People have always struggled to define happiness or wondered how to obtain it. Happiness seems to be an ideal, something very hard to achieve, and there is no secret recipe for this. Mostly it is something subjective, a feeling that is very hard to describe. But what is causing happiness? Why do we feel so good when we receive a text message from our crush, or when we eat our favorite dish? Is it so hard to find happiness or is there something that activates it? Studies revealed that our brain releases 4 main chemicals that help us experience happiness. Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins (most of the time used as an abbreviation – D.O.S.E.) seem to have the key to our happiness.
This hormone helps us set goals, keeps us motivated, and is what you feel when you checked a task on your to-do list. Probably you have noticed how much time you spend on your phone – well, this addiction is created by the feeling you get after receiving notifications from social media platforms.
Although it seems to be a problematic issue – because it is creating addiction – this is not the long-lasting happiness you would be able to experience. It will last long enough to check if somebody liked your picture on Instagram.
Oxytocin is what you feel after having physical contact with someone close to you. It is also called the hugging drug and it is mainly produced because we are social animals and we need to socialize. Imagine this: you have a bad day at the workplace. You feel the need to go out with your friends. Your mood improves considerably when you met them and feel even better if you share a meal with someone special to you.
Positive interactions, such as making a gift, getting attention when you need, or being listened to is the secret behind oxytocin. To wrap things up, if we want to savor this feeling we have to engage in positive social interactions.
Serotonin is the chemical our brain releases when we accomplished something. For instance, is what you feel after graduating and getting your diploma, after winning a game or getting a promotion. Shortly, it is related to pride, loyalty, and status.
Moreover, serotonin means recognition from other people. Is what you feel when you did a great job and your colleagues (or even better, your boss) congratulate you. This hormone what motivates us to excel.
Endorphins are the hormones released by our brain to relieve stress and pain. Take for example the stomach pain after a good laugh. If we analyze the etymology of the word, we notice two different words put together. “Endogenous” means from the body, and “morphine” is an opiate pain reliever. Endorphins are natural reward circuits we get from activities like eating, physical exercise, or sexual intercourse. Their main purpose is to minimize pain and discomfort and to maximize pleasure.
Did we find happiness now that we know how the brain and chemicals work?