Understanding your happy hormones could help you to enhance your emotional wellbeing. Substances like dopamine and serotonin play a significant role in regulating your moods.
What are hormones? They’re messengers secreted by your glands and carried through your bloodstream. Even in tiny amounts, they can cause major changes in your body. They also need to be kept in balance because they interact closely with each other.
You can usually keep them functioning well by using gentle, natural methods or following your doctor’s recommendations if you develop a deficiency. Learn more about your happy hormones and how to make them work for you.
Your brain’s pleasure and reward systems depend largely on dopamine. Dopamine is one of the reasons why you feel warm and fuzzy when you receive a compliment or any positive attention. It also helps with executive function and motor control.
Use these strategies to boost your dopamine levels:
- Fulfill your goals. Adding to your accomplishments is a natural way to increase dopamine levels. Give yourself something to strive for each day and celebrate your victories.
- Limit sugar. Your diet matters too. Excess sugar and saturated fat can inhibit dopamine production. Cut back on empty calories and switch to healthier fats. Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like fish and nuts actually boost dopamine.
- Get some sun. Vitamin D strengthens your bones and may increase dopamine. Spend time outdoors each day and check labels for foods fortified with vitamin D.
- Listen to music. One study found that dopamine levels increased by as much as 9% when volunteers listened to music that they enjoyed. Create playlists for exercising, working, and other daily activities.
- Have fun. While music may be especially influential, other healthy pleasures work too. Make time in your schedule for hanging out with family and friends and working on hobbies and other things you enjoy.
More than 90% of your serotonin stays in your intestines where it helps to regulate your digestive system. It still has so much impact on your mood that it’s part of the formula for many antidepressant medications.
These activities help increase serotonin:
- Exercise regularly. Physical movement is one of the simplest and most effective ways to stimulate serotonin. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. Play sports, take fitness classes or go for a walk.
- Eat carbohydrates. You may crave certain comfort foods because calories from carbohydrates trigger serotonin. Choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains rather than refined products like cake and cookies.
- Take B vitamins. Both dopamine and serotonin respond to B vitamins. Smart sources include brown rice, legumes, and leafy green vegetables.
Other Happy Hormones
Besides dopamine and serotonin, there are several other hormones that can help you to feel happy, including estrogen, progesterone, endorphins, and oxytocin.
Try these techniques to maintain healthy levels of these hormones and feel happier:
- Treat menopause symptoms. Menopause and perimenopause cause major hormonal changes, including a drop in estrogen. Talk with your doctor about what options are appropriate for you. You may be able to manage your symptoms naturally or you may want to consider hormone replacement therapy.
- Manage stress. At any stage in life, stress hormones can interfere with any of the happy hormones. Keep tension under control with meditation, deep breathing, and other relaxation practices.
- Be kind. Oxytocin earns its nickname as the love hormone. It’s involved in social bonding as well as birth. Research shows that it contributes to life satisfaction, so help it along by being generous and affectionate.
Most of the habits that boost your happy hormones also support your overall wellbeing. Stay cheerful and healthy. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, manage stress, and talk with your doctor if you notice any symptoms that interfere with your daily life.