Happiness is just a neurochemical spurt. Four different brain chemicals create happy feelings, and you need all of them to feel good. You miss out when you rely on one or two old familiar ways of triggering your happy chemicals.
You can enjoy a balanced happy chemical diet if you know the distinct kind of happiness each brain chemical evolved for. Healthy nutrition plays a role too.
Dopamine happiness is triggered when you get a new reward. It’s your brain’s signal that you are about to meet a need. Dopamine motivates the investment of energy in steps toward rewards. Foods like yoghurt, beans, eggs, meats with low-fat content, and almonds, which are just a few foods linked to dopamine release.
Oxytocin happiness is triggered when we trust those around us. It promotes bonding. It’s stimulated when you’re with a group of like-minded people, is released by the social act of sharing a meal, or when you get a massage. It has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety levels.
Serotonin happiness is triggered when you feel important. It is a natural mood stabiliser found mostly in the digestive system, and it impacts your whole body, from emotions to motor skills. Has been shown to increase from foods high in tryptophan: chicken, eggs, cheese, fish, peanuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds, milk, turkey, tofu and soy, chocolate. However, your body needs to have enough iron (so eat green vegetables like spinach, silverbeet and broccoli, lentils and beans, nuts and seeds, grains like whole wheat, brown rice dried fruit), vitamin B-6 (carrots, spinach, sweet potato), and vitamin B-2 (almonds).
Endorphin happiness is the body’s natural morphine to mask pain, which allowed our ancestors to run from predators when injured. The good news is you get a bit of it from a belly laugh or healthy exertion, and a bit is enough. It promotes a sense of wellbeing with benefits like boosting self-esteem, alleviating depression, and reducing weight. Foods like chocolate, strawberries, animal proteins, oranges, spicy foods, grapes, nuts and seeds, and ginseng may trigger endorphin release.
Every day plan to include a balanced boost of your happy hormones. Even better, encourage the people you care about to do the same.