Happiness is emotional and physical. Knowing how to hack into the happiness zone may save relationships and your sanity! Knowing how to encourage your body to release these four powerful neurochemicals is key. For easy memory retrieval, use the acronym (DOSE) Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, & Endorphins.
Dopamine motivates you and gives you that boost of pleasure when goals are met. When your body is lacking in dopamine, you tend to procrastinate more and lack enthusiasm about life in general. Self-doubt kicks in and your confidence levels bottom out.
The best way to keep a steady flow of dopamine in your bloodstream is to set daily mini-goals and celebrate each accomplishment. Just a “woohoo” is not celebrating; do something fun; splurge. It may be as small as eating your favorite candy bar or as significant as planning a vacation.
Either way, what goes up, must come down. Ouch, sorry for the downer. However, you can avoid these dopamine hangovers by creating new goals before achieving existing goals.
Oxytocin is released by the posterior pituitary gland (located behind your nose near the underside of your brain) when the hypothalamus, which controls the body’s emotional responses, is excited. Oxytocin encourages a feeling of intimacy, trust, and fidelity. No wonder it is referred to as the “relationship” hormone.
Serotonin flows through your body when you feel significant or important. Everybody wants to feel needed at one time or another. Without these feelings, loneliness and depression rear their ugly heads.
Did you know that just 20 minutes a day of sunshine will promote vitamin D and serotonin production? Take a lunch break or coffee break outside when possible. Too much U.V. rays can be harmful, so wear a light sunscreen.
Since our brain cannot distinguish fact from fiction, reflect on past achievements and re-live positive experiences. This will trick your brain into producing a dose of serotonin.
Endorphins was a term coined from endogenous (created within the body) + morphine (pain reliever). Endorphins are released in response to pain or stress, and they help alleviate anxiety and depression. Endorphins stimulate the opioid receptors in our brain to act as an analgesic and sedative.
To keep these neurochemicals flowing, consider a daily dose of laughter, or at least the thought or anticipation of laughter. If you are more of a sensory-perception person, keep some dark chocolate nearby or the number for a restaurant serving spicy food. Aromatherapy has also been linked to endorphins production. Lavender and vanilla seem to be the favorites. Looks like our ancestors did their research; many flower gardens and talcum powders contained lavender, and vanilla was a culinary necessity and preferred perfume scent.
A little D.O.S.E. of happiness is as simple as sharing a positive attitude, along with reflecting and planning worthwhile and rewarding tasks. Have a happy day!
~ Dr. Doscher