up regulate serotonin – E.g. Sweet Potato, Oats, Buckwheat
- 🚫 Reduce High GI and Processed Carbs and sugars
- 🚫 Avoid/Reduce Stimulants – Once effects subside, serotonin levels drop sharply- e.g. Caffeine, Alcohol, Sugar, Ecstasy
- Light Exercise – Like fast walking, dancing, rebounding. Keep to under 20mins.
- Meditation and Yoga – A quiet mind and deep breathing is parasympathetic
- More Sunshine – Skin absorption of UV rays produces Serotonin
- Consistent Sleep – Align to the circadian rhythm. Be consistent daily and get 7-8h.
- Smile everyday – Even fake it until you make it. Plus, a smile is infectious!
Life Approach 🌏
- Being Social – this helps the body maintain good levels of Serotonin
- Acts of kindness and favour – significance comes from helping someone in need
- Get into leadership roles and championing ideas you care about
- Reflect on past significant achievements and victories – Brain then re-lives the experience, and as it cannot tell the difference between real and imagined, Serotonin is produced
OXYTOCIN – the “Love & Connection” Hormone
🎯 OXYTOCIN’S MISSION: Crucial to social behaviour and developing tribes, Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and builds healthy relationships to help the Human species survive and thrive. Otherwise known as the Cuddle Hormone.
💼 Oxytocin’s Duties & Insights:
- Oxytocin regulates social interactions, empathy, generosity, love, trust, bonding, warmth and orgasm
- Oxytocin is released when you feel safe and protected, which in turn minimises stress/alert hormones
- Released by men and women during orgasm, and by mothers during childbirth and breastfeeding
😊 Healthy Levels of Oxytocin:
- Feelings of love, care and security
- Greater meaningful connection with loved ones, friends and colleagues
- Increased likability, respect and love comes from having healthy levels of Oxytocin
- Encourages men to stay monogamous and committed to their partner
- Can help with autism – improve communication and social abilities in children who find it difficult to emotionally connect
😔 Oxytocin Deficiency:
- Hard to feel affection
- Lack of enjoyment from social interactions
- Communication problems
- When you have sex, it’s mechanical
- Sometimes having trouble achieving orgasm
- Feelings of depression, anxiety or fear
- Likelihood to over indulge in sugary foods.
- Can get angry and aggressive.
📈 Naturally Boosting Oxytocin:
- ✅Food generally consumed with a loved one
- ✅ 70%+ Dark Chocolate releases Oxytocin
- ✅ Eggs, Bananas, Pepper contain levels of Oxytocin, but questionable bioavailability
- Hugs – Give and receive hugs everyday day (8+ is suggested)
- Kisses – Heartfelt kisses with your significant other, or giving your kids a kiss
- Handshakes – Have some impact, but going in for a hug would be better
- Meditate & Yoga – Both are forms of self love and calm, releasing Oxytocin
- Get a massage – Combination of intimate physical touch, warmth and oils
- Making Love with your Partner – This will release more Oxytocin than anything else
- Listen to Soothing music – Any music that triggers calm, peace or memories of love
- Enjoy soaking in a hot bath – Has a similar effect as meditation, if taken in peace
Life Approach 🌏
- Get involved in social activities and clubs, communities
- Be more emotionally available to others and yourself
- Stay in touch with others, even if it’s via social media.
- Be Loving – Tell people you love them and generally show affection
- Get a Pet – Stroke, cuddle and care for a Pet
- Trust – Be trust-worthy and trust others
- Volunteer work / Donations – surefire way to increase Oxytocin levels
- Receive a gift – Especially if heartfelt. Just need to nudge your friends… 😉
- 🚫 Smoking & Stress Eating – Self-soothing behaviours are unhealthy ways to increase Oxytocin.
ENDORPHINS – the “Euphoric Pain Killer” Hormone
🎯 ENDORPHINS’ MISSION: The purpose of Endorphins is to help you enthusiastically push through pain to enable you to perform towards a goal, or away from danger. It also helps the body know when we’ve received enough of a good thing.
💼 Endorphins’ Duties & Insights:
- Our Body’s private narcotics and painkiller
- Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine.
- In addition to masking pain, Endorphins create pleasure and euphoria to support the attainment of a physical goal
😊 Healthy Levels of Endorphins:
- Experience feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, focus, euphoria & bliss and consistent a better mood
- Keeps levels of stress, anxiety and depression low – giving peace of mind
- The surging “second wind” and euphoric “runners high” during and after a vigorous physical activity
😔 Endorphins Deficiency:
- A lack of Endorphins production may be responsible for certain forms of mental illness such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- It’s been theorised that problems with endorphin production may be responsible for clinical depression or sudden shifts in emotions.
- Some people who engage in self-harming behaviours may do so in part to feel the feelings of euphoria
- Endorphins may also be responsible for heightened states of rage or anxiety if the endorphins overdo their job at the slightest hint of trouble or worry
📈 Naturally Boosting Endorphins:
- ✅A Healthy Diet – Nuts, green veggies and anti-oxidant rich foods
- ✅Dark Chocolate – Rich in Antioxidants and flavonoids. Known to have aphrodisiac qualities (that’s the endorphin release)
- ✅Chilli peppers — Capsaicin, which puts the burn in chilies, also triggers the body to release some fire-quenching endorphins.
- ✅Alcohol — Light to moderate drinking stimulates endorphins, but heavy drinking has the opposite effect.
- 🚫 Avoid/Reduce Stimulants – Caffeine & Drugs (& heavy alcohol use) can throw endorphin receptors off, hence the dependance on them to deliver at greater and greater doses
- 🚫 Avoid packaged & highly processed foods – has a similar but lower impact as above.
- Hard Exercise – Typically anaerobic exercise such as weightlifting, sprinting, or demanding long runs.
- Sun Exposure – UV rays and Vit D release some level of Endorphins
- Aromatherapies – Such as Vanilla and Lavender
- Meditation & Controlled breathing – Such as Tai chi, Pilates, yoga, Wim Hof Breathing or Mindfulness practices
- Cold Showers – Creates a significance rush of Endorphins to handle the temperature contrast
- Smile everyday – even fake it! (It’s infectious)
Life Approach 🌏
- Socialise – and meet new people
- Laugh More – anticipation of laughter, attending a comedy show. Find things to laugh at
- Experience New Things – Such as performing arts, competitive sport or extreme sports
DOPAMINE – the “Rewarding Motivator” Hormone
💼 Dopamine’ Duties & Insights:
- Dopamine is crucial to the feeling of motivation you need to work towards both long-term and short-term goals.
- Behaviours, Mood, cognition, Problem-solving are highly regulated by levels of Dopamine
- Responsible for controlling voluntary body movement
- This molecule is responsible for “wanting” something but not “liking” something
- Gives us the anticipation of pleasure to to do something we desire – e.g. eating that doughnut, ticking off the todo list, losing that last bit of weight etc
- Dopamine can control emotions and perception of pain and pleasure
😊 Healthy Levels of Dopamine:
- Helps get stuff done – gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them
- High levels of intrinsic motivation and internal
- Desire to explore, be curious and learn
- Helps improve functional memory, attention and focus
- Healthy mood, sleep and learning capabilities
😔 Dopamine Dysfunction:
- Too little Dopamine can lead to Parkinson’s disease, due to Dopamines role in voluntary body movement
- Social Phobia, Paranoia, Depression, Insomnia, Procrastination & Restlessness,
- Weight Gain – caused buy the ‘want’ for foods from simple cues, like seeing or smelling
- Mania, Hallucinations, Hyperactivity and Schizophrenia.
- Attention Deficit Disorder – ADD/ADHD
Dopamine flooding activities and substances, that lead to Dopamine down-regulation:
- Addiction – Alcoholism, Smoking and uncontrolled use of Porn, Social Media & Video Games
📈 Naturally Boosting Dopamine:
- 🚫 Avoid/Reduce Stimulants – Caffeine, Sugar & Drugs & heavy alcohol use can flood the body with Dopamine, but lessen the impact through time. Requiring more and more.
- ✅Animal Meats (all) – have the Dopamine precursor l-tyrosine and phenylalanine
- ✅Fruit – Apples, Avocados, Bananas, Watermelon
- ✅Veg – Beetroot, Green Leafy Vegetables, Sea Vegetables
- ✅Nuts & Seeds – Almonds, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds
- ✅Other – Dark Chocolate & Turmeric
- Exercise & Sport – Physical exercise stimulates a spurt of Dopamine
- Meditation & Yoga
- Smile everyday – even fake it! (Its infectious)
- Therapeutic Massage – Can raise Dopamine by >30% while also decreasing cortisol
Life Approach 🌏
- Break big goals down into smaller milestones – lots of mini finish lines and therefore dopamine releases
- Any form of Accomplishment – that gives you that “Yes, I did it!” feeling
- Learn something New – The acquisition of knowledge and skills are rewarded with a Dopamine release
- Hobbies that focus the mind – home repair, gardening, painting, photography, intently watching sports…
- Playing and listening to Music you enjoy – Even the anticipation of hearing the music can have same effect
- Engage in “Seeking and Finding” activities – such as geocaching, fishing, bird watching, and collecting of all kinds.
The Big Rocks First
As you can see, Hormones have a powerful impact on the quality of our thoughts, actions and life. Hopefully, you can now recall times when you had feelings as listed above and imagine the role Serotonin, Oxytocin, Endorphins and Dopamine would have had to your experience. If you can be mindful, and even purposeful, of how you can control your Happy Hormone levels, you have the chance to ‘Hijack’ your mind and mood. Pretty cool huh?
This article could be used as a guide until it becomes intuitive. That said, these are the big rocks that have the greatest impact to all the Happy Hormone Quartet. Nail these, and you’ll be on your way to architecting a great day… everyday.
- Exercise Regularly – Whatever you enjoy and can do long term. Our #HyperWorkouts could offer some inspiration
- Prioritise Quality Sleep – 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night should be non-negotiable. This article on on Top 10 Sleeping Hacks is a great resource to help.
- Clean Up Your Diet – the IIFYM+ Thrive dieting approach aligns perfectly
- Get More Sunshine – Vitamin D and sunlight have a profound impact on health and mood
- Social Connection & Hugs – Make as much effort as possible to have real caring relationships, and bond with hugs and smiles
- Reduce Intake of Stimulants – Caffeine, Sugar, Alcohol & Drugs
- Meditation & Yoga – the calming and restorative effect have been known for thousands of years. Include reflection of past achievements and gratitude practice.
- Mini Victories Every Day – Have goals and purpose. Set small incremental goals and trying new things so you can celebrate your daily progress and growth.
- Be Aware Of Addictive Behaviours – Social Media and Smart Device use probably trumping them all in todays age. Set boundaries and stop impulse in its tracks.
Follow this and other topic areas in our longer-form Articles series as they unfold, as well as the Wellness Tips for ways to improve your quality of life and health.. Comment if you have questions or ideas.