Happy little scientist making experiment

The “Happiness Chemicals” and How to Benefit from them at Work

When someone falls in love, you hear people saying: “See how they are glowing, see how happy they are” and that’s the chemistry of love.

We experience our emotions not just in our minds, but in our bodies too, and they release chemical signals.  When we are in love, they are wonderful, such as dopamine, that gives us pleasure and oxytocin which is bonding us to others.

When under stress, our body chemistry changes too and it is completely different chemistry when you are under stress and worrying about something.

One of the ways I learned about neuroscience was through the Neuromindfulness Institute and their program, an amazing program for someone like me being previously educated in social studies.

The reason for signing up for this course was to deeper my own understanding of emotions and emotional resilience, as my work is much around training & coaching people on applying emotional intelligence at work, so I wanted to back up my knowledge with science-based evidence and data on those.

So, as mentioned If we picture love in our mind, the brain releases some very wonderful chemicals in your body and whatever the picture in the mind is, in other words, whatever that we are thinking of, the brain translates it into chemistry.

In Emotional Intelligence by the “Six Seconds”, we have a very useful model, called the TFA model (THINK-FEEL-ACT) that supports this:

What we think, how we feel and how we behave it is all connected.

If you think love you would feel pleasure, joy and you would want more of it and would want to connect more with the ones you love.

There is so much that has been discovered on our mind and body connection both by the Western and Eastern philosophies, Traditional Chinese Medicine, neuroscience and biology, and tons of research and studies have been provided to us.

If we want to be more intentional with our actions and what we do in our lives, we should take a better look at two things: our thinking processes and our emotions about people and things around us.

I believe some of you are familiar with the famous “Happiness Chemicals” .

It is easy to think of our last holiday, beautiful hotels we stayed at, loving memories we experienced and to see the connection with these chemicals flowing through our bodies. However, I am more interested in seeing how we can produce them in our minds & bodies when we are at our offices, in our team meetings, working on a demanding project, or having a lunch break with our teams.

How do they work?

Each time we do something that supports our survival, our mammalian brain rewards us with feeling good and it releases certain chemicals, neurochemicals being released by our limbic system that signals to us whether to move into the direction of something or away from it.

There are four known “Happiness Chemicals”:

  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Oxytocin
  • Endorphin

When we feel good these chemicals are rewarding us with good feeling when we do something positive for our survival. They are controlled by our mammal brain.  And as our brains are designed to keep us alive, not feel good 100% of our times, it is natural that we will not feel good all of the time. However, we can do something about it and build new brain pathways to help us feel good.

When we are at work, there are a few things that we can do specifically and intentionally to produce these happy chemicals within us and others, as we know that emotions are contagious:

  1. Complete a task, meet your goals, challenge yourself with completing and accomplishing – All of these actions will release dopamine into your body and send you signals of feeling pleasure
  2. Making social connection and bonds – When during lunch break, try to find similarities with your colleague, make an appropriate joke on your account, and try to add some humour to your conversations – oxytocin in particular is released when having positive social experiences increase with others

If you are pretty much working alone, or from home, you could Listen to some good tunes as music can increase it too.

  • We produce serotonin when we are spending time outdoors – Think of including walking meetings or team learning in nature settings. It is also released when we feel respected, when for example, after a successful presentation when we get compliments and positive feedback.

Finally, it feels good to be kind. Serotonin is also produced more when we are being kind to ourselves and others. What do you think of your serotonin level when you are at work? How do you usually interact with others?

Author: Ana Toroman

Being a part of training and development education programs across companies in the Middle East, I help people develop their potential through learning key social skills for career building, with a particular interest in emotional resilience in the workplace. Having started my career in HR and education and working as a Corporate Trainer & Coach in Dubai, I work on self-development strategies for both teams and individuals. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn here or follow me on Instagram on HR and Wellbeing page here

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