How The Happiness Hormone Works With The Body
By: Marie Miguel
Updated February 18, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers
When it comes down to it, all our emotions are due to certain hormones in the body. Happiness is no exception. The hormones in your body can make you happy, sad, angry, and so on. In this article, we shall look at the various hormones that can make you happy, and explain why they do that.
Ever have a rush of endorphins? You may have felt like all your pains went away. The full name of these hormones is "endogenous morphine." We all know what morphine is, so now things start to make sense.
Endorphins are naturally obtained through exercising. When you work out, you'll feel a rush of endorphins and feel good about yourself. When we were cavemen, endorphins helped us fight and stay strong. In the modern world, they can give you a rush. If you're into exercise, this is why you feel so good. It's also why many people say that exercise is a natural way to fight depression.
That's also why your pain may feel like it's going away when you work out. If you work out too hard, you may not feel the pain until after the workout, when your endorphin levels go down, and you start to feel the effects on your body. Don't push yourself too hard just because you're in the heat of your workout.
Endorphins can also be triggered if you eat spicy food as well. Endorphins will be released due to your brain reacting to spicy food in the same way it does to pain. If you want to feel the endorphin rush, you don't need to go to the gym. Sometimes, you can eat a hot chili pepper.
Unlike some happiness hormones, endorphins are not addictive.
Serotonin is another hormone that can make you feel better and can improve social interaction. Those who have depression and are irritable tend to have low serotonin levels. Ways you can improve your serotonin levels include:
- Going outside. Some people say that going outside can raise your spirits, and there is truth to that. Going outside gives your skin vitamin D, and this is attributed to helping increase serotonin levels.
- Being a positive thinker can help increase serotonin levels. Not everyone can change their way of thinking, but those who learn to think more positively can be able to increase their serotonin levels quite a bit. Sit down and write down some happy thoughts, and you'll be glad you did.
- Carbs may help give you serotonin. Milk, corn, and anything else with tryptophan in it is good contenders to help you increase your serotonin levels.
- Exercise aerobically. Aerobic, or low-intensity workouts, can produce serotonin. As you can see, working out is a great way to release plenty of feel-good chemicals.
Dopamine is the hormone of pleasure. It gives you the motivation to do something so that you can feel the dopamine rush. It's one of the reasons addictions happen. Your first drug experience may feel the best, and then you get addicted as you try to relive the dopamine rush. However, dopamine can be good as well. Set some goals in your life, and make them easy to accomplish. Once you accomplish them, you'll get that dopamine rush that you deserve.
This is the hormone of love. When you hug someone you love, have sex with someone, or give birth to a child, there is a production of oxytocin. It's what makes us love someone, or be friends with people. You don't need to be a great lover to produce oxytocin; sometimes, just a hug is all you need.
Happiness Hormones And Mental Disorders
Happiness is chemistry in the brain. If the amount of hormones is too much or too little, it can be the cause of mental disorders. Here are some ways that the lack of, or excess of, endorphins, can lead to mental disorders.
Endorphins may be linked to a few mental disorders, including:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder. A lack of endorphins may be the reason why OCD happens. Endorphins can tell your brain when a task is complete. If you clean your room, there's a point where your mind tells you it's completed. A lack of endorphins can mean that you have to organize your room obsessively until you feel satisfied.
- Too many endorphins can lead to anxiety or anger. It can give you that fight-or-flight feeling you have during an anxiety attack, or overpower your emotions to the point where you're raging.
- Self-harm may be linked to endorphins as well, along with depression.
Serotonin deficiency can be the reason for a few mental problems and disorders, including:
- Memory problems. Those with low serotonin may not be able to remember events well.
- Depression. The link between serotonin and depression is still unclear, but it does appear to have some link.
- You may want to eat sweet foods if you have low levels.
- A lack of serotonin may be the reason why some people have trouble sleeping.
- Like endorphins, serotonin may lead to anger issues and anxiety when there is too much in your body.
Dopamine is linked to mental disorders as well, including:
- Addiction. Drugs can lead to an amazing rush of dopamine to the brain, and your addiction is spent trying to get that rush again. It's not only drugs, though. Any addiction can be due to dopamine. You can be addicted to food, TV, and pretty much anything else. Dopamine functions as a reward system. This can be good or bad; it can be a motivator to make you achieve your goals. However, it can also be your brain's reward for having a cigarette when you're trying to quit, or checking Facebook one more time despite you wanting to return to work. Like anything, dopamine is good in moderation but can be bad in excess.
- Dopamine, like the other hormones, may have a link to depression. Too little dopamine may lead to depression or just a low mood in general.
- Parkison's Disease is caused by a lack of dopamine in the body.
- ADHD may be linked to the poor production of dopamine.
Oxytocin treatments have seen promise for treating various mental disorders. The science is still out on it, but there is hope that one day it will be an effective treatment for various disorders, including:
- Anxiety. Those with anxiety may have fewer episodes through oxytocin treatments.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder. Those with ASD have been shown to interact better once they are given oxytocin treatments.
- Addiction. Those with addiction may benefit from oxytocin treatments.
However, it is difficult to treat humans with oxytocin due to its side effects. Oxytocin treatment may cause cardiovascular problems and other serious side effects. The goal is to find an effective oxytocin treatment that is safe for humans. Perhaps one day, this will be the best treatment for various mental illnesses.
Oxytocin being a healing hormone makes sense the more you think about it. As mentioned before, it's the chemical of love. There are plenty of studies that have revealed that people who have long, happy marriages tend to live longer. This may be due to the production of oxytocin in their bodies being able to fight off certain mental illnesses or diseases. Perhaps one day, we can introduce this hormone to everyone regardless if they're married or happily single.
It's interesting how emotions work. As humans, we'd like to believe that there is something unworldly about our emotions. We assign our emotions to concepts that are unobservable by science, such as the soul, or the "heart." However, if you look at it scientifically, your emotions are just chemicals that affect the brain. If you don't have enough chemicals, you feel sad. If you have enough, you feel happy. This doesn't devalue human emotion, but instead gives it a reason for existing. In a way, this is quite comforting. Happiness doesn't seem so far away now.
There are many reasons why you may not be getting all the happiness hormones you need. Sometimes, it's situational. Your life isn't going as well as you planned, and this can affect the production of your happiness hormones by dealing with your problems. Alternatively, there may be a mental health condition that could be causing an imbalance of happy hormones.
No matter what the case, there is no shame in seeking counseling for all your problems. A counselor or therapist can help you make goals to make you feel happier, and teach you coping techniques that will bring some hormones into your brain. If you have a mental disorder, counseling, along with medication therapy, can be a solution to bring back the happiness you deserve.