#3 Oxytocin, the love hormone.
The human body is a machine made to feel, an apparatus of excitement and pain, a box of emotions. Those feel good and feel bad moments are at the center of your everyday activities. The difference between waking up with a smile and jumping out of bed with a fright can drastically affect the tasks you planned to do.
Your energy levels, and without a doubt, your health, are closely related to the feelings happening in that little heart of yours. It’s a complex relationship, or rather an equation. One, I believe, we must solve every day.
When your energy level is high, you have more resources to help you during the day. From excitement to pain tolerance and from focus to willpower, you have more tools to power through the intricacies life throws at you, more means to resist the temptation of that snooze button.
On the contrary, when your energy level is low, the absence of those resources, the absence of that net, leaves you exposed to most of the negative feelings out there. Thus, the tendencies to take the path of least resistance.
Happiness has the power to bring you the energy you need. By understanding your body, you have the chance to create that feeling of well-being, joy, and contentment. Those four hormones can help you on that journey.
1. Dopamine, The Anticipation Hormone
Dopamine is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter — a chemical that ferries information between neurons. The brain releases it when we eat food that we crave or while we have sex, contributing to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as part of the reward system.
Some twenty years ago, the little kid I was, was always excited at the start of December. Every first of the month, I would write a letter to Santa and then eagerly wait to unpack my gifts. That little action of putting words on paper was enough to make me happy and full of energy for the weeks to come.
The little kids have it a bit easier here: more things to discover and less to worry about — in most cases. As adults, you can do the same. You can use anticipation to bring happiness into your daily life.
I wake up at 4 am every Monday to Friday, and while I do my best to be in bed before 10 pm, a good night’s sleep is not the only reason why my phone and the wall haven’t met yet. I know I’m lazy, so I give myself rewards throughout the day. Every four hours, to be exact.
Early in the morning, I give myself a bit of social media time. When the sun starts waking up, just before work, it’s my cartoon time, with a bowl of cereals and some sweets. At noon, it’s lunch and fresh air. When twilight rings, I let my body sweat as I work out. And when the day is about to end, I give my body the pleasure of sleep.
It can be a food you’re eager to eat, a book you’re excited to read, someone you want to meet, an oncoming gathering with loved ones, or simply watching the sunset. In either case, you can use those little things you like to make you happier. Reward yourself.
2. Endorphins, The Soothing Hormone
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.
A lot of people exercise nowadays. You don’t even have to look on your phone, take a peek out your window long enough, and you’ll see someone jogging outside. While some people train for a competition or simply to stay in shape, you can use it to be a little happier.
You don’t have to work out for one hour every day. You don’t even have to go to the gym. Fifteen minutes in the comfort of your home is enough. Sweat a bit, don’t forget to stretch and take a good shower — a simple formula of happiness.
Exercising is good for the focus it provides, it’s a good method to center yourself and calm your emotions. And it comes with a bonus. It makes you hella proud of yourself.
3. Oxytocin, The Love Hormone
Oxytocin is typically linked to warm, fuzzy feelings and shown in some research to lower stress and anxiety. It has the power to regulate our emotional responses and pro-social behaviors, including trust, empathy, gazing, positive memories, processing of bonding cues, and positive communication.
Love can give us the strength to slay giants. Ask Goliath if you don’t believe me. It’s one of those feelings that can make you look like another person, a version of yourself you didn’t know existed. It can make you shine with confidence and unexpected willpower.
And I’m not just talking about passionate love. Any kind of love has the power to make you happy. We’re social beings. We like to be connected to people, in touch or thought.
While it is okay to be alone, and I insist on this, it is okay to be alone. It is also okay to take time for yourself, time to heal. But please, find the strength to connect with the ones you love.
Life is about balance, and nothing is created out of nothing. Every one of us is busy living his life, and most often than not, we’re not aware of the whereabouts of others. Don’t wait for happiness, don’t wait for love, take action, and go get it. It is your right, and you deserve it.
There are lots of ways to feel love.
About one month ago, I started a “hello stranger” routine (if you have a cooler name, let me know). Each time I entered any store, I took the time to talk to one person, usually the cashier or the employee on the floor. We would talk about anything, deviating from the product to life, talking about a Netflix show in a cannabis store, or about engineering in a shopping center.
Love creates love, and happiness creates happiness. Spread them, and they’ll surely come back to you. It’s contagious.
Talk to someone, call a friend, or cuddle your cat. But take action, your body and your heart will thank you for it. Though, do it at your own pace, one step at a time.
4. Serotonin, The Mood Hormone
Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes your mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts your entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other.
The phrase “you are what you eat” takes all its sense here. One thing you can do to regulate your mood hormone is to control your diet, not to reduce your weight, but to feel comfortable in your body.
Every morning, as soon as I wake up, my bottle of water is waiting for me at my bedside. A couple of sips and I’m ready to go out of bed. The human body is made of 60 percent of water, more so in the brain and the lungs, and one glass can jump-start your metabolism.
What you eat during the day also matters, particularly at lunch. I’m not a nutritionist, but a well-constructed meal of protein, veggies, and fewer carbs, does wonder for my body. And taking a short walk in the sun lightens up my mood for the rest of the afternoon.
A good night’s sleep can also help improve your levels of serotonin. And with it your mood the next morning. In the evening, a light meal usually does the trick. You don’t want to put too much strain on your stomach while Morpheus is calling you.
The human body is like an engine, and like every machine, it needs fuel to rise to its full potential. That energy can be found in the small actions you take during the day, actions endowed with happiness.
And of course some days you’ll be sad. Always acknowledge your feelings, but remember that you cannot protect yourself from sadness without opening your heart to happiness.
Benjamin Franklin said:
“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom to a man in the course of his life.”
You don’t have to wait for the day, and you don’t have to wait for the one. You can take action now. Life is much more enjoyable when we have the strength to live it.