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There are many things happening in the world that cause anxiety and stress. From rising gas prices and rising inflation for the general daily worries of balancing work and life, there are many things that can really weigh on my mind. But there are also many rituals that bring me happiness: the first sip of coffee in the morning, cuddling with my puppy, reading before work and a little exercise. Now more than ever I lean towards them little things which make a difference in my day.

While a cup of coffee won’t change whether you feel really fulfilled, in uncertain times it’s worth raising your spirits when you can.

There are four main hormones (a type of chemical that your body produces) that cause feelings of happiness, and each chemical is associated with specific events or rewards. Understanding these chemicals and how they work can help you understand even small ways to feel better in such a stressful time.

To explain exactly how these chemicals work for “happiness”, I spoke with Loretta Browning, founder of the Institute of Domestic Mammals and author of Habits for a happy brain.

Happy chemicals: The secret of a happy brain

Almost everything that makes you feel “happy” is related to one of the four hormones of happiness: dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. Here are some ways you can strengthen them.


The hormone dopamine is associated with motivation and reward. That’s why you feel courage when you set an exciting or important goal, and why it’s good to achieve that goal. On the other hand, if you have low dopamine (which experts say may occur with depression), may explain the feeling of low motivation or loss of interest in something you used to like.

A middle-aged man playing tennis

Giving up a hobby or sport can increase your dopamine.

Getty Images

“Approaching the prize triggers dopamine. When a lion approaches the gazelle, its dopamine increases and the energy it needs to hunt is released. Your ancestors released dopamine when they discovered a water hole,” says Broning. “The expectation of a reward evokes a good feeling in the mammalian brain and releases the energy you need to achieve the reward.

How to increase dopamine:

There is some not so healthy habits which increase dopamine – such as drinking caffeine, eating sugar or taking certain leisure drugs. But you can find ways to increase this hormone without resorting to potentially unhealthy or addictive substances.

“Embrace a new goal and take small steps towards it every day. Your brain will reward you with dopamine every time you take a step. Repetition will build a new dopamine pathway until it is big enough to compete with the dopamine habit you are better off without, ”says Breuning.

You may already have goals set for your career, job or how much money you would like to earn. But do not forget personal goals. Engaging in a rewarding hobby or sport can be just as enjoyable as professional goals. Don’t just set a few big goals that will take longer to accomplish – set short-term goals to stay motivated.

“Set a short-term, long-term and medium-term goal so that you are always close to one when the other is blocked. Focus on the things you have control over and don’t wait for others to set your goals for you, ”says Breuning.


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood, but also helps regulate it other features in your body such as digestion, sleep and bone health. When it comes to happiness and how you feel every day, serotonin is important reducing depression and regulating anxiety.

How to increase serotonin:

“Confidence triggers serotonin. Monkeys try to aim at each other because it stimulates their serotonin. “People often do the same thing.” You’ve probably never thought about confidence at the neurochemical level, but according to Breuning, if you don’t prioritize confidence, serotonin levels can be hit.

If you are trapped in a cycle of low self-esteem or have had others undermine your trust, it may be difficult to rebuild it. It may sound strange, but do not neglect your need for respect and status.

“You can develop your faith in your own worth. If you focus on your losses, you will suppress your serotonin, even if you are a rock star or CEO. You can build the habit of focusing on your profits. Your serotonin will suffer if you don’t, “says Breuning.

In addition to focusing on what you have achieved in life, you can build confidence in other ways. One way to do this is by training or adopting a new exercise routinewhich helps boost your confidence as you stick to it over time. Another thing you can try is to find ways to get out of yours comfort zone every day. Every day, when you challenge yourself to adapt to something new, even if you feel uncomfortable at first, you build more confidence.


Oxytocin it is sometimes called the “love hormone” and is associated with how people connect and trust each other. Some activities such as kissing, hugging and sex can trigger the release of oxytocin in the brain.

It explains why you feel happy when petting or cuddling with your pets. This is important at birth, as oxytocin helps the mother’s uterus to contract to give birth to the baby, and oxytocin also plays a role in breastfeeding. It also helps parents connect with the baby after birth.

How to increase oxytocin:

You can increase oxytocin by being physically intimate with others. But in addition to the physical aspect, it is important to know that there is an emotional connection to how oxytocin is released.

“Social trust is what causes oxytocin. If you hug someone you don’t trust, you don’t feel good. Trust comes first. You can build social trust by taking small positive steps towards people,” says Broning.

You can connect with a friend or contact you want to get to know better. Send someone a thank-you note or card just to let them know you think of them. “Take a small step towards someone every day and they may reciprocate months later, but if you continue to do so, you will build networks of trust,” says Breuning.


It is known that endorphins are associated with exercise – this is the phenomenon that explains the high or post-workout “endorphin surge” of the runner. They function as “natural painkillers” that help minimize pain and increase pleasure. This chemical experience may explain why a runner may be able to run a race with an injury he doesn’t notice until it’s over.

“In its natural state, it helps an injured animal escape a predator. He helped our ancestors flee for help when they were wounded. Endorphins evolved for survival, not for fun. stoves and walking on broken legs, ”explains Breuning.

How to increase endorphins:

Laugh is one of the ways to naturally increase endorphins – also nutrition dark chocolate, watching your favorite drama on Netflix, I train and meditating.

Endorphins are released in response to pain, but that doesn’t mean you have to look for ways to harm yourself (such as by exercising too much or pushing yourself out of bounds) just to feel good.

“Self-harm to stimulate endorphins is a bad survival strategy. Fortunately, there are better ways: laughter and stretching. Both shake your insides improperly, causing moderate wear and moderate endorphin flow, ”she says.

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