You are happy and satisfied. You think you’ve finally gotten control of your feelings. Now, there’s nothing that can steal this sense of calm from you. But you forget…
Nothing is permanent.
As the time passes, your peace goes away. For some silly reason, you feel upset or frustrated.
Does this ever happen to you?
Welcome to the reality, my friend.
While you can train yourself to switch your mindset, no one can ever guarantee full control over their emotions.
We are humans. Complex processes go inside our brain and body.
All your feelings and emotions stem from the neurochemicals and hormones in your body.
Instead of blaming your self-control, you can change the chemistry of your brain to make it easier for yourself to live in a beautiful state of mind. You’ll be able to focus on what’s important to you and keep your mood stable most of the time.
Before we begin, I want to reward you for reading this post. If you do, I will give you my secret hack for optimizing my brain at the end of the post (no email sign up required).
No cheating. Okay?
It’s an opportunity for you to train your mind for patience.
Sounds good? Let’s begin.
While neurotransmitter like glutamate, GABA, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, orexin, and many more control us, below are four major ones that dictate the perception of happiness.
1. You Don’t Lack Willpower, You Need Your Dopamine Dose
Dopamine is released as a response to anticipation of a reward (1). It is responsible for motivation and drive (2). It also helps with attention, cognitive function, creativity, learning, sleep and mood (3).
Extroverted personalities have more dopamine receptors in their brains. They seek more dopamine as they are less sensitive to it. So they seek stimulating activities like socializing as they want to stay aroused from outside world.
Introverts avoid too much stimulation as it could make them anxious or overwhelmed. But if you’re an introvert and you learn to manage your anxiety with practice, you can bring on your extrovert side in a social situation by boosting your dopamine levels (4).
Dopamine plays more functions but by now, you’ve got a pretty good idea of how powerful and important it is. But it comes with its downsides if you have excess levels of dopamine.
Excess dopamine may make you apathetic and give you poor social functioning (9). Seeking too much dopamine from an activity leads to addictive behavior such as drugs, porn, food, social media and video games (10, 11, 12). It can make you more aggressive or competitive and less communal or nurturing (13, 14).
On the flip side, too little dopamine may lead to low motivation, depression, fatigue, attention or memory problems.
Dopamine is the reason we fail to keep the new year resolution. At the time of setting the goal, our dopamine is high, and we feel motivated. But soon, our dopamine levels drop off as we seek novelty and achievement. If we fail to make good progress, we set new goals to get high dopamine and the cycle repeats.
To optimize your dopamine levels, you must first identify your sources of dopamine and seek healthy levels for optimal mood and performance.
You want to diversify the source of your dopamine and make sure you get it from healthy sources.
To increase dopamine levels:
- Check items off of your daily success checklist.
- Break down tasks into smaller to-dos.
- Set healthy rewards for healthy behaviors.
- Declutter or delete.
- Run experiments in your work or do self-experimentation to experience novelty.
- Challenge yourself by getting out of your comfort zone and accomplish great things.
- Learn or do something new.
- Create something.
- Exercise (15).
- Do yoga (16).
- Meditate (17).
- Spend time outside in sunlight or bright light and smell fresh cut grass (18, 19).
- Get a massage (20).
- Keep inflammation low (by avoiding toxins in the air, water, fast food, etc.) (21).
- Listen to pleasurable music (22).
- Get human touch or tickle (23, 24).
- Consume tyrosine-rich foods (meat, fish, avocados, cheese, yogurt, beans, nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soy, and especially bananas), omega 3s (EPA/DHA from fish or algae), green tea, caffeine, resveratrol (red grapes, red wine, peanuts, cocoa, blueberries), folate (vitamin B9 from green leafy vegetables, chickpeas, beans, lentils, avocados, beets, broccoli), curcumin, probiotic (Lactobacillus Plantarum from fermented plants such as sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi), magnesium and iron (cocoa, nuts, seeds, legumes, bananas, leafy greens, avocados) (25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35).
2. Be The Boss Of Your Mood By Controlling Serotonin
Serotonin makes you happy. Anti-depressants focus on increasing serotonin production to help people come out of depression. Not only does serotonin helps with depression (36), it improves your mood during social interactions by decreasing aggression and increasing dominance (37). Who doesn’t want that?
Serotonin plays a role in heart function (38), improves gut-brain connection (39), controls body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing (40, 41). It can also help with food cravings (salt and carbohydrates) and anorexia (eating disorder) (42, 43, 44). The combination of dopamine and serotonin can improve Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (45).
Lack of serotonin may impair immunity functions in the body (46) and disrupt biological clock (47). It could cause migraines (48) and impair memory (49). It may also lead to anxiety disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social phobia and aggression (50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55).
Getting your brain to produce serotonin is as easy as imagining. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination.
To increase serotonin levels:
- Express gratitude. Don’t just write or think about what you’re grateful for. Express it by feeling, saying, sharing and thanking.
- Watch cute puppies, kittens or other baby animals (whatever you’re into).
- Think positive thoughts (56). Remember a memory of achievement or happiness. Visualize your dreams. Look at pictures or videos to help your brain remember or imagine better.
- Exercise (57).
- Meditate (58).
- Connect with positive people (59).
- Walk in nature, spend time in bright sunlight and get vitamin D (60, 61, 62).
- Get good sleep (63).
- Get a massage (64).
- Listen to pleasant music (65).
- Consume tryptophan-rich foods (eggs, meats, fish, yogurt, cheese, sesame seeds, cashew, walnuts, oats, quinoa, brown rice, beans, legumes, bananas, potatoes), omega 3s (EPA/DHA from fish or algae), curcumin, vitamin B6 rich foods (meat, fish, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, beans, avocados, bananas, spinach) and carbohydrates (pro tip: take it from good sources) (66, 67, 68, 69, 70).
3. Cuddle Others (And Heal Your Wounds) With Oxytocin
Oxytocin inhibits the fear response and decreases bad memories (75). It increases romantic attachment and feelings of contentment, calmness, and security (76). It reduces stress response, decreases inflammation and promotes wound healing (77, 78). How great is that?
To increase oxytocin levels:
- Give a gift or do random acts of kindness.
- Help, support, encourage, inspire, motivate or compliment others.
- Listen to others for deep connection.
- Express your emotions (smile, laugh, cry).
- Nurse a baby.
- Pet a dog (79).
- Exercise (80).
- Do yoga (81).
- Have positive social interactions (82).
- Smell Jasmine or Lavender (83, 84).
- Take warm showers or get in warm temperature (85).
- Get a massage (86).
- Listen to soothing music (87).
- Do kindness meditation (88).
- Hug, cuddle, touch, kiss, love, have sex (89).
- Consume caffeine, magnesium (cocoa, nuts, seeds, legumes, bananas, leafy greens, avocados), sage, and fenugreek (90, 91, 92).
4. Feel Less Pain And Get “High” Without Taking Drugs By Inducing Endorphins
Endorphins give you the feeling of “high”. It may help you overcome addictions as you can get the feeling without using any drug. I will give you only the natural and healthy ways to boost your endorphins.
To increase endorphins levels:
- Exercise (95).
- Play (96).
- Laugh (97).
- Spend time with your friends (98).
- Spend time in sunlight (99).
- Take cold showers or hold your breath (100, 101).
- Take warm showers or sauna (102, 103).
- Meditate (104).
- Get good stress (105).
- Get good sleep (106).
- Listen to music (107).
- Get a massage or acupuncture (108, 109).
- Consume magnesium (cocoa, nuts, seeds, legumes, bananas, leafy greens, avocados), chili, and probiotic (Lactobacillus Acidophilus from yogurt, kefir, miso or tempeh) (110, 111, 112).
Using This Information…
That’s a lot of information to take in. My goal is not to give you straight facts or throw a bunch of studies at you. I want you to put this information into action.
Instead of relying on your brain to remember the information, here’s what to do next:
- Save this article.
- When you feel low motivation, get your dopamine dose (from the ways mentioned above).
- When you want to change your mood, get your serotonin dose.
- When you feel lonely or self-absorbed, get your oxytocin dose.
- When you want to take a break to experience euphoric feelings, get your endorphins dose.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for the cues to get your dosage. Make sure you regularly do the most impactful actions that produce “feel good” neurochemicals.
The key actions are:
- Listening to music.
- Getting good sleep.
- Taking hot and cold showers.
- Having positive social interactions.
- Spending time in nature and getting sunlight.
- Getting a massage and doing yoga. (I use a foam roller for self-massage)
- Eating a high-quality diet with adequate protein, healthy fats, and micronutrients (especially magnesium).
My secret hack…
Now it’s time for the secret hack I promised to give you at the beginning of the post.
Here’s your bonus tip…
Consume cocoa powder or dark chocolate. Not only does it contain high amounts of magnesium (which is great for dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins production), cocoa flavanols especially help in dopamine, serotonin and endorphins production (113). It helps your brain produce Phenylethylamine which is the same compound that is produced when you fall in love.
Cocoa solves everything. Higher the percentage of cocoa in a dark chocolate, the better. Or you can blend pure cocoa powder in your smoothies.
Take care of the basics and take your neurochemical dose as needed.
You are the average of your friends. It holds true for your mental wellbeing too.
Share this post with your loved ones to get small dose of oxytocin now.
Now go, and optimize your brain to stay productive, motivated, happy, and calm most of your life.
Success is a result of daily actions…