In this article, we’re going to be discussing the four happiness chemicals and how to hack them.
The desire to feel happy drives almost everything that we do. It’s the reason that we’re constantly chasing that new relationship or that new promotion — we’re always looking for the next thing that will satisfy our desire to feel happy.
Unfortunately though, big-life events are equivalent to temporary bliss. Once the feeling of achievement and satisfaction wears off, we start the next chase.
In that sense, achieving happiness can seem like a rat-race where we’re fighting a never-ending uphill battle that’s unwinnable.
Although one-time events can positively impact our happiness, the story of our emotional state is created by the little things that we do every single day.
Compounded over time, it’s these simple, seemingly insignificant decisions that determine whether we’re content with the direction of our life or not.
One of the keys to happiness is understanding how it’s caused. And to do that, we need to bring a little brain chemistry into the mix.
Let’s dive into the happiness chemicals and how to hack them so that our existence is less stressful and more peaceful.
How Do You Chemically Hack Your Happiness?
Hacking your happiness chemicals isn’t rocket science. There’s nothing that you’re missing other than a bit of knowledge about your own neurochemistry.
The way our brain works is pretty simple.
- Option 1: We perform a specific action. This action triggers a chemical response in our brain which puts us in a negative emotional state.
- Option 2: We perform a specific action. This action triggers a chemical response in our brain which puts us in a positive emotional state.
Happiness is a choice that we make daily. Each day, happy people simply choose option 2 more frequently than option 1. People who find themselves resentful, sad, or depressed tend to choose option 1 more than option 2.
Being in a positive emotional state is crucial to success — we’re much more likely to persevere through challenges and display self-discipline if we possess a general sense of well-being
The more often that negativity creeps into our life, the more likely we are to engage in habits that make us miserable as a way to escape from the present moment.
Now obviously, we can’t be in a good mood all of the time. Our emotional state ebbs and flows with the natural highs and lows of life — there’s no such thing as permanent bliss.
What we’re all really after is a sense of meaning — we want to feel good about who we are and where we’re going.
Unlike permanent bliss, that’s not an illusion, that’s a state we can achieve. Research shows that people who possess that general sense of well-being have better relationships, make more money, and live longer, healthier lives.
Let’s talk about the four happiness chemicals responsible for imparting that feeling of well-being as well as some good daily habits that increase their presence in our lives.
What Are The 4 Happiness Chemicals And How To Hack Them
Without further ado, let’s get right into the four happiness chemicals and how to hack them.
The four chemicals that are responsible for our happiness are: dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin.
For the rest of this article, we’re going to talk about each one’s impact on our emotional state, as well as specific habits that foster the release of these chemicals and promote a happier, healthier lifestyle.
Happiness Chemical #1: Dopamine
The first happiness chemical is one that you’re likely familiar with, dopamine. Also known as the “feel-good chemical,” dopamine is released whenever we receive a reward.
We receive a reward whenever we satisfy an active goal. Active goals are considered anything that we want to achieve in the present moment.
- Completing a project
- Relieving stress
- Quenching thirst
- Satisfying hunger
Dopamine causes us to take action on our goals, desires, and needs. Low levels of dopamine mean that we’re less motivated and more likely to fall victim to procrastination and laziness.
The trick with dopamine is that overpursuing it is just as dangerous. If all you did each day was prioritize dopamine, you’d simply chase instant gratification all day by eating sweets, watching TV, and procrastinating anything important.
The key with dopamine is to ensure that it gets released doing the right things. We need to train our mind to release dopamine when we’re engaged in meaningful pursuits that positively impact our life.
Here are a few strategies for accomplishing this goal:
Break Down Big Goals Into Small Chunks
Oftentimes, our biggest goals can be de-motivating because they feel so far out of reach.
Try breaking these goals down into smaller, sub-goals that are usually much more effective for motivating us to take action.
Create milestones that ensure you’re on the right track. Because these smaller, milestone-like goals feel more attainable, you’ll be able to leverage the dopamine hit of making strides towards a worthwhile goal into more and more progress.
Reward Yourself More Often
The tough part about discipline is that it doesn’t pay off immediately. Dopamine is about feeling rewarded, and when it comes to our most ambitious goals, we’re not rewarded for a very, very long time.
However, we don’t need to wait until we achieve our goals to feel rewarded! In order to stay motivated as you progress towards your goals, reward yourself periodically for hitting certain targets.
This goes hand in hand with the idea mentioned above — break goals down into small chunks, and then reward yourself for hitting them.
You can even take things a step further by rewarding yourself for meeting weekly and daily targets as well.
- If you don’t skip a workout, reward yourself with a small bowl of ice cream.
- If you publish 10 blog posts on your website, then reward yourself with a night out with friends.
- For every 20 calls that you make at work, reward yourself with 20 minutes of video games when you get home.
These rewards will signal to your brain whatever you’re doing is worth the effort, leading to consistent action over the long-term.
Happiness Chemical #2: Serotonin
Next up, we have serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that is primarily responsible for regulating our mood, emotions, and appetite.
It also plays an important role in pride, loyalty, and status. When we feel recognized and validated by other people, or our own accomplishments, we’re experiencing the effects of serotonin.
Serotonin creates strong positive emotions that make us feel confident about who we are and our capabilities.
Here are a couple daily habits that will help boost serotonin production in our daily lives:
Get Outside More
Ever gone outside for a little bit and then felt recharged? That’s because the ultraviolet rays from the sun promote vitamin D and serotonin production.
Sufficient vitamin D is good for our health, and serotonin regulates our mood, so catching some sun every day is a great way to boost our happiness levels by hacking our brain’s chemistry.
After a couple hours of writing each morning, I like to get out of my apartment and walk around in the sun for 10-15 minutes. I’ve found that it really helps me hit the reset button and give my brain a chance to re-energize before another long period of deeply focused work.
Although it may not seem like a life-changing habit, remember that happiness is found in those small, seemingly insignificant things we do every day.
Daily gratitude is one of the key characteristics of happy people. The neat part about gratitude is that it actually rewires our brain to see things more positively.
One of the easiest ways to express gratitude is to write down three things that you’re thankful for each morning.
By making this a daily habit, your outlook on life will be more positive and you’ll learn to find joy in things that most people overlook/
Happiness Chemical #3: Endorphins
Next, let’s talk about endorphins. Our body releases endorphins whenever we experience stress or discomfort as a way to protect us from physical/emotional pain.
The release of endorphins coincide with that feeling often referred to as the “runner’s high”, where we tend to feel energized and have a positive outlook on life.
Here are some ways to promote the release of this mood boosting hormone.
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your physical and emotional well-being. Activities like running, resistance training, and swimming cause our body to release copious amounts of endorphins due to the strenuous nature of each exercise.
Perhaps importantly though, exercise provides you with a sense of self-mastery that accelerates your overall well-being.
Forcing yourself to the gym each day callouses your mind and makes you more resilient to the slings and arrows of life.
Have Sex More Often
Sex is another activity that triggers the release of endorphins. In fact, research shows that endorphins are largely responsible for the pain and anxiety reducing effects of sex.
Sex also triggers the release of oxytocin, another one of the happiness chemicals that we’ll talk about next.
Regular meditation has a variety of benefits for our overall well-being. These benefits include reduced stress, decreased anxiety, and improved self-esteem.
It makes sense too, because from a neurochemical standpoint, meditation is responsible for releasing three of the four happiness chemicals — dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.
If you’re looking for a keystone habit with a variety of benefits beyond just making you happier, daily meditation is a great place to start.
Happiness Chemical #4: Oxytocin
Last but not least, we have the “love hormone.” Oxytocin helps us foster trust, bonding, and empathy in both personal/romantic relationships.
The production of this hormone deepens friendships, and turns ordinary romantic relationships into life-long partnerships. If you lack social connection and frequently experience loneliness, hen it’s likely that your body isn’t producing much oxytocin on a daily basis.
Here are a few behaviors that can combat this:
Reach Out To Friends More Often
Strong social bonds lead to our brain producing more oxytocin. One of the easiest ways to create strong social bonds is simply to make more of an effort to see your friends.
Maybe you decide to ask someone to meet up for coffee or just send them a quick check-in text to ensure things are going well.
As long as you’re making the effort, you’ll be rewarded with healthy relationships and a more fulfilling life.
Prioritize Family Time
Another way to promote the production of oxytocin is to spend time with your loved ones.
Balance is an important part of creating your own happiness. If you have ambitious goals, it can be difficult to take a step back and re-charge.
The idea that each minute we don’t spend working towards our goals is a wasted minute is total bullshit. Oftentimes, it’s quality time with family and friends that offer exactly what we need — a perfect opportunity to re-charge so that we can ruthlessly attack our goals the next day.
Final Thoughts On Happiness Chemicals And How To Hack Them
I hope you enjoyed this article covering happiness chemicals and how to hack them.
Now that you know a little more about the chemicals responsible for happiness, along with the actions that promote the release of these chemicals, all that’s left is to start taking action on this information.
Try implementing some of the habits suggested in this article. As long as you’re consistent, I guarantee that you’ll see long-term improvement in your overall well-being.