This is all about my mattress below the beam. When I am scared, miserable or angry and the usual stuff doesn’t seem to be working, I use happy chemicals.
It’s not a typo and no, I don’t sit and smell magic markers or paint cans. I am talking about
Neurotransmitters, mainly happy chemicals – Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphins.
This post is about the Happy chemicals flowing through our body, and how they can improve the quality of our life.
What are Neurotransmitters?
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that carry signals through our body. They are vital to our functioning.
An imbalance of the chemicals can disrupt our lives by negatively impacting our physical and emotional health.
How are they connected to our happiness?
So, let’s dive in –
Most of us believe that our happiness depends on our achievements, material possessions and people in our life except, the very concept of neurotransmitters suggests otherwise.
The chemicals inside your body don’t just control the biological functions, they can and do alter our emotions and moods as well.
When we find ourselves being moody or unnecessarily morose, more often than not it’s just an imbalance in our chemicals.
Four neurotransmitters are considered to be largely responsible for our moods, creativity, and emotional output.
A sound understanding of these can help you decide how you deal with the difficult situations in your life.
Whether you take control of the car or sit submissively in the passenger seat enduring the bumps without protest is upto you.
1) Dopamine – Chemical of Reward
If you are low on productivity, you need to make friends with Dopamine. It is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for motivation, arousal, and stimulation. It is also responsible for addiction.
The brain received pleasure signals on the consumption of drugs.
This happens because of a resulting increase in Dopamine. This establishes a connection between the drug consumed and the pleasure felt.
Repetition reinforces the connection. The next time your brain is looking for the sensation of pleasure, Dopamine will compel you to consume more of the drug.
Now, let’s look at it from a different angle. We understand that Dopamine is behind addictions be it caffeine, sex or drugs. A conscious knowledge of this can work in your favor. You can choose the habits you reinforce. I used it to establish an exercise schedule.
The most difficult part about getting on to a regular exercise schedule is actually getting off the bed, putting on our exercise gear, and doing the first round of exercise.
Before we can do any of this, lethargy sets in and in that moment, there is practically nothing tempting about it.
Although, once you start exercising and those endorphins kick in, your body starts to feel good. Your energy levels shoot up and your mood is elevated.
It gives a solid boost to your confidence.
You feel good about yourself which again flushes your brain with Dopamine.
Hippocampus establishes a connection between the exercise and your current feeling of rejuvenation, confidence, and pleasure.
The next day it is a little easier to get your butt to the gym.
Overtime, the connection becomes so solid that exercise becomes your answer to emotional and physical trouble.
Do you realize that if you get through the first few awful days of exercising, you can form a habit and actually learn to enjoy it?
Dopamine can also help with the one issue we all battle on a constant basis – Procrastination!
As I mentioned, it is the chemical of reward which means it has a massive impact on our productivity. Procrastinators put-off work.
There isn’t enough motivation in their system to do what needs to be done. Enter Dopamine!!
Have you ever noticed that we mostly put off tasks that make us anxious, scared or plain unhappy? We don’t put off buying fancy stuff or booking the next holiday.
No, we put off cooking, cleaning, or finishing the office report.
You see, your brain associates the possibility of boredom, exhaustion, or even failure with these tasks which triggers the fight or flight response.
The brain in an attempt to protect us chooses the flight response. We hit the snooze button, snuggle down into the bed and off to the dreamworld we go!
Except when you wake up, it’s all still there – all the problems, issues, and the boring tasks.
So, you need to figure out a way to convince yourself that the tasks aren’t so unpleasant after all.
Here’s how you can do that –
- Make a To-do list. If you have one big task, break it down into several smaller ones.
- Every time you complete a task, reward yourself
- Tick off the tasks done. Let your mind process that you are one step closer to a successful day. This will make you feel good and motivated.
The last task on the list will be done before you know it. Yay, you!!
Boast Dopamine by listening to music, creating artwork, taking a protein-rich diet, and by tracking our wins.
2) Serotonin – Happiness Chemical
All those fancy ass anti-depressants prescribed by the doctors are mostly aimed at increasing serotonin levels.
It is a feel-good chemical that has an impact on your mood, anxiety, focus, gut, and interpersonal interactions.
Balanced serotonin levels lead to a happy, optimistic, emotionally stable individual.
“70% of your serotonin is made in your gut. What’s going on in your gut is going to affect your mood – anxiety, depression, and focus.”
– Dr. Frankl Lipman
A lot of the time when we indulge in attention-seeking behavior, it is down to a lack of serotonin in our system.
Low levels of Serotonin can make us feel insignificant and unnecessary to the happiness of our loved ones which can negatively impact our relationships.
Teenagers who indulge in criminal activities may be doing so because of low levels of Serotonin.
Possible symptoms of Serotonin imbalance –
Depression, lack of focus, anxiety, craving for sweets, insomnia, aggression, lack of self-esteem, low sex drive.
It may be just one reason for the problems, but it is still important enough to deserve a healthy amount of your attention.
The good news is that you can boost its levels by exercising and consuming a healthy diet, preferably one rich in Vitamin B6.
Exposure to sunlight, coffee, and regular massages are also known to help the issue.
3) Oxytocin – The Love Hormone
Ever heard of a drug called, Ecstasy? It is a party drug for those lacking in Oxytocin.
Ecstasy can lower your anxiety and social inhibitions, encouraging you to freely interact with others.
You don’t need Ecstasy if you have the right balance of Oxytocin in your system.
In studies conducted by neuroscientists, subjects with higher Oxytocin were known to show a higher level of well-being, happiness, generosity, and compassion.
Men with high levels of Oxytocin are known to have less sexual partners and are also, less likely to cheat on their spouse.
It’s produced during orgasm, childbirth, and breastfeeding. If you deal with a lot of stress, counter that with Oxytocin.
The rush of Oxytocin prevents cortisol production, reducing stress and anxiety. It can also strengthen your immune system.
If we were to dump Oxytocin in the city pipelines (yes, this is a Batman reference) we can actually reduce wealth inequality because more people will give away their wealth to those in need.
Oxytocin can be increased by hugging and kissing! That’s no trouble, am I right?
For all those trying to give up sugar, an appropriate level of Oxytocin in your body can incentivize you to give up sugar and fatty food.
Other ways of boasting Oxytocin-
- Compliment others
- Meditation and Yoga
- Cry and let it out
- Have long, deep conversations
4) Endorphins – Mood Boosters & my favorite
“Now, I’m no scientist, but I know what endorphins are. They’re tiny little magical elves that swim through your blood stream and tell funny jokes to each other. When they reach your brain, you hear what they’re saying and that boosts your health and happiness.”
– Ellen Degeneres
Before I tackle anything too arduous, I exercise or dance. This gives me a nice shot of endorphins.
My energy levels and mood is elevated, and I can get things done a lot faster.
Endorphins like Serotonin can help alleviate depression. This is the reason why workouts make you feel so good – ‘runner’s high’.
In movies, they often show the hero fighting after being shot -that isn’t as far-fetched as you think.
When you are in a fight or any physically demanding activity, your body is pumped full of Endorphins; when you’re injured it keeps you from feeling pain.
Another major benefit is improved sleep which considering our lifestyles, is very important. It explains why we sleep better after exercising.
Blood pressure, trauma, sweet addiction can all be treated with Endorphins.
The best part is that boasting Endorphins is fun as hell. All you have to do is exercise regularly. Laugh hard! Watch fun, comedy shows.
Eat fruits, vegetables, and dark chocolates. Play outside in the sun. Listen to your favorite music. Book a massage!
I fail to understand why people do drugs when there are easier, cheaper, and healthier ways of getting high.
You can have a happy life with very little effort. Once your stress and mood are under control, optimism will reign supreme allowing you to go after your goals with full determination.
So, do yourself a favor and go for a run. Do a few squats – elevate your mood and self-confidence with a tighter butt as a bonus. Maintain performance charts, gratitude journals to boost your Dopamine.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
Also, if reading this article made you wonder about your own neurotransmitter or hormonal balance, you can talk to your physician.
There are tests you can take. Please, don’t take random drugs ordered online or any drugs without a doctor’s approval as they may do more harm than good.
Read this article in combination with the one I posted about brain training.
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