All-Natural Happiness

Jan 30, 2023

Claire Collins

Many different factors impact our happiness. In particular, neurotransmitters play a role in our emotions and moods. Research has shown that the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin play a part in the feelings related to happiness. Dopamine is associated with the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Serotonin regulates and maintains moods and can help mitigate feelings of depression and anxiety. Endorphins lead to decreased feelings of pain and even feelings of euphoria. Oxytocin is released when people connect socially and is linked to trust, empathy, and relationship building. The fascinating thing is that there are many natural ways to stimulate dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins that can be good for the brain and the body (Dfarhud et al., 2014)!  


Pay attention to your diet. Eating certain foods can increase your levels of dopamine. Bananas, avocados, almonds, beef, chicken, and eggs are all rich in the protein needed to make dopamine (“Dopamine,” 2021). Eat good, feel good.  

Get sound sleep and enough sleep. A lack of sleep and sleep deprivation has been linked to altered dopamine and cortisol levels. (Nollet et al., 2020) Especially with academic and occupational pressures so present in our lives, it may be easy to push back a good night’s rest. Don’t! Sleep is essential. A few things that can help with falling asleep and staying asleep: establish a bedtime routine, limit exposure to bright lights at night, make your room comfortable, and try to follow a set sleep schedule (“Healthy Sleep Habits,” 2020).  


Moving the body does a tremendous amount of good for the body on multiple planes. Working the body and getting the blood flowing has been found to increase serotonin in the brain and has even been shown to have a more impactful effect on depression than medications in some studies (Young, 2007). Exercise and get moving! 


Listening to music has been found to produce a lengthy list of benefits:  

Music encourages affiliative interactions in infancy and adulthood, aids in the development of perceptual, cognitive, and motor skills, promotes trust and reduces a sense of social vulnerability, is rewarding and motivating, and has a beneficial effect on aspects of learning and memory. (Harvey, 2020)  

From stimulating the mind to boosting oxytocin, music is there for you.  

Oxytocin plays a role in social connections and bonds:  

The oxytocin system isn’t just selective toward joy or feeling good. It’s really selective toward something about gratitude, perhaps to the extent that sharing gratitude—saying that my happiness is due to your role in my life—recognizes our interdependence. The authors say that the oxytocin system is associated with ‘solidifying the glue that binds adults into meaningful and important relationships’. (Klein, 2014) 

If you love and care for someone, tell them so. 


Sounds too good to be true but dark chocolate has been shown to increase endorphins in the brain. Its ingredients and compounds aid in brain activities such as blood flow and neurotransmitter release. So, enjoy some dark chocolate (Nehlig, 2013).  


Claire Collins is a senior majoring in philosophy & law and society. With a minor in psychology, she has found much interest and excitement in learning about all the different things connected to psychology.  



Dfarhud, D., Malmir, M., & Khanahmadi, M. (2014). Happiness & Health: The Biological Factors Systematic Review Article. Iranian journal of public health, 43(11), 1468–1477. 

“Dopamine.” Healthdirect,  

Harvey A. R. (2020). Links Between the Neurobiology of Oxytocin and Human Musicality. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 14, 350. 

“Healthy Sleep Habits.” Sleep Education, 2 Apr. 2021,  

Klein, L. (2014). All You Need is Love, Gratitude, and Oxytocin. Greater Good. Retrieved December 23, 2022, from  

Nehlig, A. (2013). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 75(3), 716–727. 

Nollet, M., Wisden, W., & Franks, N. P. (2020). Sleep deprivation and stress: a reciprocal relationship. Interface focus, 10(3), 20190092. 

Young S. N. (2007). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience : JPN, 32(6), 394–399. 

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