The Secret to a Happy Brain: How to Boost Your Stress-Fighting Hormones

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.

I’m stressed a lot. But are you able to blame me? There’s a lot occurring on this planet that’s anxiety-inducing. From rising gas prices and surging inflation to the final day-to-day worries of balancing work and life, there’s a lot that may actually weigh on my thoughts. But there are additionally many rituals that convey 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’re feeling actually fulfilled, in unsure occasions, there’s worth in boosting your temper when you’ll be able to.

There are 4 most important 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 the way they work may also help you determine even small methods to really feel higher amid such a tense 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 completely happy mind 

Almost the whole lot that makes you’re feeling “completely happy” is linked to one of many 4 happiness hormones: dopamine, serotonin, endorphin and oxytocin. Here are some methods you’ll be able to increase them naturally.


The hormone dopamine is related to motivation and reward. It’s why you’re feeling gumption once you set an thrilling or essential aim, and why it feels good to attain that aim. On the flip facet, when you’ve got low dopamine (which specialists say can occur with depression), it may 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 increase your dopamine. 

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

How to increase dopamine: 

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

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

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

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


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that performs a function in temper, however it additionally helps regulate other functions in your physique like digestion, sleep and bone well being. When it comes to happiness and the way you’re feeling each day, serotonin is essential for reducing depression and regulating anxiety.

How to increase serotonin:

“Confidence triggers serotonin. Monkeys strive to one-up one another as a result of it stimulates their serotonin. People usually do the identical,” Breuning says. You’ve in all probability by no means thought of confidence on a neurochemical stage, however in accordance to Breuning, should you do not prioritize confidence, your serotonin ranges might take a hit. 

If you might be trapped in a cycle of low vanity or have had others undermine your confidence, it may be arduous 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 personal value. If you focus in your losses you’ll depress your serotonin, even should you’re a rock star or a CEO. You can construct the behavior of focusing in your wins. Your serotonin will endure should you do not,” Breuning says. 

Besides specializing in what you’ve got achieved in life, you may as well construct confidence in different methods. One method to do that is by figuring out or adopting a new exercise routine, which helps bolster your confidence once you stick to it over time. Something else you’ll be able to strive is discovering methods to get out of your comfort zone every day. Every day that you just problem your self to adapt to one thing new, even when it feels uncomfortable at first, you construct extra confidence. 


Oxytocin is usually known 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 essential in childbirth since oxytocin helps the mom’s uterus contract to ship the infant, and oxytocin performs a function in breastfeeding too. It additionally helps mother and father bond with a child after delivery.

How to increase oxytocin:

You can increase oxytocin by being bodily intimate with others. But apart from the bodily facet, it is essential 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 would 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 buddy or contact you want to get to know higher. Send somebody a thanks observe or a card simply to inform them you are fascinated with them. “Take a small step towards somebody every day, and so they could reciprocate months later, however should you preserve 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 perform 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 via 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 have been excessive on endorphins on a regular basis, you’ll contact sizzling stoves and stroll on damaged legs,” Breuning explains.

How to increase endorphins:

Laughter is a technique to increase 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 need to hunt down 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 dangerous survival technique. Fortunately, there are higher methods: laughing and stretching. Both of those jiggle your innards in irregular methods, inflicting reasonable put on and tear and reasonable endorphin circulate,” she says.

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