What Are the Happiness Hormones?

The so-called happiness hormones are our best allies for well-being and mental health. Understanding this universe of hormones, such as dopamine or serotonin, will also help us get to know ourselves a little better.
What Are the Happiness Hormones?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Happiness hormones are the driving force behind our daily lives. They’re the impulse that encourages us to relate and enjoy the company of those around us. They encourage us to continue learning things and enjoy every discovery we make. These small molecules are torrents of well-being that dilute pain, promote empathy, and even create trust.

Let’s face it… what would we be without them? Somehow, these biological elements allow us to differentiate ourselves from the machines and robots of the future that are governed by artificial intelligence.

Living beings are guided by these multipurpose molecules that play a fundamental role in aspects such as nutrition, reproduction, and even emotional memory.

Yes, it’s true that they sometimes fail us. It’s true that we sometimes go through times when the brain and other areas of the body don’t release them in the same quantities, and we sometimes feel down, apathetic, and negative. Factors such as our health or even our psychological approach can cause this deficit, this lack of “production”.

Delving a little deeper into the unique chemical universe of hormones will help us understand our behavior much better.

A brain and a heart.

Happiness hormones: what they are, functions, and characteristics

Experiencing positive feelings is an essential part of human (and animal) behavior. With them, we don’t only promote psychological balance but we also guarantee our survival. Thanks to them, we find the motivation to do things, feed ourselves, build more efficient environments, relate, reproduce, take care of others, etc.

After all, well-being also fulfills a biological goal. And the mediators of these varied and complex processes are the so-called happiness hormones. They orchestrate everything, including the regulation of mood, the feeling of pleasure, bonding, and even the relief of pain. Let’s analyze them one by one.

1. Endorphins: nature’s best painkillers

The word endorphin comes from the union of two terms: endogenous, meaning from inside the body, and morphine, which is an opioid analgesic. Its function, as we can already intuit, is none other than to relieve pain, relieve the impact of suffering, and give us feelings of well-being when we carry out behavior that the brain interprets as appropriate.

  • Endorphins are a large group of peptides produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland.
  • They’re linked to the natural reward circuits. This means that the brain releases them when we carry out biologically significant tasks such as eating, drinking, sports, relationships, sex, etc.

Can we stimulate their production in a natural way?

There are many ways to stimulate the production of this hormone. As we’ve pointed out, its production depends on carrying out activities and tasks that the brain interprets as positive. These are some examples:

  • Going for a walk every day.
  • Listening to music.
  • Dancing.
  • Learning new things.
  • Talking and sharing moments with friends.
  • Embracing our loved ones.
  • Eating chocolate.

2. Serotonin, the mediator of well-being

Serotonin is a hormone that, in addition to being produced in the brain, is widespread in the digestive system. It’s synthesized from the transformation of the amino acid tryptophan, and it acts as something more than a simple happiness neurotransmitter.

  • As well as promoting mood or boosting our well-being, it also has essential functions such as enhancing appetite.
  • This chemical is also responsible for stimulating the parts of the brain that control sleep and wakefulness.
  • This hormone, which acts as a neurotransmitter, is essential for reducing the mechanisms of anxiety and depression.
  • It stimulates libido and, thanks to serotonin, we also enjoy sex.

Can we produce serotonin naturally?

Among all the happiness hormones, this is the best-known one. But is there any way to produce it? Well, we can boost its production by consuming foods rich in tryptophan. This essential amino acid is the precursor of serotonin and we can find it in the following foods:

  • Dark chocolate.
  • Oatmeal.
  • Sunflower seeds.
  • Salmon.
  • Eggs.
  • Chickpeas.

3. Dopamine, your motivation booster

Dopamine plays a decisive role in tasks associated with motivation and reward. This molecule is decisive in our behavior, and so a deficit or overproduction of this neurochemical component can affect us in many ways. For example, schizophrenia causes an excessive release of dopamine.

Let’s see a few more benefits:

  • Firstly, its main functions are to activate the sensation of anticipatory pleasure. In other words, to feel motivated towards something simply by thinking about what that goal can offer us.
  • It induces our decision-making and favors learning, memory, etc.
  • It encourages curiosity and intrinsic motivation, as well as creativity.

Can we stimulate its production naturally?

Experts tell us that about 50 percent of all the dopamine in the body is produced in the gut. One way of ensuring that its correct production would be, therefore, to look after the intestinal microbiome.

4. Oxytocin

One of the best-known happiness hormones is oxytocin. We almost always associate it with areas such as love, affection, sexuality, the need for care, and maternal behavior. However, it has many more functions, all of them related to social behavior, such as empathy, generosity, and altruism.

This hormone, so important in human beings, is produced in the hypothalamus and secreted from the pituitary gland. Many call it the molecule of humanity and it truly is one of the most fascinating biological elements.

Can we stimulate its production naturally?

Our body releases oxytocin through very simple and everyday situations, such as caresses, hugs, listening to others, meditation, and also exercise.

In conclusion, happiness hormones are undoubtedly another example of the fascinating and perfect biological harmony that defines a large part of living beings. Understanding this small universe allows us to become more aware of why we are the way we are.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.