Happiness is another complicated topic that many people simplify just saying "Smile, be happy". Yep - not quite that simple. But there are some techniques -"happiness hacks" if you like, that will help.
Happiness is a hormonal process. It's a delicate balance of many hormones and I'm sure you've heard of some of them - Serotonin, Dopamine and Endorphins for example but did you know it also involves Oxytocin?
Here's a bite-sized run down on our theses work.
Serotonin - This hormone is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain but also in the gut. It is responsible for our feelings of well-being. Many antidepressants work by improving our levels of serotonin.
Dopamine - This hormone is a also a neurotransmitter produced in the brain. It has several functions and is the hormone that makes us feel good in relation to a reward. People talk about a dopamine "hit" which is a release of dopamine with many addictive type behaviours such as drinking coffee, alcohol or eating sugar. Other behaviours include gambling and video/phone games
Endorphins - These are a collection of 20 or so neuropeptides released from the brain and can produce an intense feeling of pleasure and can also help with pain management.
Oxytocin - This is our connection hormone. Also released from the brain it has a crucial role in childbirth, breastfeeding and the maternal-infant bond. It is released with cuddles and hugs from human but also from animals. Animals play a huge role in happiness- most people love looking a cute pictures of animals
So how we can hack our hormones to improve happiness?
These are our top five tips
1/ Get outside. Sunlight improves our levels of serotonin and most people feel better when they have some sun on their skin.
2/Connect! Human touch is so important. Make sure you hug your loved ones.
3/ Get a dog. People with dogs live longer and are happier but don't just leave him in the back yard. Play with him, pat him and hug him!
Here's a link to the original article Dogs are Good for you!
4/Cut out Sugar. Sugar is a drug-food for many and the release of dopamine initially means we are forever chasing the dopamine hit. Many people know that once they start they can't stop. My favourite saying is "one is too many and one thousand is never enough"
5/Do something you love. Doing something you love most days releases endorphins. That may be exercise-we've all heard of the endorphin high runners get, but it can also be other hobbies, gardening, crafting, creating. Find something you love and do it often!
Talk again soon,
Dr Lucy Burns and Dr Mary Barson
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