Happy International Day of Happiness! Yes, it’s a real thing – in fact, it’s been observed by the United Nations since 2013. Today celebrates happiness all over the world as a reminder of just how important it is to humanity. We definitely agree that happiness and wellbeing should be universal goals and aspirations in our own lives.
Happiness is subjective – we all find happiness in different things, but the chemicals in our brains play a big part in these feelings and sensations. To understand how these happy hormones work, we asked Docere – a project started by two friendly neighbourhood doctors to empower the public with health information, debunk myths and misconceptions, and try to help us understand our bodies. Here’s what we found out:
What are happy hormones?
The chemicals in our brain that activates positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure.
What are the different kinds of happy hormones?
The 4 primary hormones that affect our happiness are:
- Dopamine – the ‘feel-good’ hormone
Dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that works hand-in-hand with our brain’s reward system. It is associated with the pleasurable sensations that come from learning, completing small tasks, starting a new habit and more.
- Serotonin – the mood regulator
This hormone and neurotransmitter aids in regulating our mood, sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability and memory. It also boosts our self-esteem by providing us with a strong, positive sense of accomplishment and recognition.
- Oxytocin – the ‘love’ hormone
Oxytocin is the feeling behind familial bonds, friendships and romantic relationships. It promotes trust, empathy and bonding in relationships, and generally increases during physical affection, like kissing, cuddling, and sex.
- Endorphin – the pain reliever
As a response to stress or anxiety, our body produces endorphins to help relieve the pain and discomfort. These levels also tend to increase when engaging in physical activities, such as eating, working out or laughing.
How can we increase these hormone levels?
With health, it is not about overloading yourself with supposedly good nutrients or hormones. It is all about maintaining equilibrium and finding a balance. For instance, carbohydrates are a good source of nutrients, but too much exposure and chronic use can lead to diabetes.
Instead, how can we optimise the exposure to these hormones so we are at our best selves?
A useful framework would be to take care of your physical, mental health and social life. Make sure you are exposed to adequate sunlight, eating a balanced diet with appropriate macro and micronutrients, getting enough sleep and exercising. These are some of the methods that would ensure you’re at your optimum self.
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