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4 chemicals that activate happiness in the brain and 12 ways you can gamify them

Did you know that we have certain “happiness chemicals” that are responsible for our good moods?

Specifically, the main happy chemicals are serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins.

According to psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona, “Happiness chemicals are the substances in our brains called neurotransmitters that influence things like mood, motivation, intimacy, productivity, feelings of wellbeing, trust, and connection with others.”

“These neurotransmitters have a huge impact on our overall feelings of wellbeing, pleasure, and mood. Low levels of these important substances in our brains are associated with things like low mood and depression, pain, loneliness, stress, anxiety, and difficulty feeling motivated.”

The good news is, all of these chemicals can be boosted using natural habits and activities. Below we go over 11 surprising ways to get your brain to release more happiness chemicals.

1) Eat some dark chocolate

release endorphins

Dark chocolate help boost the production of “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins lead to feelings of euphoria, the exact same kind that joggers get from a “runner’s high”. They reduce pain and the effects of stress.

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Consuming chocolate has also been found to increase dopamine levels, which is known for being crucial in motivation. Stick with dark chocolate at least 70 percent cocoa or higher, eat it regularly (about 2-3 times a week), and consume around 1.5 to 2 ounces for best results.

2) Make music

release endorphins

Even if you don’t consider yourself a musician, making music, whether it’s simply tapping drum sounds on your desk, or singing your favorite tune, can help promote the release of endorphins, which can improve your positive mood and ability to deal with pain.

3) Create a checklist

release endorphins

Every time we achieve a goal, no matter how small, dopamine is released. By keeping a small to-do list you’ll release dopamine each time you check something off. You’ll also get more stuff done!

4) Look at old photos

release endorphins

Looking at old photos can remind of the happy times in your life, which can immediately increase serotonin levels. However, viewing photos that remind you of something negative has the opposite effect.

5) Stand up straight

release endorphins

Assuming a strong posture, even for as little as 2 minutes, has been shown to increase confidence levels and decrease stress hormones like cortisol, which works directly against neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.


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6) Eat some hot peppers

release endorphins

Yes, spicy food actually gives you some type of rush. When you eat something hot, the body responds by thinking the heat is pain, and proceeds to send out a rush of endorphins to block the heat, which could give you a happiness rush, or even reduce feelings of pain in other areas of the body.

7) Take a walk outside

release endorphins

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Sunlight, greenery, and water are all associated with significant increases in serotonin levels. If you’re walking, try to make it as vigorous as possible and do it for at least 20 minutes.

8) Watch a funny video

release endorphins

Laughter helps to release endorphinds. So when you’re feeling a bit down, put on something that you find funny!

9) Go to a museum

release endorphins

There’s a reason so many people fall in love with classic masterpieces. Viewing art that you find beautiful releases a surge of dopamine in the brain, increasing feelings of pleasure.

10) Massage

release endorphins

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Massages don’t just make your body feel good, but studies have shown that they also help increase levels of dopamine and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.

11) Do a group workout

release endorphins

Just doing exercise by itself is a great way to release endorphins as well as boot serontonin and dopamine. But you can benefit even more by doing a group workout. Research shows that people who worked out with others showed increase pain tolerance, which means more endorphins were released.

12) Cuddles

release endorphins

Often referred to as the cuddle hormone, oxytocin is essential for creating powerful bonds and improving social interactions. One very simply way to keep oxytocin flowing is to give someone a hug. Research shows a hug for up to 20 seconds a day releases oxytocin, which is a natural antidepressant and antianxiety agent.

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