What are happiness hormones – and can they really help?
It may sound corny, but it could equally be an aspect of life that you may not have given much thought to: how much better you work and study when you’re happy.
Oxford’s Saïd Business School, working with BT, found late last year that employees are 13% more productive when they’re happy. This was the first causal field evidence of the relationship between happiness and productivity, providing the strongest proof yet of the existence of such a link.
Indeed, the issue is so important that the United Nations (UN) even celebrates the International Day of Happiness every March.
Meanwhile, an ongoing study at Harvard, which began in 1938, found that happiness, particularly regarding our personal relationships with friends, family, and community, has a profound impact on health. Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert has described happiness as ‘frequent positive feelings accompanied by an overall sense that one’s life has meaning’.
In recent years, educational researchers have started to explore the connection between happiness and academic achievement. In the US, Research Schools International joined forces with St Andrew’s Episcopal School, Maryland, and the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, and identified a significant link between successful studying and happiness. On average, those who said they were happier produced better grades.
What are happiness hormones?
Hormones are the chemicals that the glands in our bodies produce. And while they affect bodily functions including heart rate and digestion, they also have an impact on feelings and mood. Indeed, they’re known as the body’s ‘chemical messengers’.
Some hormones help people experience feelings of intense joy and bonding, as well as pleasure. And if you know a bit about these ‘happy hormones’, you can work proactively to naturally increase their levels in your brain. This, in turn, should make you a more productive student.Do you know about ‘happy hormones’ and how you can work proactively to naturally increase their levels in your brain? These can make you a more productive student. Click To Tweet
Here, we look at a few of these hormones:
Your gut produces most of your serotonin, the ‘original happy hormone’. It’s vital for sleep function, mood, digestion, and circadian rhythm. Add more probiotic food and fibre-rich plant-based foods to your diet to help boost its levels.
Exercise, meditation, and exposure to the sun are also all known to enhance its production.
Dubbed the ‘cuddle hormone’, oxytocin promotes trust and bonding. As a neurotransmitter, it can also help control responses to stress, thereby calming your nervous system.
It’s not found in food, but you can naturally increase its levels in your body through actions such as hugging your family, paying someone a compliment, or playing with a pet.
Again, this can help improve mood and help you stay alert. It’s also a part of your brain’s reward system, giving you feelings of pleasure on, say, completing a task, however small. Dopamine isn’t found directly in food, but your body can convert tyrosine, an amino acid, into it via a series of chain reactions. Tyrosine-rich foods include soya and other beans, fish, nuts, whole grain, and dairy products.
You can also boost dopamine by generally looking after yourself and your overall well-being.
These hormones act as the body’s natural painkillers by preventing pain signals from being transmitted in the central nervous system, and they induce euphoria.
They’re related to dopamine in that when they bind the central nervous system’s receptors, this process releases dopamine.
To stimulate endorphins, you could try a pleasure-inducing activity such as nibbling on dark chocolate or luxuriating in a bath with essential oils. Exercise also encourages their production, hence the term “runner’s high”. Alternatively, watch a comedy or do something else to make you laugh.
In conclusion, there are many natural ways of boosting your levels of these ‘happiness hormones’, whether that’s exercising, enjoying a meal with people you love, or varying your diet.
Before long, you should start to notice the difference, in terms of how you feel, and how much useful revision you get done!