Hacking Happiness {the science stuff in simple terms}

This is not going to be one of those articles that helps you find purpose in life- although those are quite a big deal. I'm here to explain something a bit more technical and chemistry-ish, but SO freaking important to understanding yourself, your mood swings, and how to make small changes that make a humongous difference in your ACTUAL CHEMICAL BRAIN BALANCE {aka: happiness}.

First things first, here is the "barbershop quartet" that is responsible for the happiness balance in your good 'ole noggin. 

 {yes, here's the link to Jimmy Fallon's hilarious barbershop quartet video. Please watch.}

  1. Dopamine {the motivator}
  2. Serotonin {the self-confident one}
  3. Oxytocin {the love bug}
  4. Endorphins {the pain killer}

Now, you don't have to understand the science behind all of these babies {lucky for us, right?}, but it's a big help to understand how you can boost them. You don't have to get on the prozac train- unless of course you have a serious condition. For the most part, we ladies just make a series of lazy decisions that spiral us into what I will call the "barbershop quartet deficiency". These boys work together, so you really need all four to be "singing in tune" to feel that happiness balance. Ok, that's enough barbershop analogies...;) Let's break these down.


  • Dopamine

WHAT: Here's the motivator, the chemical that gets us closer to our goals, our dreams, needs, and the one that gives us that pleasure when those things are achieved. Doubting yourself, lack of enthusiasm, and even procrastination {aka: laziness} are all linked with low levels of dopamine.

B/C: You don't want to have a dopamine hangover! That's why little, daily goals are just as important as the big bazookas. The dopamine "high" with the small goals isn't as intense, but it gets you through your day without feeling like you have no more room for growth.

TRY: Instead of making insanely unachievable goals, break them into smaller pieces. That way, you can celebrate more often! For example: instead of trying to work out every single day for an hour, try the first ten minutes of your day. Even just stretches or a few yoga positions. This way, when you achieve your goal, you believe in your ability to set bigger goals! 

Make a small daily goal, a medium weekly goal, a large monthly goal, and a super humongous yearly goal. Give yourself different levels of achievement and different rewards! {a bottle of wine, a night out, a trip to Hawaii, etc...}


  • Serotonin

WHAT: When you feel important and significant, you have enough serotonin flowing. Depression and loneliness are the biggest side effects of serotonin deficiency. Lots of times, "loners" or kids that have been picked on in their childhood experience a lack of serotonin and are actually more likely to get involved in gangs and/or criminal activity... because it makes them feel "included" and significant. So OBVIOUSLY this is a biggie!

B/C: Most anti-depressants are serotonin-oriented. Now, please don't think you need to throw all your pills away {and PLEASE don't do so without consulting your physician}. However, anti-depressants are expensive! Not only that, but wouldn't you rather find a way to live without them, if possible? Yes. The answer is yes. 

TRY: Being thankful and remembering past achievements is a great way to up your serotonin. Have you ever met someone who is ALWAYS complaining? They are some of the most unhappy people ever! And the crazy thing is, that someone in a third world country, with no fresh water can actually be happier because of their level of gratitude/ levels of serotonin. Cray cray! 

Take a minute or two in your day {lunch break, morning coffee, etc...} and just reflect on your achievements, your blessings, your victories. Don't think about things that need to be done- just for a minute. Focus on the checkmarks you've gotten to make on your life list. ALSO, 20 minutes of sun exposure boosts vitamin D and serotonin production. So maybe have your coffee outside instead of the crowded little tables indoors {to all of you in the frigid winter temperatures... might have to skip the outside advice}.


  • Oxytocin

WHAT: This one is know as the "love bug" or the "cuddle hormone". Oxytocin is released by men and women during orgasm {but this isn't the kind of article to help you get those... sorry!}. Hugs are a big one too- and those are a bit easier:) 

B/C: Oxytocin is proven to increase fidelity {faithfulness} in relationships- and it is essential to create strong bonds and even more daily, social interactions.

TRY: Just give more hugs. Honestly. But real, meaningful ones. Like the kind of hugs that you imagine Winnie-the-Pooh would give Piglet on a rainy day. Eight hugs a day is what most doctors recommend. So hug away!

  • Endorphins

WHAT: Endorphins are the workout hormone. They're the ones that help you run much further than you thought, do way more push-ups than you can handle, and while you're doing all of those... it seems like you're not in pain. AND THEN THE NEXT DAY... yeah. Some people refer to it as a "second wind" or a "runner's high". They're very similar to morphine in the way that they effect our bodies- diminishing our perception of pain.

B/C: Most pain-killers {hydrocodone, oxycontin, morphine, etc...} are HIGHLY addictive. In fact, you probably know a friend or family member who battles/battled an addiction to one of those guys. In cases of severe injury, obviously those are the way to go. However, regulating your endorphin levels is vital to battle those dangerous addictions!

TRY: So maybe you're not a huge fan of lifting weights or running a marathon. That's okay! You're in good company, ladies:) I've found that even babysitting my nieces and nephews makes me so energetic and happy. Laughter, or even the anticipation of laughter (like putting on Dumb and Dumber!) increases those endorphin levels.

This week, forward a funny meme or make your background picture something that makes you laugh. Put on your favorite comedy, go to a comedy show, get in a tickle fight... Or you can always go to that spinning class;)


Most importantly, take it one step at a time, one day at a time. Just like a crash diet doesn't do anything but leave you hungry and lacking in actual results... a "crash happy diet" is much the same. Small goals and small changes will add up to BIG results! Happy happiness hunting to you all:)


<3 Agnes S.

1 comment

Loved this Agnes! Practical, and fun to read. I always appreciate science that I can understand ??

Margo January 18, 2017

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