Hormones are chemicals produced by different glands across your body. They travel through the bloodstream, acting as messengers and playing a part in many bodily processes.
One of these important functions? Helping regulate your mood.
Certain hormones are known to help promote positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure.
These “happy hormones” include:
- Dopamine: Known as the “feel-good” hormone, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s an important part of your brain’s reward system. It’s associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, and more.
- Serotonin: This hormone and neurotransmitter helps regulate your mood as well as your sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability, and memory.
- Oxytocin: Often called the “love hormone,” oxytocin is essential for childbirth, breastfeeding, and strong parent-child bonding. It can also help promote trust, empathy, and bonding in relationships. Levels generally increase with physical affection.
- Endorphins: These hormones are your body’s natural pain reliever, which your body produces in response to stress or discomfort. Levels may also increase when you engage in reward-producing activities such as eating, working out, or having sex.
Here’s a look at what you can do to help produce more of these natural mood boosters.
Looking to boost your serotonin level? Spending time outdoors, in sunlight, is a great way to do this.
According to research, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can increase the production of serotonin.
You can try spending about 15 minutes outside a few times a week. Try exploring a new neighborhood or park if you’re tired of the same old sights. Just be aware that UV exposure can also increase the risk of skin cancer, so don’t forget sunscreen!
Make time for exercise
Exercise has multiple physical health benefits. It can also have a positive impact on emotional well-being.
If you’ve heard of a “runner’s high,” you might already know about the link between exercise and endorphin release.
But exercise doesn’t just work on endorphins. Regular physical activity can also increase your dopamine and serotonin levels, making it a great option to boost your happy hormones.
Laugh with a friend
Who hasn’t heard the old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine?”
Of course, laughter won’t treat ongoing health issues. But it can help relieve feelings of anxiety or stress, and improve a low mood by boosting dopamine and endorphin levels.
According to a small 2017 studyTrusted Source looking at 12 young men, social laughter triggered endorphin release. ResearchTrusted Source supports this finding.
So, share that funny video, dust off your joke book, or watch a comedy special with a friend or partner.
An added bonus? Bonding over something hilarious with a loved one might even trigger oxytocin release.
Cook (and enjoy) a favorite meal with a loved one
The enjoyment you get from eating something delicious can trigger the release of dopamine along with endorphins. Sharing the meal with someone you love, and bonding over meal preparation, can boost oxytocin levels.
Certain foods can also have an impact on hormone levels, so note the following when meal planning for a happy hormone boost:
- spicy foods may trigger endorphin release
- yogurt, beans, eggs, meats with low-fat content, and almonds are just a few foods linked to dopamine release
- foods high in tryptophan have been linked to increased serotonin levels
- foods containing probiotics, such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, can influence the release of hormones