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Mental Health

How to activate your Happy Brain Chemicals

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to be happier during 2021, we have some key information that can help boost your happy hormones. Inside our brains, there are four primary chemicals that activate happiness: serotonin, dopamine, endorphin, and oxytocin. When we feel sensations of joy and positivity, it is the work of these brain chemicals. If this past year was full of weary, hopeless days, rewire your brain to fulfill this new year with positive emotions. 



Known as the original happy hormone, serotonin is responsible for being the mood stabilizer. It regulates happiness and anxiety, thus low levels of serotonin of this chemical often leads to depression. According to Healthline.com, normal levels of serotonin enables people to feel happier, calmer, more focused, and less anxious. There are different ways that can help stabilize our emotions. Some simple methods include: getting sunlight exposure, exercising, meditating, and even recalling happy memories.



Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with reward and motivation. This “feel good” chemical influences how we feel pleasure as well as facilitating our motivational behavior. It is through dopamine that we are able to go through our long to-do lists and be productive. Dopamine is released during pleasurable situations such as completing a task, eating a delicious meal, shopping, or during times of self-care. 



Endorphin functions as the painkiller, diminishing our perception of pain and boosting pleasure. These chemicals are the ones that allow us to persist and push our bodies beyond our comfort zone during long runs and cardio workouts. While exercising and staying active is a great way to activate endorphins, we can also trigger these chemicals by laughing out loud, enjoying a movie or trying aromatherapy. 



Oxytocin is the love hormone and is released during physical contact with other people and human bonding--oxytocin levels can increase even while hugging someone. Positive social interactions such as working with others, sharing a nice meal or opening up to someone emotionally enables oxytocin to activate. Although it is difficult to physically connect with others during this pandemic, spending quality time with family at home and engaging in any of the activities that boost your happy hormones will augment your wellbeing. 

Lauren Kim is a California native and a third year student at the University of San Diego. She is currently a Communication major and Business minor. Being in college, Lauren has a growing enthusiasm for marketing and branding. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts, documenting food adventures in her foodie insta account, watching movies and exploring the city.
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