If right now, the photo we’ve selected has you cringing – congratulations, your body is producing oxytocin, one of the ‘happy hormones’. And a small chocolate bar can boost dopamine production. Feels good, doesn’t it? But it’s not as simple as it sounds. We invite you and our expert to take a look at the bright and dark sides of each hormone.
Where do you think we get our positive emotions from? To put it very simply, states of joy, comfort, safety and the like are the result of the brain synthesising a neurotransmitter, commonly referred to as the happiness hormone, depending on the situation.
They are all created by nature for our survival, which means you should follow its instructions, otherwise the ‘medicine’ can quickly turn into a ‘poison’.
The hormone of goal attainment. Every time the brain senses a goal related to survival, it releases dopamine, reinforcing our actions with positive emotions. For example, in the animal world, dopamine is released in monkeys at the sight of a banana. When we set goals, achieve them and feel satisfaction at a job well done, it is dopamine.
The dark side of dopamine is primarily gaming addiction. Going through level after level in a computer game, the brain synthesises dopamine. That’s why it’s hard to pull a person away from games. After all, he is essentially just ‘sitting on dopamine’.
Another obvious downside to dopamine is addiction to the goal achieved. The brain eventually stops releasing it if the stimulus is constant. This is why we get used to sweets and increase the amounts over time. It is also the reason why, after ten years of marriage, many people do not perceive relationships as bright and want to change something.
Hormone of respect. Being needed and valued by others was a necessary condition for the survival of our ancestors. It is important for us to be of use to people, to be needed. That is why, when we are praised and commended for our actions, it always cheers us up – serotonin in action.
The dark side of serotonin is the need to prove our importance and status through the latest brands of phones, cars bought on credit, shopaholism, a career built on the “walking on eggshells” principle, social media followers, likes and reach, for which people are willing to shoot so-called shock content.
The hormone of trust. Obviously, without mutual trust, it was difficult for our ancestors to expect to survive in the wild. That’s why every time we communicate with our loved ones, we experience pleasant feelings.
However, it is precisely because of oxytocin that teenagers join together in criminal communities, as it gives a sense of trust in a group of ‘their own’. Wives who are abused but stay in the relationship for fear of being left alone are another example of the downside of oxytocin.
A natural painkiller that allows you to escape danger when injured or traumatised. It was it that gave our hungry ancestors the strength to travel great distances in search of food.
In an attempt to reduce stress, distract from other problems and feel better, some engage in self-torture (selfharm) by inducing endorphin production.
Many people may have heard of an experiment in which an electrode was implanted in the pleasure centre of a rat’s brain. A pedal was placed next to the rat, which when pushed gave the electrode a discharge and the animal experienced pleasure. The experiment ended with the rat dying, as it neither ate nor drank, but only pressed the pedal, which irritated its pleasure centre.
This experiment clearly shows that pleasure is not always compatible with the quality of life, and indeed life itself. We need to be very careful with our desires and pleasures, and be aware of how they will benefit us in the long term. For example, foods with sugar and flour give the brain a ‘euphoric feeling’ in the moment, but everyone knows that this type of eating has a negative effect on health and well-being.
Ideally, all the happiness hormones should be produced evenly. It is their synergy that is the feeling of true happiness in the chemical sense of the word, since all the substances necessary for this happiness will be present in the brain.
This is only possible if we create the necessary conditions for it, namely, to have goals and move towards them, to feel that we are needed by people, to have close and trusting relationships with them, and to lead an active life. So each of us is “the master of our own happiness” in the truest sense of the word.