It’s basic human nature to look for joy and keep away from pain. Accordingly, the brain has evolved over millions of years to help us achieve happiness. The brain’s happiness chemical factory works round the clock to try and turn our experiences into pleasure. And we actually have the power to give it a nudge in the right direction if we want.
The brain produces a number of chemicals that influence how we feel. We still don’t know much about a majority of them and research is ongoing on the subject. But we do know a few things. Today, we are going to discuss five major chemicals in the brain that can help us be happy i.e. dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, GABA, and serotonin. These are effectively the brain’s happiness chemical factory. Each has a different role to play. Each can be activated using different methods. Knowing how to influence them can go a long way in helping you feel good about yourself.
Let’s see how your brain’s happiness chemical factory works and how you can activate it:
Dopamine is commonly referred to as the happiness chemical. It works its magic by influencing your feelings of anticipation. Anticipation is the emotion that makes you strive for a better self and on achieving that, leads to a sense of fulfillment. Without anticipation, achieving happiness would be incredibly difficult.
Dopamine is about reward seeking. One study found that dopamine levels in the brain increase substantially whenever people were asked to meet goals and met them. So if you want to activate your brain’s happiness chemical factory by getting a shot of dopamine, all you need to do is set a target and achieve it.
Oxytocin or the cuddle hormone is a chemical produced by the brain during moments of closeness with another person. You may have heard about how feeling of social acceptance and positive relationships are vital for you to feel good about yourself. This is 100% correct, and oxytocin is the one to blame.
Want to feel happy? Work on your relationships. Try and improve your existing relationships and form new ones. Although oxytocin is not necessarily dependent on physical closeness, affection and intimacy are right up there as things that can make you happy.
Endorphins are a group of feel-good chemicals produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in the brain. These are excreted during times of strenuous activity or exercise.
The word endorphin literally means ‘self-produced morphine.’ That in itself is quite self-explanatory. If you’re looking to activate your brain’s chemical factory to boost endorphin release, you need to incorporate more physical activity into your lifestyle.
- GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid)
GABA is a chemical produced by the brain that gives you the feeling of calm. This is the chemical responsible for slowing down the thinking process and allowing for tranquility.
A study was carried out on the effect of yoga and meditation on GABA levels. It was found that people who practiced yoga or meditation for an hour a day had a 27% increase in GABA levels, compared to those who didn’t. In other words, you should look into yoga or other relaxation techniques if you want to increase GABA levels in your body.
Last but not the least is serotonin. This is a neurotransmitter produced by the brain’s happiness chemical factory. It is primarily responsible for your mood. So if you’re feeling upbeat, that’s because serotonin is doing its job.
But what triggers serotonin? Serotonin release has been linked with self-esteem and contentment. If you feel confident about yourself, feel like you belong, serotonin levels are bound to increase. So if you want to boost serotonin, you need to put yourself in positions that test you, challenge you. Overcome these and your sense of accomplishment is sure to make you feel happier.
What you need to realize is that the human brain is a labyrinth of chemicals, wiring, neurons and structures, which all work together completely in sync to create feelings of happiness as well as sadness. If you’re looking to be happy, there is no surefire method of achieving that. But by focusing on your brain’s happiness chemical factory, you can influence your lifestyle to be more conducive to happiness.