Updated: Apr 20
Did you know that you make your own happiness?
Most of us have read quotes about finding our inner happiness and choosing to be happy, right? Well, from a scientific/biochemical perspective, it’s true too! Let me explain ...
Inside our brain is a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger called dopamine. Dopamine has a direct effect on our mood in terms of how much pleasure and happiness we feel.
It’s also a known fact that when we feel happy, we are more productive, our creativity increases, and it enhances our ability to think and plan.
Think about a time when you accomplished something or you were recognised for doing a good job. It felt good, right? And did it make you more inspired and motivated? Yup, that is dopamine working ;).
BUT in life we don’t always get praised or appreciated, do we? Sometimes, we are challenged and when this happens dopamine levels tend to drop resulting in a drop in mood, too. So if dopamine is one of our “happy hormones,” are there ways we can naturally increase it?
I say ABSOLUTELY YES! and here they are:
Get out in the sun!! Exposure to sunlight can increase levels of dopamine. Just make sure you observe the necessary precautions and avoid being in the sun for long periods of time. Early morning sunlight before 10 am is the most ideal.
Protein is your friend - Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are needed for the production of dopamine. Beef, chicken, eggs, and legumes are great sources.
Easy on the fats - Saturated fats like those found in butter, dairy, coconut oil, and palm oil may disrupt dopamine signalling when consumed in large amounts.
Keep moving! - Exercise releases endorphins that boost your energy and your mood. Based on research, doing an hour of yoga 6 days a week caused a significant increase in dopamine levels. Cardiovascular exercise also has a positive effect on the brain, enhancing mood.
Sleep is important - Regular, good quality sleep of at least 7 to 9 hours is recommended. Dopamine levels naturally increase in the early morning and levels decrease in the evening signalling time to sleep. This is your natural body clock and a lack of sleep disrupts it, leading to lower dopamine levels.
Probiotics for your gut -The gut and brain are closely linked. There are good bugs in your gut that produce dopamine. This has an impact on your mood and how you behave. So we have to feed those good bugs so they produce more dopamine :).
Listen to soft, calming instrumental music. This kind of music can be very relaxing and helps uplift your spirits because it has a direct effect on the brain especially the reward and pleasure areas which are rich in dopamine receptors!
Practice clearing your mind and focus on your inner-self through meditation. Letting your thoughts flow, helps process stress and emotion helping to let it all go.
Take vitamins and supplements to ensure you have adequate levels of iron, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6 which are all important for dopamine production. Note: it’s important to have your levels checked, this should be under the guidance of a professional.
So there you have it!
Indeed, happiness comes from within.
Our body naturally produces the “happy hormone” dopamine. All we have to do is to support it with a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle so we can feel our best.