09 Mar The Happy Chemicals and Peformance
Daily DOSE of Happy: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin & Endorphins
Our brain is a wonderfully complex organ, with so many chemicals and functions that keep us alive and performing to our peak ability. It is commonly thought that we have no control over the chemicals when they fire, or how often they occur. But when we look at it all closely, we do have control! There are definitely things we can do to increase these happy chemicals in our daily life! Who wouldn’t want more happiness?!
Dopamine – The Motivation Chemical
Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that helps us feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. What a necessary chemical it is! It should be noted that for all these happy chemicals, there are negative ramifications of having too much or too little, such as addiction or mental ill-health etc, but I will be focusing on increasing these levels for positive use in performance.
Dopamine is released when we anticipate a reward. In the context of deep performance, dopamine would be released whilst setting goals and achieving them. In everyday life, dopamine is released when doing things we enjoy, such as shopping, cooking, or winning a game (hello competitiveness!). But how can we leverage it for deep performance?
Deep performance is fuelled by passion, motivation, and discipline and all of these things love to be rewarded! Dopamine is released when we anticipate goals being rewarded, so a great place to start to increase this chemical is breaking down goals so that the reward is lived out more often! Sure, working towards one big goal is important and it is critical to have the High-Definition future picture there, but big goals can get lost amongst stress and minute tasks. Break goals down into smaller goals to help create more dopamine and get that rewarding feeling more often, all while boosting performance.
Oxytocin – The Trust Chemical
Oxytocin relies on another person and varieties of relationships to be released! A common misconception around oxytocin is that it is only released in a maternal or intimate bond, however, oxytocin just needs any sort of social bonding to be released. Eye contact, laughing, meaningful conversations all boost oxytocin! And the great news is that these actions can be taken anywhere, anytime, with anyone.
Serotonin – The Significance Chemical
Serotonin is responsible for many things such as mood, behaviour, sleep, and mental health. Interestingly, the majority of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, and it is a necessary chemical needed for optimal gut health. I have bundled serotonin under the title ‘the significance chemical’ because, in the workplace and performance, serotonin plays a critical role in our feeling of significance.
Serotonin is activated when we feel significant or important, which increases mood, joy, and pro-social behaviour. Serotonin relies on both internal and external stimuli to be released. It could be a great success you achieved or a commending comment from your boss. It can be a range of both significant and insignificant things that can boost serotonin, anything that makes us feel happy and increases our levels of feeling needed and significant in all aspects of our lives.
Serotonin is important to deep performance and success because we perform better, are more motivated and can withstand challenges better when we have a sense of meaning and significance. Some simple ways of boosting serotonin are things like reflecting on past achievements, finding things to be grateful for, finding positive ways to think about difficult situations and even just listening to music! There are plenty more things that can be done, but these are a great place to start!
Endorphins – The Feel-Good Chemical
Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and can decrease stress and increase a general feeling of well-being. There are so many things that help us release endorphins but things such as laughter, a satisfying meal, exercise, and sun are just a few of these things.
Endorphins will help us perform better because we are naturally in a clearer and more enjoyable headspace. Ever tried working when down in the dumps and severely lacking motivation? It doesn’t go so well, and we end up staring at a task blankly most of the time! Feeling better increases motivation, and helps us connect to our sense of purpose better, equalling a more effective person!
So, whether you go for a run, take a moment to be still with your thoughts, laugh with those around you, or go out and get some sun, you are well on your way to becoming a better performer and boosting your successes!
Not So Scary!
Big words and complex processes aren’t so scary when we break them down as we have here! It is clear that each of these happy chemicals has a positive influence on performance, and so I suggest you use the ways highlighted to increase your levels of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins and get to be a better performer, naturally! If you are looking for more information on trust in teams, click ‘here’.
Hey! You’re Biased! #4 – Choice Overload
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