I was recently challenged to name the happiness hormone. It turned into a challenge because there is more than one (listed below), so which to choose?

For the record:

Neurotransmitter: A chemical that is released from a nerve cell which transmits an impulse from a nerve cell to another nerve, muscle, organ, or other tissue. It is a messenger of neurologic information from one cell to another.
Hormone: A chemical that is secreted by specialized glands called endocrine glands into the bloodstream. Hormones are essential for every activity of daily living, including the processes of digestion, metabolism, growth, reproduction, and even mood control.

A happiness hormone creates happy feelings. The top 11 I know of are (many of the ones below also act as neurotransmitters):

  1. happiness hormoneACETYLCHOLINE: Alertness, memory, sexual performance, appetite control, release of growth hormone.
  2. DOPAMINE: Feelings of bliss and pleasure, euphoric, appetite control, controlled motor movements, feel focused.
  3. ENDOCANNABINOIDS: The Bliss Molecule or Endocannabinoids worn on the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors in the body. Researchers have isolated over 85 cannabinoids from the Cannabis plant. Each of these cannabinoids is some kind of a key to the system which alters the consciousness and state of perception in people.
  4. ENDORPHINS: Mood elevating, enhancing, euphoric. The more present, the happier you are! Natural pain killers.
  5. ENKEPHALINS: Restrict transmission of pain, reduce craving, reduce depression.
  6. GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid): Found throughout central nervous system, anti-stress, anti-anxiety, anti-panic, anti-pain; Feel calm, maintain control, focus.
  7. MELATONIN: “Rest and recuperation” and “anti-aging” hormone. Regulates body clock.
  8. NOREPINEPHRINE: Excitatory, feel happy, alert, motivated. Anti-depressant, appetite control, energy, sexual arousal.
  9. OXYTOCIN: Stimulated by Dopamine. Promotes sexual arousal, feelings of emotional attachment, desire to cuddle.
  10. PHENYLETHYLMINE (PEA): Feelings of bliss, involved in feelings of infatuation (high levels found in chocolate).
  11. SEROTONIN: Promotes and improves sleep, improves self esteem, relieves depression, diminishes craving, prevents agitated depression and worrying.

Can we define happiness?

In and by itself this list is of little use. Knowledge is not power. It’s only the knowledge that you apply that gives you results. Before I mention a safe, simple and street-smart approach to creating happy hormones let’s briefly step back and bring some clarity around the word “happiness.”

Pleasure: Is a “physiological” sensation rooted in the body. Examples of this state include: Sex, Relationships based upon fear or need (as opposed to love), Obsessions with food, drugs or alcohol The need for money or power, Any unquenchable desire. Anything that stimulates the senses is Pleasure oriented. Those who are in this state of being are at the mercy of all kinds of things “outside of themselves” of which they have no control. Anyone dependent upon outside stimulation is a prisoner of existence and is experiencing the lowest state of being.

Happiness: Is “psychological” in nature and is a step up the ladder from Pleasure. It is more refined, more cultured. You can say that Pleasure is a lower form of Happiness and Happiness is a higher form of Pleasure, however, they are two sides of the same coin.

Joy: Is Spiritual and is totally different from Pleasure or Happiness. It has nothing to do with outside circumstances or the stimulation of mental or physical influences – it is an inner experience of peace and serenity produced by “ones choice” to be here and now and grateful for the opportunity to experience life to its fullest irrespective of one’s current circumstances.

From knowledge to action

Create your D.O.S.E. of happiness (Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphin) at will with laughter (read more about the science of laughter)! Try this:

Laughing exercise guide to kick-start your natural laughter and feel better in body, mind and spirit

Which is your favorite happiness hormone? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below!