Happiness Hormones

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


Dopamine. Serotonin.

You’ve probably heard of the “happiness hormones”, but when your mental health isn’t where you want it to be, it can seem completely unobtainable to feel happy. So how can you introduce more of these depression-reducing, anxiety-combative hormones into your brain?

1. Get or give a hug.

Maybe you’re not a “huggy person,” but even if you’re not, hugs are a great way to trigger a release of serotonin. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer, and high levels of serotonin increase feelings of pleasure and alleviate feelings of sadness. For people with high levels of anxiety or overwhelming depression, a hug can release the emotional pressure enough to allow them to see more clearly and cope more effectively. Some studies even show that the serotonin increase released by hugs can prolong life spans by 5-10 years! 

2. Laugh

“But how can I laugh if I’m not happy?” It’s a fair question. The truth of the matter is that even though laughter is generally thought of as a way to express joy, laughter can also express nervousness or even pain. Regardless of what it expresses, laughing releases dopamine, the same chemical as eating chocolate, which helps increase happiness and promote a positive outlook. So, turn on your favorite movie that makes you laugh, or talk to someone you feel comfortable expressing emotions with, and laugh a little.

3. Sleep

This may seem contradictory since dopamine increases alertness, but studies have shown that sleep deprivation decreases the amount of dopamine receptors . While this does make it easier to fall asleep, it also affects concentration, coordination, and motivation, as well as decreased feelings of pleasure. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep each night, ideally combined with consistent sleep and wake times.

4. Get some sun

Don’t tell your dermatologist we told you to go tanning, because that isn’t quite what we’re saying. Just like everything else on this list, we recommend sunlight consumption in moderation. What we are saying is that if you’re at home, open your windows, if you’re in the office, take that cubicle by the window, and if you’re free, take some time to walk around outside. Decreased sunlight can increase the risk of blocked dopamine and serotonin receptors, and one study even showed that people with more sunlight consumption in a 30 day period had a higher density of dopamine receptors! 

5. Eat Protein

You’re probably aware that protein is crucial to a balanced diet, muscle maintenance, and physical well-being, but have you ever contemplated how it impacts your mental health? Besides the fact that your mind is the most complex organ in your body, protein is comprised of a variety of smaller pieces, called amino acids. In the human body, typically there are 20 amino acids normally present, and each amino acid plays an important role. In the production of happiness hormones in particular, the amino acids tyrosine  and phenylalanine  are crucial. When your body consumes protein, these two amino acids are processed and used to create dopamine, which improves memory and increases the ability to feel pleasure.

Next time you’re feeling down, give one of our happiness hormone tips and let us know in the comments what works for you!

Request Appointment

*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.