The Hormones Behind Happiness: How to Naturally Boost Dopamine and Serotonin

This story is part of Tech for a Better World, stories about the diverse teams creating products, apps and services to improve our lives and society.

From rising gas prices and surging inflation to the overall day-to-day worries of balancing work and life, there’s so much occurring on this planet that may contribute to excessive ranges of stress and anxiousness. But there are additionally many rituals that deliver me happiness: that first sip of espresso within the morning, cuddles with my kitten, journaling every day and getting some exercise. Now greater than ever, I’m leaning into these small practices that make a distinction in my day. 

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While a cup of espresso will not change whether or not you are feeling really fulfilled, in unsure instances, there’s worth in boosting your temper when you possibly can.

There are 4 principal hormones (a sort of chemical your physique makes) that set off emotions of happiness, and every chemical is linked to particular occasions or rewards. Understanding these chemical substances and how they work can assist you determine even small methods to really feel higher amid such a traumatic time.

To clarify precisely how these “happiness” chemical substances work, I spoke to Loretta Breuning, founding father of the Inner Mammal Institute and writer of Habits of a Happy Brain.

Happy chemical substances: The secret to a contented mind 

Almost all the things that makes you are feeling “comfortable” is linked to one of many 4 happiness hormones: dopamine, serotonin, endorphin and oxytocin. Here are some methods you possibly can enhance them naturally.


The hormone dopamine is related to motivation and reward. It’s why you are feeling gumption whenever you set an thrilling or vital objective, and why it feels good to attain that objective. On the flip aspect, in case you have low dopamine (which specialists say can occur with depression), it might probably clarify emotions of low motivation or lack of curiosity in one thing you used to get pleasure from.

Middle aged man playing tennis

Committing to a interest or sport can enhance your dopamine. 

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“Approaching a reward triggers dopamine. When a lion approaches a gazelle, her dopamine surges and the power she wants for the hunt is launched. Your ancestors launched dopamine after they discovered a water gap,” Breuning says. “The expectation of a reward triggers a superb feeling within the mammal mind, and releases the power you want to attain the reward.” 

How to enhance dopamine: 

There are some not-so-healthy habits that improve dopamine like drinking caffeine, consuming sugar or taking sure leisure medicine. But you’ll find methods to kick this hormone up with out turning to doubtlessly unhealthy or addictive substances. 

“Embrace a brand new objective and take small steps towards it every single day. Your mind will reward you with dopamine every time you’re taking a step. The repetition will construct a brand new dopamine pathway till it is sufficiently big to compete with the dopamine behavior that you simply’re higher off with out,” Breuning says. 

You could have already got targets set round your profession, work or how a lot cash you need to make. But remember private targets. Committing to a rewarding interest or sport might be simply as gratifying as skilled targets. Don’t simply set just a few massive targets that can take longer to full — additionally undertake shorter-term targets so that you keep motivated.

“Set a short-run, long-run, and middle-term objective so you’ll all the time be approaching one when one other is blocked. Focus on issues you may have management over and do not await others to set your targets for you,” Breuning says.


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that performs a job in temper, but it surely additionally helps regulate other functions in your physique like digestion, sleep and bone well being. When it comes to happiness and how you are feeling every single day, serotonin is vital for reducing depression and regulating anxiety.

How to enhance serotonin:

“Confidence triggers serotonin. Monkeys strive to one-up one another as a result of it stimulates their serotonin. People typically do the identical,” Breuning says. You’ve most likely by no means considered confidence on a neurochemical degree, however in accordance to Breuning, when you do not prioritize confidence, your serotonin ranges might take successful. 

If you’re trapped in a cycle of low shallowness or have had others undermine your confidence, it may be exhausting to construct it again up. It could sound unusual, however do not ignore your want for respect and standing. 

“You can develop your perception in your individual price. If you focus in your losses you’ll depress your serotonin, even when you’re a rock star or a CEO. You can construct the behavior of focusing in your wins. Your serotonin will undergo when you do not,” Breuning says. 

Besides specializing in what you’ve got achieved in life, it’s also possible to construct confidence in different methods. One manner to do that is by understanding or adopting a new exercise routine, which helps bolster your confidence whenever you stick to it over time. Something else you possibly can strive is discovering methods to get out of your comfort zone every day. Every day that you simply problem your self to adapt to one thing new, even when it feels uncomfortable at first, you construct extra confidence. 


Oxytocin is typically referred to as the “love” hormone and is related to how folks bond and belief one another. Certain actions like kissing, hugging and having intercourse can set off the discharge of oxytocin within the mind. 

It explains why you feel happy when you pet or cuddle with your pets. It’s vital in childbirth since oxytocin helps the mom’s uterus contract to ship the child, and oxytocin performs a job in breastfeeding too. It additionally helps mother and father bond with a child after start.

How to enhance oxytocin:

You can enhance oxytocin by being bodily intimate with others. But apart from the bodily side, it is vital to know that there is an emotional connection to how oxytocin is launched.

“Social belief is what triggers oxytocin. If you hug somebody you do not belief, it does not really feel good. Trust comes first. You can construct social belief by taking small optimistic steps towards folks,” Breuning says. 

You can attain out to a good friend or contact you need to get to know higher. Send somebody a thanks word or a card simply to inform them you are fascinated with them. “Take a small step towards somebody every day, and they might reciprocate months later, however when you hold doing it you’ll construct belief networks,” Breuning says. 


Endorphins are notoriously linked with train: It’s the phenomenon that explains the runner’s excessive or post-workout endorphin “rush.” They operate as “pure painkillers” that assist decrease ache and maximize pleasure. This chemical expertise can clarify why a runner could give you the chance to push by means of a race with an harm that they do not discover till it is over.

“In the state of nature, it helps an injured animal escape from a predator. It helped our ancestors run for assist when injured. Endorphins advanced for survival, not for partying. If you had been excessive on endorphins on a regular basis, you’ll contact scorching stoves and stroll on damaged legs,” Breuning explains.

How to enhance endorphins:

Laughter is a technique to enhance endorphins naturally. So is consuming dark chocolate, watching your favorite drama on Netflix, working out and meditating

Endorphins are launched in response to ache, however that does not imply you must search out methods to trigger your self hurt (like by overexercising or pushing your self past your limits) simply to really feel good. 

“Inflicting hurt on your self to stimulate endorphins is a foul survival technique. Fortunately, there are higher methods: laughing and stretching. Both of those jiggle your innards in irregular methods, inflicting average put on and tear and average endorphin circulation,” she says.

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