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4 Ways To Increase Your Happy Chemicals

increase happy chemicals
When it comes to generating a positive outlook, or attitude, anything that can get us there more efficiently and effectively is desirable.

Indeed, a positive mental state impacts motivation, productivity, and wellbeing.

So, can we train our brains to make us happier and more productive?

We certainly can!

According to Loretta Breuning PH. D we have the ability to work with our natural chemical building blocks to increase happiness and produce a natural, feel-good high. Breuning points out that we have two different brain systems, the limbic system and the cortex, that work together to keep us alive and protect our DNA. Each system has its unique job.

The limbic system produces the neurochemicals which serve as a survival mechanism and tell the body what is good or bad for us, while the cortex, which surrounds the limbic system, looks for patterns in the present that match patterns stored in the past. When something good is happening for us, four main happy chemicals – dopamine, endorphin, oxytocin and serotonin are released to tell us this is good for us - go toward it. The body, however, does not always act on these messages because the cortex can override our 'animal' impulses.

The limbic system, the mammal part of the brain, then tries again. The cortex helps by directing attention and sifting information, while the limbic brain sparks the action.

As expected, happy chemicals did not evolve to be on all the time; instead, they evolved to promote our survival. However, if we know how our brain processes work, we can experience more happy chemicals and limit unhappy chemicals (which we also need).

Here are some natural ways to increase our happy chemicals. We accomplish this by stimulating our positive neurochemicals and by limiting unhappy chemicals:

1. Dopamine: Embrace a new goal.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. It enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. It also helps regulate movement and emotional responses. Anticipating a reward triggers dopamine. This 'expectation' of reward alone can trigger a good feeling and release the energy needed to reach the reward. It motivates us to seek and persist. Therefore, in order to trigger dopamine, endeavor to embrace a new goal and each day take small steps toward achieving it. Your brain will reward you with dopamine each time you take a step. In turn, the repetition will build a new dopamine pathway to replace a less productive one in the form of a bad, or unproductive, habit.

2. Endorphin: Take time to laugh and exercise.

Endorphins are typically released in response to pain and stress. A common example is the euphoric 'runner's high' or the surging second wind after a grueling run. Endorphin is also released to help an injured animal escape from a predator. Its release evolved for purposes of survival for humans and animals alike. increase happy chemicals

Fortunately, one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release is to laugh or exercise. Even the anticipation or expectation of laughter (as in attending a comedy show) can increase levels of endorphin. Likewise, we have a heard of how the release of endorphins is one of the great benefits of exercise.

Not surprisingly, aromatherapies, such as the smell of vanilla and lavender have also been linked with the releasing of endorphins. Similarly, studies have shown that dark chocolate and spicy foods can trigger its production.

3. Oxytocin: Build trust consciously.

Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter. It regulates social interaction and plays a role in bonding, empathy, and generosity behaviors.

When we hug or kiss a loved one oxytocin levels increase. Actually, this hormone plays a huge role in all pair bonding. Trust also triggers oxytocin. Conversely, your brain releases unhappy chemicals when your trust is betrayed. You can stimulate oxytocin by building trust consciously. Continued steps in building trust in others as well as in yourself will build oxytocin circuits.

According to Dr. Paul Zak, an expert on oxytocin, a simple way to keep it flowing is to give someone a hug. He explains that inter-personal touch not only raises oxytocin, it reduces cardiovascular stress and improves the immune system.

4. Serotonin: Believe in yourself.

Serotonin flows when you possess self-confidence. Loneliness and depression ensue when it's absent. Needless to say, it is in our best interests to develop belief in ourselves and our self-worth.

Certainly, we all have ups and downs, wins and losses, however if we focus on the downs/losses we will decrease our serotonin levels. If, however, we reflect upon our achievements, practice gratitude, and think about the good things we've accomplished, we can boost serotonin production.

Each of the four happy chemicals has evolved to do a job. They work by making you feel good which, in turn, motivates you to go after that which triggered them. However, the brain only releases happy chemicals in limited bursts and for a specific purpose. It did not evolve to release them all the time. If it had, the happy chemicals could not do their jobs.

For example, you need unhappy chemicals, such as cortisol, to warn or alert you to potential harm. Since the world can sometimes be a dangerous and threatening place, ideally we need to balance our happy chemicals with our less happy chemicals.

Fortunately for us, our brains and bodies are constantly evolving and experiencing complex chemical processes which we have the ability to affect.

Once we understand how our happy chemicals and neurotransmitters work and interact with each other, we are better able to trigger and have them work for us.

Related:
50 Ways to Be Happier
The Benefits of Regular Exercise
Develop A Healthy Self-Concept
How to Build Self-Confidence
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