Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins, & Oxytocin

You might not have a money tree, but you can have a happiness tree. Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphins are the quartet responsible for your happiness. Many situations can trigger these neurotransmitters, but instead of being in the passenger seat, there are ways you can intentionally cause them to flow.

Being in a positive state has significant impact on your motivation, productivity, and wellbeing. Here are some simple ways to hack into your positive neurochemicals:

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Dopamine motivates you to take action toward your goals, desires, and needs, and gives you a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them. Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine. Studies on rats showed those with low levels of dopamine always opted for an easier option, and less reward/food; those with higher levels of dopamine exerted the effort needed to receive double the amount of food.

Break big goals down into little pieces—rather than only allowing your brain to celebrate when you’ve hit the finish line, you can create a series of little finish-lines which releases dopamine. And it’s crucial to actually celebrate—buy a bottle of wine, or head to your favorite restaurant whenever you meet a small goal.

And avoid the dopamine hangover; when you tank out after a massive high. Create new goals before achieving your current one. That ensures a consistent pattern for experiencing dopamine. As an employer and leader, recognize the accomplishments of your team. Sending an encouraging email, or giving a bonus, will allow them to have a dopamine hit and increase future motivation and productivity.


Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. Loneliness and depression are present when serotonin is absent. It’s why people fall into gangs and criminal activity—the culture and ‘community’ facilitate serotonin release. Unhealthy attention-seeking behaviors are also a cry for what serotonin provides. Princeton neuroscientist Barry Jacobs explains that most antidepressants focus on the production of serotonin.

Reflecting on your past achievements allows your brain to re-live the experience. Your brain has trouble telling the difference between what’s real and imagined, so it produces serotonin in both cases. Gratitude practices are popular for this reason; they’re reminders that you’re valued and significant, and have much to value in life. If you need a serotonin boost during a stressful day, take a few moments to reflect on your past achievements and victories.

Another way to boost your serotonin levels is to have lunch or coffee outside and expose yourself to the sun for twenty minutes; your skin absorbs UV rays which promotes Vitamin-D and serotonin production. Although too much ultraviolet light isn’t good, some daily exposure is healthy for boosting your serotonin levels.


The release of oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and strengthens relationships. It’s released by men and women during orgasm, and by mothers during childbirth and breastfeeding. Animals will reject their offspring when the release of oxytocin is blocked. Oxytocin increases fidelity; men in monogamous relationships who were given a boost of oxytocin interacted with single women at a greater physical distance than men who weren’t given any oxytocin. Oxytocin is the glue that binds together healthy relationships.

Often referred to as “the cuddle hormone,” a simple way to keep oxytocin flowing is to give someone a hug. Dr. Paul Zak explains that inter-personal touch not only raises oxytocin, but reduces cardiovascular stress and improves the immune system. Rather than just a hand-shake, go in for the hug. Dr. Zak recommends eight hugs each day.

Giving someone a gift, will also cause their oxytocin levels rise. You can strengthen work and personal relationships through a simple birthday or anniversary gift.


Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress, and helps to alleviate anxiety and depression. The surging “second wind” and euphoric “runners high” when running are a result of endorphins. Similar to morphine, it acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing your perception of pain.

Along with exercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release. Even the anticipation and expectation of laugher e.g. attending a comedy show, increases levels of endorphins. Taking your sense of humor to work, forwarding that funny email, and finding several things to laugh at during the day is a great way to keep your endorphins flowing.

Aromatherapies: the smell of vanilla and lavender has been linked with the production of endorphins. Studies have shown that dark chocolate and spicy foods will cause your brain to release endorphins. Keep some scented oils and dark chocolate at your desk for a quick endorphin boost.

Infographic created by VisMe.

Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals-Dopamine- Serotonin Endorphins, Oxytocin

For another great article on your happy chemicals, check out Meet Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta G Breuning Ph.D.

20 Responses to “Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins, & Oxytocin”

  1. June 13, 2015

    nick Reply

    Nice and straight forward explanation, have linked to this form our website to help some of our readers.

  2. June 16, 2015

    Maxi Channing Reply

    You are awesome! One of the spiritually blessed and beautiful.

    Check out http://www.matthewbooks.com

    Not my site; just a place I found other inspiration and learning before today. Felt like I needed to share the light.

  3. July 24, 2015

    Luna Darcy Reply

    Hi Tor,

    Love the science behind happiness here.

    Thanks for sharing a valuable and in-depth look on the neurotransmitters responsible for our happiness.


  4. July 26, 2015

    Camilla Hallstrom Reply

    Thai, so refreshing actually reading about the science behind it and how to “hack” happiness (instead of vague tips). Great post!

  5. July 28, 2015

    Ayietim Reply

    Hi, thanks for this. Quite revealing and very useful.

  6. August 22, 2015

    Dianne Reply

    Amazing article. All the need to knows about boosting confidence and good relationships. Thank you so much..

  7. October 27, 2015

    FAQs Reply

    […] about the Power of Play, and Why You Should Go Dancing at Least Once a Week (cognitive acuity, endorphin release, etc.). Making moves […]

  8. […] *adaptación de textos de Thai Nguyen […]

  9. […] Giving is the easiest and most effective way to create happiness. When we give Serotonin is released in our brains which is actually biochemically proven to make us happy! Not only does it make us happy by giving, Seratonin is released in those who receive our generosity and the recipient is happy as well. But most interestingly anyone that witnesses this act of giving Serotonin is released and they are happy as well. So there is no better way to scientifically create happiness than to give! […]

  10. March 18, 2016

    Ravi Reply

    Simply Amazing…Thanks a TON

  11. […] controversial study discovered a mutation of a gene that governs the release of serotonin, one of the four neurochemical transmitters responsible for the feeling of happiness. This […]

  12. […] Desmond Morris, “The Naked Ape” [3] http://www.youramazingbrain.org/lovesex/sciencelove.htm [4] Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals [5] Biological basis of […]

  13. April 22, 2016

    Delson Reply

    Great post! I love the breakdown and actions you offer that release these amazing chemicals in our brain. This further strengthens people’s reason for laughing, joking, hugging, and gratitude – although I wouldn’t see why people really need a reason for these things – they all feel oh-so-good!!! I’m my own internal happiness generator because I do all these things and more on a daily basis. I can laugh anytime, anywhere, and at anything, without any kind of stimulus and my gratitude for the people, things and circumstances in my life are my foundational practice for the Evolve Meditation I do! It’s an ongoing 24/7 process and it can certainly and literally rewire someone’s brain to become a new and better version of themselves!

  14. […] these really great/inconvenient-in-this-situation things called Endorphins, and when we are sad, stressed, or in pain, our brain tries to shift course by releasing a fresh […]

  15. May 2, 2016

    Mitesh Khatri Reply

    Hi, this is a brilliant article i will definitely and immediately share this on my FB and Blog so more people can benefit from your article. I can say your article was a good shot of Dopamine & Oxytocin 🙂

    If it interests you, do check my article on How to Stop Worrying http://www.miteshkhatri.com/stop-worrying-3-simple-steps/

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