How to hack your happy hormones

How to hack your happy hormones

Let’s be honest, it’s been a tough year for most of us. According to South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), as many as one in six of us are suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

So how do we ‘hack’ our happiness? Is this even possible? Firstly, is happiness only a psychological feeling or is it an actual physiological state? Luckily for us, there is a warm comforting feeling at the end of the tunnel as happiness is an actual function of our ‘happy’ hormones being produced at high levels. These little warm fuzzy guys are known as neurotransmitters because they can be active in more than one physical process.

Brilliant! So, what’s the D.O.S.E.?

It’s simple: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, Endorphins.

To better understand their role in human happiness, let’s explore them each in detail.

1. Dopamine - The reward chemical

This chemical is a very important messenger who is responsible for recollection, enthusiasm and attention.  It also helps regulate movement and learning. The right balance of this hormone is vital for both physical and mental well-being.


  • Set and achieve goals – this is where our friend Dop gets his kick!
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eating foods that can boost levels of magnesium, omega-3, vitamin D,
  • Stand up straight. Yes! You heard us!
  • Keep a healthy gut biome (or taking probiotics)
2. Oxytocin - Mr Lover-Lover
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Oxytocin increases emotional feelings and trust. Known as the “love hormone” oxytocin levels tend to increase during acts of affection such as touch and hugging. 

  • Show physical affection to loved ones
  • Soak in a hot tub
  • Spend some time petting a furry friend
  • Give a compliment
  • Get a massage
3. Serotonin – Mrs Moody

Serotonin is the hormone that is mainly responsible for stabilizing our feelings of well-being and happiness. It is also triggered when we feel important. In the brain, serotonin has a great influence and impacts levels of anxiety, mood, and happiness.

  • Increase your Vitamin B intake
  • Run, walk, swim or cycle
  • Get some sun
  • Look at some old photographs of happy times gone by
  • Pray or meditate
  • Consume foods that are rich in tryptophan like carbohydrates with a low GI, such as: muffins, sourdough spelt toast, bananas, brown rice and oats. 
4. Endorphins – Ouch! No more!

Endorphins are chemicals produced by the brain to cope with tension and discomfort. They are your body’s natural painkillers. They help you to keep going even when you are exhausted and are what produces runner’s high (the euphoric feeling of great happiness after exercising). Apart from being a painkiller, it can also help you to focus and as well as help you to improve your overall mood. Benefits of endorphins can include reduced stress and anxiety, higher self-esteem, weight loss, and more.

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  • Watch a funny movie
  • Spicy foods: Your tongue has receptors that react to spice by sending messages to your brain to produce endorphins.
  • Eat dark chocolate which contains compounds such as phenethylamine and theobromine that boost endorphin levels and suppress pain. BONUS - It also reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure and protects the health of your arteries. 
  • Create music or play music that you love

If you're someone who is trying to get high on life the natural way, it's useful to know what types of habits and activities can give you that rush of euphoria. Low levels of these important substances in our brains are associated with things like low mood and depression, pain, loneliness, stress, anxiety, and difficulty feeling motivated. If you’ve ever experienced changes in appetite, mood, energy, self-esteem, anger, changes in weight, or gain/loss of sex drive, chances are that you’re being impacted by these hormones.

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