Whenever you feel joy or satisfaction, it's the result of a complex network of synapses firing in your brain at once. While it's hard to disentangle what exactly is responsible for your sense of happiness, four chemicals can take a big chunk of the credit: dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. These are considered the hormones of happiness — though, in truth, only one of them is technically a hormone. Here's what you need to know about dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin and how to boost them for a happier life. 


Dopamine is what's called a neurotransmitter. Meaning that it helps your brain send messages via your nervous system to different parts of the body so they can communicate with one another. As a result, dopamine plays an essential part in your physical movement but is also crucial to your general well-being. For example, it helps you feel pleasure, like for example when you eat something delicious or hear your favorite song. It is also heavily involved in the brain's reward system and influences motivation.


Serotonin, like dopamine, is a neurotransmitter. It helps regulate sleep, appetite, and mood. It also helps to inhibit pain. Research shows that lower serotonin activity has been linked to depression and an increased risk of suicide. Serotonin is an important chemical when talking about depression. That is why SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are prescribed to help treat depression because they increase the level of serotonin. 


Are molecules associated with pain relief and a sense of well-being that is produced by the pituitary and hypothalamus glands in your brain. They interact with the brain's opiate receptors — the same receptors that are at play when you take opioid-based drugs. Endorphins trigger positive feelings in the body and are released whenever you do something you enjoy like exercise, have sex, eat sweets, laugh, and listen to music. The feelings caused when endorphins are released mimic morphine, according to research. In fact, a "runner's high" is the product of endorphins.  


Oxytocin a hormone connected to maternal behavior, lactation, social bonding, and sexual pleasure,  is produced in the hypothalamus — the command center of the brain — and is either released into the blood through the pituitary gland or to other parts of the brain and spinal cord. It ultimately binds to oxytocin receptors, influencing behavior, and physiology.


Have you been feeling rather blue or a little sluggish lately? You’re certainly not alone! But while it can often feel like an uphill battle trying to lift your mood when you’re feeling down, the good news is that there are plenty of natural mood boosters that you can add to your daily routine (and yes, they are all backed by science!). So the next time you’re feeling low, why not try out these mood-enhancing tips that you can implement within minutes.


Even though the sunshine feels chilly during autumn and winter, it’s still around! Did you know that the amount of light and sunshine we get can influence serotonin levels (the “happy” hormone that affects appetite, mood and sleep)? It will also help you produce Vitamin D. Without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels can dip which can lead to low energy and low mood. An easy way to increase your sun exposure is by wrapping up and heading outdoors. Even taking a short stroll over your lunch break or playing outdoors with your kids can go a long way, even if it is chilly. In fact, studies suggest that even 30 minutes of sunshine exposure is enough to boost levels of serotonin! Not to mention.



What you consume affects your emotional health just as much as it influences your physical and mental health. And although it might be tempting to reach for some of your favourite comfort foods when feeling low, studies suggest that eating unprocessed plant-based foods is a great way to keep the blues away. Why not fill your plate with dark leafy greens that are rich in the mood-moderating mineral magnesium. Those of us who get more magnesium in our diet tend to be happier as magnesium stimulates receptors of a calming hormone called GABA and inhibits the stress hormone cortisol, thereby reducing feelings of anxiety and worry. To help you reach your daily magnesium requirements, load up on greens, avocados, legumes, whole grains, and dark chocolate! 


Our gut bacteria produce many of our ‘happy hormones’ including serotonin and dopamine- in fact, 95% of our serotonin is made in our gut! Researchers have found that a healthy gut can produce optimal amounts of the ‘happy hormones’ dopamine and serotonin and can positively influence our brain/mood. On the other hand, an unhealthy gut environment is likely to produce only a low amount of mood-elevating neurotransmitters and can go on to negatively impact mood. So it makes sense to nurture our gut bacteria! You can easily boost and feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut by eating more fiber rich foods such as beans, asparagus, pears, carrots, bananas, and leeks. You can also take care of your gut by taking probiotics (good bacteria) that can help support a healthy gut microbiome. You can increase the number of probiotics in your body by consuming fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and kefir.


Staying active is a great way to raise those mood-boosting chemicals including serotonin and endorphins. Studies even suggest that you can feel the mood-boosting effects of exercising in as little as five minutes! Cardiovascular exercises can be particularly beneficial, but if you find yourself feeling too exhausted to work out, taking a moment to move around- even for just a few minutes can help elevate your mood. 


This nutritious Japanese green tea powder contains a unique amino acid known as theanine, which is responsible for producing dopamine and serotonin, the two chemicals that naturally improve your mood, memory and improve alertness. It is also considered to increase alpha waves in the brain, which are known for slowing down brain functioning and promoting a sense of relaxation. If you haven’t tried matcha before, why not try adding matcha tea to your pancake batter, mix it in your chia pudding, to your smoothie or even your latte. 



In addition to physical exercise, practicing mindful exercises such as mindful meditation can help to calm your mind and body. The great thing is that meditation can be carried out any time of the day- even when carrying out something as simple as breathing, cooking, eating or exercising. When you take a moment to relax the mind, the mind and body work together to naturally reduce your pulse rate and trigger a stream of endorphins in the body. This effect results in a calm, zen and blissed state of being.

Words by our friends at the Grey.

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