Ask most people what would make them happy and you can probably expect all the usual answers: winning the lottery … a new job … a bigger house …
a better body … a luxury holiday … a new lover … These things can and do make us feel good, at least in the short term, but the secret to long-term happiness has less to do with your bank balance and everything to do with chemical balance.
1 Dopamine is for doing
Dopamine is a neuro-transmitter that inspires action. It influences motivation, addiction, attention and lust, boosting our drive, attention and concentration, enabling us to plan ahead. It’s the reason we can focus and achieve things. Low dopamine levels can lead to a lack of motivation, fatigue, addictive behaviour, mood swings and memory loss.
- Set daily, weekly and monthly goals to give you direction.
- Exercise. Dopamine increases even during nonstrenuous activities like walking the dog.
- Listen to music.
- Eat foods rich in the protein tyrosine, such as almonds, avocados, bananas, beef, chicken, chocolate, coffee, eggs, green tea, milk, watermelon and yoghurt.
- Take up a craft like scrap-booking and create something.
2 Oxytocin is for love
Dubbed the love hormone, oxytocin is released during sexual intercourse, childbirth and breastfeeding, as well as during affectionate contact, like cuddling and massage. Oxytocin increases feelings of love, relaxation, trust and stability.
- Make a habit of hugging.
Throw an arm around someone and try to hug your parents, your pets or your partner at least eight times a day.
- Kiss and cuddle. Take the time to be intimate with your loved one.
- Get (and give) a massage. It relaxes muscles and releases oxytocin.
- Ride a roller-coaster. Activities that involve other people and a fair amount of stress, like skydiving or bungy jumping, can spike your levels of oxytocin.
- Share a bath. The warmth and bonding time boosts oxytocin.
3 Serotonin is for smiles
Serotonin is the key hormone of happiness – most antidepressants work by increasing serotonin.Fortunately, there are several other ways you can increase serotonin levels naturally.
- Have fun in the sun. Enjoy at least 20 minutes of sunlight daily. This produces vitamin D, which triggers the release of serotonin.
- Think happy thoughts. The brain produces serotonin when you recall happy memories or think about things that make you happy.
- Consume milk and corn.
They contain tryptophan, which your body converts into serotonin.
- Do a low-intensity workout.
Your body produces more serotonin while you are performing any kind of aerobic exercise.
- Cut out sugar from your diet.
4 Endorphins are for exercise
The body produces morphine-like chemicals called endorphins to kill pain and trigger positive feelings. Our ancestors needed them to keep running through pain and escape predators. Today, we produce endorphins during strenuous anaerobic exercise, emotional stress, pain and sex.
- Get moving each day. The body produces endorphins in response to intense physical exercise. Daily exercise helps trigger the release
- Eat spicy food. The tongue sends messages to the brain that are similar to pain signals, causing it to trigger the release of endorphins.
- Laugh out loud. Laughing can release endorphins, which is why children, who laugh up to 300 times a day, are happier than adults, who, on average, laugh only five times.
- Chew on some chocolate.
Good quality chocolate with a high cacao content (70% and more) contains chemicals that prompt the release of endorphins.
- Get intimate. Sex is known to release endorphins and a regular sex life helps boost happiness.