Love & Bonding Boosts Oxytocin for Happiness

In previous posts on Dopamine and Serotonin, it has been pointed out that each person experiences happiness through positive emotional states brought about by a mix of brain chemicals.  Each chemical has an important part to play in happiness.  A major well-being booster of happiness is oxytocin.

Oxytocin has been called ‘the ‘love drug’ by some. An example would be Gary Vey’s blog Understanding LOVE and Oxytocin.  “Bonding provides comfort, safety, security, less anxiety and less fear through the release of oxytocin which inhibits brain centers that usually produce the opposite feelings. Bonding is the behavior that the neural network is hardwired to reward. Bonding also appears to promote health and prolong life.”

One great source of insight on oxytocin is Self-soothing behaviors with particular reference to oxytocin release induced by non-noxious sensory stimulation from Frontiers In Psychology.  “Oxytocin is released in response to activation of sensory nerves during labor, breastfeeding and sexual activity. In addition oxytocin is released in response to low intensity stimulation of the skin, e.g., in response to touch, stroking, warm temperature, etc.” The study goes on to say that “Oxytocin is released in response to pleasant mental experiences. Such a release of oxytocin may, e.g., be induced by seeing, hearing, smelling, or thinking of well known and loved persons…” and so having deep and trusting relations at work where you have bonded with your colleagues is very important.  Another interesting item from this study is the effect of owing and petting dogs which provide for a nice boost of oxytocin…I wonder if it works for cats too?

Effects of oxytocin administration on spirituality and emotional responses to meditation comes from one of my heros, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson.  Dr. Fredrickson and her colleagues published a nice study in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.  This new 2016 research shows “…the first experimental evidence that spirituality, endorsed by millions worldwide, appears to be supported by OT(Oxytocin)” and “…It also boosted participants’ experience of specific positive emotions during meditation, at both explicit and implicit levels.” Yet more research about how great meditation and connectedness are so important.

Oxytocin is awesome stuff for sure.  As Happywork is about workplace happiness, it is worth asking how this applies to a work setting? Well, some key takeaways are:

  1. Create trust and bonding at work through items like brainstorms where everyone is encouraged to speak, all ideas are welcome and no one interrupts to create an open and supportive environment.
  2. Take the time to get to know who you work with on an ever-increasing deeper level.  The time will create opportunities to open up and trust the relationship.
  3. Consider a dog-friendly work space like we have at Avvo!
  4. Meditate, meditate, meditate…it has so many great benefits.  I love to start my day off with some meditation in a park on my walk to work as well as a mid-afternoon refresher.

Boost Serotonin to Improve and Regulate Happiness

In a previous post on Healthy Ways To Boost Dopamine for Happiness, it was pointed out that each person experiences happiness differently.  Positive emotional states are brought about by brain chemistry.  When we are happy, it is usually from a mix of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphin.

Each of these chemicals have an important part to play in happiness.  A major regulator of happiness is serotonin. Medical News Today with James McIntosh and Dr Helen Webberley point out that “serotonin is thought to be especially active in constricting smooth muscles, transmitting impulses between nerve cells, regulating cyclic body processes and contributing to wellbeing and happiness.” In other words, serotonin helps  to keep our body running well by stabilizing body functions like mood and appetite.  Serotonin is a main component in some antidepressants and eating disorder medication.

Also, Christopher Bergland  in The Neurochemicals of Happiness calls serotonin “the confidence molecule” and talks about a “higher serotonin and a lack of rejection sensitivity allows people to put themselves in situations that will bolster self-esteem, increase feelings of worthiness.” Bergland goes on to say that as well as being “able to say ‘I did it!’ will produce a feedback loop that will reinforce behaviors that build self esteem and make you less insecure and create an upward spiral of more and more serotonin.”  I am all about upward spirals of feeling good!

Now that you know a lot more about serotonin, how can you get more of it? In Why You Need More Serotonin and How to Get it, Emily Roberts suggests:

  1. Get tested to see if you are low on serotonin
  2. Take care of your gut as 80% or more of serotonin production come from your GI
  3. Get serious about managing your stress
  4. Exercise

So, as a happiness consultant, I recommend to eat healthy with lots of probiotics and go for a walk to allow yourself to feel pride in taking such great care of yourself and managing your stress.  Also, before you go to bed, give yourself an ‘atta-boy/girl’ for cultivating more serotonin for your happiness.  I like to close my day by putting a quick entry into my happywork Evernote journal so it is the last thing on my mind as I drift off to sleep.  Give it a try and let me know how it works.

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Website: Happyworkteam.com

Email: happyworkteam@gmail.com

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Dopamine and how to boost happiness

Each person experiences happiness differently.  There are differing degrees of positive emotional states brought about by brain chemistry in each of us.  The same event may invoke a different mix of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphin that make us happy.

Each of these chemicals have an important part to play in happiness.  However, dopamine seems to have the largest part to play as the drive of our pleasure / reward system in our brain. Its activity spans so many of the key positive emotional states that we commonly share as happiness: joy, bliss, butterflies in the stomach, zest for life and the drive towards achievement are some examples.

As a powerhouse of happiness, there is a great upside and downside potential.  Unfortunately, we can get our dopamine fix by some very self-destructive means like gambling, drugs and alcohol or over-eating bad foods. I myself have sought out caffeine and sugar to give me a ‘pick-me-up’ in the past and probably have gone over-board few times.  The same goes for my use of my mobile phone where, at times, it has been my constant ‘pacifier’ to help me escape during stressful periods.

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Luckily, there are some very healthy ways to boost dopamine.  On the awesome website Brainfit, Deane Alban helps readers focus on How to Increase Dopamine Naturally.  Among the tips given, a few of my favorites are:

  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Exercise (double-points for endorphins!)
  • Avocado
  • Curcumin (active ingredient in the spice turmeric)
  • Meditation
  • Creative hobbies (like wood working)
  • Green tea
  • Sauerkraut (mmmm…sour yumminess)
  • Listening to your favorite music
  • Creating and achieving short, mid and long-term goals
  • Watermelon (mmmm…sweat summer yumminess!)
  • Trying something new to learn