We might not have a money tree, but we can have a happiness tree. Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins are responsible for our happiness. Rather than being in the passenger seat, there are ways we can intentionally cause them to flow.
Being in a positive state has significant impact on our motivation, productivity and wellbeing. No sane person would be opposed to having higher levels in those areas.
Here are some simple ways to hack into our positive neurochemicals:
Dopamine motivates us to take action towards goals, desires, and needs, and gives us a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them. Break big goals into little pieces – rather than only allowing our brains to celebrate when we’ve hit the finish line, we can create a series of little finish lines which releases dopamine. Instead of being left with a dopamine hangover, create new goals before achieving your current one. That ensures a continual flow for experiencing dopamine. As an employer and leader, recognising the accomplishments of your team, e.g. sending them an email, or giving a bonus, will allow them to have a dopamine hit and increase future motivation and productivity.
Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. Loneliness and depression appears when serotonin is absent. Unhealthy attention – seeking behaviour can also be a cry for what serotonin brings. Our brain has trouble telling the difference between what’s real and imagined, so it produces serotonin in both cases. If you need serotonin boost during a stressful day, take a few moments to reflect on a past achievements and victories. Have a lunch or coffee outside and expose yourself to the sun for 20 minutes; our skin absorbs UV rays, which promotes vitamin D and serotonin production.
Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and builds healthy relationships. It’s released by men and women during orgasm, and by mothers during childbirth and breastfeeding. Animals will reject their offspring when the release of oxytocin is blocked. The cultivation of oxytocin is essential for creating strong bonds and improved social interactions. 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; rather than just a hand shake, go in for the hug. When someone receives a gift, their oxytocin levels can rise. You can strengthen work and personal relationships through a simple birthday or anniversary gift.
Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression. Similar to morphine, it acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing our perception of pain. Along with regular exercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphins release. Exercise produce Endorphins which help with depression, anxiety, sleep, and sexual activity. Taking your sense of humour 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. The smell of vanilla and lavender has been linked with the production of endorphins. Studies have shown that dark chocolate and spicy foods can lead the brain to release endorphins.
Fats inhibit the synthesis of neurotransmitters by the brain in that they cause the blood cells to become sticky and to clump together, resulting in poor circulation, especially to the brain. A diet deficient in omega-3 fatty acids may lower brain levels of serotonin and cause depression. Consume more carbohydrates than protein if you are nervous and wish to become more relaxed or eat more protein if you are tired and wish to become more alert.
If you find small things that make you feel good, and do them on a regular basis, your overall level of happiness is greater than if you fall in love, win the lottery. People who feel good are significantly less likely to tardy, absent, ill, or involved in accidents for all kinds. If you are in the habit of worrying about things, then put some boundaries on it.
Parts of this article originally published by Thai on The Utopian Life