In his book "Leaders eat Last" , Simon Sinek talks about the 4 main chemicals that fuel happiness. This was discussed in the video I posted earlier. The chemicals are Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin.
Endorphins serve the purpose of masking physical pain, hence we feel it in the high experienced when we undergo a particularly tough workout or run. Laughter also releases endorphins, which help the mask the pain of our organs bobbing around as we convulse physically at the latest chinese-new-year-horse-related pun.
Rather than partaking in chocolates (which also induce our body to release endorphins), having regular exercise presents a healthy way to get this dose of chemical to up our happinesss quotient.
Dopamine is linked to the feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction we experience after the completion of a goal, project of task. It is that sense of accomplishment of having ticked off 5 our the 7 items in the to-do list you created whilst in the john. It is our reward to maintaining focus and resolve to achieve a certain objective, drawn perhaps from the evolutionary need to maintain focus when hunting food over long distances or days.
In practice, we need to have clear goals to work towards, and be aware of those small steps needed to achieve those goals. This might also explain the countless self help advice on writing and formulating your short and long term goals. When we are able to focus on the goal at hand, we get a rush of dopamine to also help us in maintaining that focus and resolve needed to achieve our goal.
This also explains that happiness might lie more in the process of achieving our goals, rather than just the event of having that goal achieved. Which may also be why, once our goal is achieved, we set our sights on a new goal to get that continued rush of dopamine.
Serotonin is that feeling you get when you feel proud that your child has achieved his first steps, and conversely the pride your child experiences having made you proud. It is the feeling we get when we realise that other people truly like and respect us, contributing to our sense of self confidence and boosted self esteem. Along with oxytocin, it is the chemical that makes us social beings, where we desire the need to feel valued amongst our peers and family members (you might also say that my writing of this entry in this blog has contributed to the release of serotonin when I feel valued).
Serotonin might explain our feelings of accountability to people, and the desire to make them proud, and in turn the happiness we know they feel when they are proud of us.
What this means for us in achieving happiness, is that investment we put in others and harbouring that hope that they would do us proud. What can we do to get this surge of serotonin? We find ways to make our family members, friends and colleagues proud of us, and in turn we give opportunities to others to make us proud.
Oxytocin, commonly known as the cuddle chemical, is the experience we get when we feel deep love, friendship and trust. We get this feeling when we do something nice for others, and in turn when someone does something nice for us. It promotes genuineness and empathy for others, and helps create the strong bonds we have with our friends and family. Some might argue that experience of love is the release of oxytocin in our bodies.
Getting a steady dose of oxytocin, includes allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to trusted others, and the people we work with closely. The act of looking out for our peers promotes the release of oxytocin, as is the display of compassion for others. When we carry out acts of kindness and generosity, we promote our own happiness. Interestingly oxytocin is released when we observe acts of kindness. Hence if you be kind to others, you make other witnesses feel touched and happy, and in turn encourage them to perform other acts of kindness. This may also explain why we feel inspired when we hear or see other inspirational acts done by others in social media and the news.
So, do you have a plan on how to get a regular dose of all these 4 chemicals?