Happiness is, of course, incredibly spiritual and personal, but it’s also chemical. There is hard science that defines our abilities to feel different levels of contentment and jubilance, and here at Poosh, we believe we should have access to that know-how. By understanding how to hack our happiness chemicals, we can take control of our mood.
Our body runs on the functionality of many hormones, and it hangs in an incredibly complex balance. However, there are four main chemicals tied to mood-boosting, and these are what we want to exercise control over throughout our daily lives.
Endorphins are our built-in painkillers. They are an active chemical, brought about by activity or outside pleasurable stimuli—aka “reward circuits”—like eating chocolate, laughing hard, or smelling an intoxicating scent. They are most bioavailable from exercise, so getting in a quick HIIT, a brisk walk, some yoga, or even just five minutes of jumping rope can spark an influx of endorphins. If we’re feeling stagnant, unmotivated, or unsexy, it’s time to lay out the mat or strap on some sneakers, and close out our practice with a well-earned nibble of rich dark chocolate.
Serotonin is both a hormone and neurotransmitter, meaning it helps to regulate our nerves within many of our systems that contribute to our mood. It helps with sleep, digestion, appetite, memory, and our ability to pick up new skills and information. This is the one that helps keep depression and anxiety at bay, which is why it’s so commonly used in psychiatry and neurology.
Depression medications typically trigger an uptake of serotonin, but we don’t have to medicate to reap the benefits. Getting some sunlight, walking in nature, a brisk walk or run, and even mediation and breathing exercises can give us a much-needed surge.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is also tied to reward. That’s why exercise—which activates it—can be considered addicting. The brain releases it when we get attention we crave, eat our favorite foods, have sex, or derive any other feelings of pleasure. It’s known to boost mood and motivation, keep our attention, and regulate movement, our potential to learn, and our ability to express emotions.
Dopamine is fantastic, but we have to be healthy about how we choose to receive it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeking likes on Instagram, or having another glass of wine or chocolate cake—it’s important to find healthy rewards, and keep everything within moderation. It’s great to allow ourselves the dopamine hit of a task completed or a self-care ritual. And yes … sometimes, eat the cake.
Oxytocin is all about love, baby. Access this happiness hormone by snuggling up to your pet, smiling at a baby, holding hands with a loved one, or long embraces. It’s responsible for uterine contractions during birth, and even lactation. New mothers get a huge hit of this when they breastfeed, which is why the often painful practice is actually so pleasurable. It’s a bonding hormone, meaning we feel it most when forging a deep connection with someone or something. It makes us maternal and nurturing and enriches our attachments to one another. What are you waiting for? Go hug someone.
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