How to Hack Your Hormones for a Better Mood
Hormones are chemicals produced by different glands across your body. They travel through the bloodstream, acting as messengers and playing a part in many bodily processes.
One of these important functions? Helping regulate your mood.
Certain hormones are known to help promote positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure.
These “happy hormones” include:
- Dopamine: Known as the “feel-good” hormone, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s an important part of your brain’s reward system. It’s associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, and more.
- Serotonin: This hormone and neurotransmitter helps regulate your mood as well as your sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability, and memory.
- Oxytocin: Often called the “love hormone,” oxytocin is essential for childbirth, breastfeeding, and strong parent-child bonding. It can also help promote trust, empathy, and bonding in relationships. Levels generally increase with physical affection.
- Endorphins: These hormones are your body’s natural pain reliever, which your body produces in response to stress or discomfort. Levels may also increase when you engage in reward-producing activities such as eating, working out, or having sex.
Here’s a look at what you can do to help produce more of these natural mood boosters.
Looking to boost your serotonin level? Spending time outdoors, in sunlight, is a great way to do this.
According to research, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can increase the production of serotonin.
You can try spending about 15 minutes outside a few times a week. Try exploring a new neighborhood or park if you’re tired of the same old sights. Just be aware that UV exposure can also increase the risk of skin cancer, so don’t forget sunscreen!
Make time for exercise
Exercise has multiple physical health benefits. It can also have a positive impact on emotional well-being.
If you’ve heard of a “runner’s high,” you might already know about the link between exercise and endorphin release.
But exercise doesn’t just work on endorphins. Regular physical activity can also increase your dopamine and serotonin levels, making it a great option to boost your happy hormones.
Laugh with a friend
Who hasn’t heard the old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine?”
Of course, laughter won’t treat ongoing health issues. But it can help relieve feelings of anxiety or stress, and improve a low mood by boosting dopamine and endorphin levels.
According to a small 2017 studyTrusted Source looking at 12 young men, social laughter triggered endorphin release. ResearchTrusted Source supports this finding.
So, share that funny video, dust off your joke book, or watch a comedy special with a friend or partner.
An added bonus? Bonding over something hilarious with a loved one might even trigger oxytocin release.
Cook (and enjoy) a favorite meal with a loved one
This tip could — in theory — boost all four of your happy hormones.
The enjoyment you get from eating something delicious can trigger the release of dopamine along with endorphins. Sharing the meal with someone you love, and bonding over meal preparation, can boost oxytocin levels.
Certain foods can also have an impact on hormone levels, so note the following when meal planning for a happy hormone boost:
- spicy foods may trigger endorphin release
- yogurt, beans, eggs, meats with low-fat content, and almonds are just a few foods linked to dopamine release
- foods high in tryptophan have been linked to increased serotonin levels
- foods containing probiotics, such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, can influence the release of hormones
There are several supplements that may help increase your happy hormone levels. Here are just a few to consider:
- tyrosine (dopamine production)
- green tea and green tea extract (dopamine and serotonin)
- probiotics (serotonin and dopamine production)
- tryptophan (serotonin)
Experts studying the effects of supplements have found varied results. Many studies involved animals only, so more research is needed to help support the benefits of supplements for humans.
Supplements may be helpful, but some aren’t recommended for people with certain health conditions. They can also interact with certain medications, so talk to a healthcare provider before you try them.
If you do take any supplements, read all package instructions and stick to the recommended dose, since some can have negative effects at high doses.
Listen to music (or make some)
Music can give more than one of your happy hormones a boost.
Listening to instrumental music, especially music that gives you chills, can increase dopamine production in your brain.
But if you enjoy music, simply listening to any music you enjoy may help put you in a good mood. This positive change in your mood can increase serotonin production.
You may also experience an endorphin release while performing music, especially in a large group. For example, a 2016 studyTrusted Source found that choir members experienced increased endorphin release during rehearsals.
If you’re familiar with meditation, you might already know of its many wellness benefits — from improving sleep to reducing stress.
ResearchTrusted Source links many of meditation’s benefits to increased dopamine production during the practice.
Not sure how to start? It’s not as hard as you might think. You don’t even need to sit still, though it can help when you’re first starting out.
Plan a romantic evening
Oxytocin’s reputation as the “love hormone” is well earned.
Just spending time with someone you care about can also help boost oxytocin production. This can help increase closeness and positive relationship feelings, making you feel happy, blissful, or even euphoric.
If you really want to feel those happy hormones, note that dancing and sex both lead to endorphin release, while orgasm triggers dopamine release.
You can also share a glass of wine with your partner for an added endorphin boost.
Pet your dog
If you have a dog, giving your furry friend some affection is a great way to boost oxytocin levels for you and your dog.
According to researchTrusted Source, dog owners as well as their dogs see an increase in oxytocin when interacting.
Even if you don’t own a dog, you might also experience an oxytocin boost when you see a dog you know and like. If you’re a dog lover, this might happen when you get a chance to pet any dog at all.
So, find your favorite canine and give it a good ear scratch or lap cuddle.
Get a good night’s sleep
Not getting enough quality sleep can affect your health in multiple ways.
For one, it can contribute to an imbalance of hormones, particularly dopamine, in your body. This can have a negative impact on your mood as well as your physical health.
Setting aside 7 to 9 hours each night for sleep can help restore the balance of hormones in your body, which will likely help you feel better.
If you find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, try:
- going to bed and getting up around the same time every day
- creating a quiet, restful sleeping environment (try reducing light, noise, and screens)
- decreasing caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening
It’s normal to experience some stress from time to time. But living with regular stress or dealing with highly stressful life events can cause drops in dopamine and serotonin production. This can negatively affect your health and mood, making it harder to deal with stress.
If you’re under a lot of stress, the American Psychological Association recommends:
- taking a brief break from the source of stress
- taking 20 minutes for a walk, run, bike ride, or other physical activity
- social interaction
Any of these approaches may help relieve your stress while also boosting your levels of serotonin, dopamine, and even endorphins.
Get a massage
If you enjoy a massage, here’s one more reason to get one: massage can boost all four of your happy hormones.
According to studies, massage boosts endorphins. Older research found that massage also increases serotonin and dopamine.
You can get these benefits from a massage by a licensed massage therapist, but you can also get a massage from a partner for some extra oxytocin.
Serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin help promote happiness and pleasure while reducing depression and anxiety. You can give these feel-good hormones a natural boost with some simple activities.
If you’re having difficulty regulating your mood, talk with a healthcare provider, who can recommend therapies or treatments that may help.