There will always be factors outside of your control that can add unwanted stress and negativity to your life. But there are some small things you can do for yourself today to bring more happiness into your life.

These little changes might seem insignificant, and maybe you’re even sceptical. You’ve probably heard “Try going for a walk” when you’re down, as if that would solve every problem in your life.

Small practices such as “going for a walk” won’t solve everything, but they can make a big difference. Adding self-care and some “me time”, however short, to your daily schedule will slowly build up.

It’s like a savings account; it seems like that little bit of money isn’t even worth it, but then you realize one day it really has made a difference. Understanding the science behind contentment is useful to explain why these small activities really can improve mood.

There are four body-manufactured chemicals that affect happiness; Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Endorphins.

Serotonin is a chemical responsible for carrying signals from one part of the brain to another. It helps reduce anxiety and depression, and most simply put it’s the body’s mood stabilizer.  There are ways to help the body release serotonin:

  1. Meditating – The world is a fast-moving place, and there’s always something that needs to be done. All of this rapidfire stress can take a toll on the body and mind. Don’t forget to slow down once in a while. Your mind needs a rest sometimes, just like your body does.
  2. Sun exposure- Getting some sunlight is a two-for-one deal as it helps your body produce serotonin, as well as Vitamin D (Which helps keeps your bones, teeth, and muscles healthy)
  3. Walk in nature- Take some time out of your hectic schedule for a relaxing walk through the park, or anywhere else you can see trees, plants, animals, and all the other beautiful things outside.
  4. Swimming- Not only is it great exercise, swimming helps the body release serotonin and endorphins.
  5. Cycling- Taking your bicycle out for a ride can reduce cortisol (stress hormones), and in turn boost your serotonin levels.

Dopamine, like serotonin, is a chemical that sends messages in your brain. Its responsibility is to help you feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. More simply put, it’s the reward chemical. There are ways to boost this chemical:

  1. Completing a task- No matter how simple, completing a task can help increase your dopamine levels.
  2. Self-care- Take care of your body and it will take care of you. Self-care goes a long way to help you feel better. Having a hot bath, doing some skin care, or otherwise relaxing and unwinding will increase your reward chemicals.
  3. Celebrate little wins- You turned in that assignment early, or drank enough water today? Take time to appreciate the little things, no matter how small they seem.
  4. Journaling and writing things down- Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper can help lower your stress levels, and increase your dopamine. Writing to do lists also helps as you now don’t have to stress about trying to remember everything ( Plus, checking off your accomplishments is super satisfying!)
  5. Positive affirmations- Practice saying or writing positive affirmations about yourself, and slowly but surely you’ll start to believe them.

Oxytocin is a hormone associated with relationship-building, trust, sexual activity, and empathy. It’s commonly referred to as the love hormone. There are ways to help increase Oxytocin:

  1. Playing with a pet – Playing with or petting a cat, dog, or other pet can help release oxytocin while lowering cortisol.
  2. Spend time with friends – Hanging out with your friends isn’t just fun, it also helps boost your oxytocin levels as the hormone has a lot to do with relationships and being social.
  3. Yoga- The focus on breathing and relaxed movement is perfect for the release of oxytocin, while simultaneously lowering your stress and anxiety levels.
  4. Hugging- Physical touch like hugging your friends or family, or cuddling or holding hands with someone also releases the hormone.
  5. Giving compliments – Complimenting others is a great way to spread love, and not only does it make them feel good it helps you too!

Endorphins are chemicals the brain creates to lower pain and stress. They’re essentially a natural painkiller. There are ways to support the body to release endorphins:

  1. Laughter exercise- Have you heard of laughter yoga? It’s voluntary laughing with the aim of getting the same benefits of involuntary laughter.
  2. Essential oils- Different essential oils have different effects. Try out citrus scents like bergamot, orange, or grapefruit to increase endorphins.
  3. Watch a comedy- Put on your favorite funny movie or show and start laughing. Not only is the familiarity of an old favorite comforting, laughter is great for releasing endorphins and boosting your mood.
  4. Dark chocolate- In addition to a plethora of other health benefits, eating dark chocolate actually stimulates the production of endorphins in your body.
  5. Exercising- Possibly one of the best known ways of increasing mood, exercise actually helps you relax and feel better by upping your levels of endorphins and serotonin.

Sources:

https://www.psycom.net/serotonin

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275795

https://www.thehealthy.com/nutrition/health-benefits-of-chocolate/