You know that amazing feeling when you just can’t hold back your smile? When you’re happy, you can always see it on your face, not only in your expression but in your skin too.
You probably know the ways that stress can affect your skin and age you practically overnight, but did you know that happiness can show in your complexion too? Thankfully, happiness has a positive youth effect and it is considered to be one of the best natural anti-aging elixirs.
So what causes our moods to change from one day to another?
Our moods result from various chemicals and hormones in our brains and bodies, and those chemicals act as neurotransmitters (or messengers) that tell our brains whether to feel stressed or to feel happiness. Scientists have identified the 4 neurochemicals responsible for making us feel good: serotonin (known as the happy hormone), oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins.
These so-called happy hormones help us reduce our stress levels, which are caused by cortisol and adrenaline. Lowering stress and increasing happiness in our day-to-day life will not only improve our health and make us feel good, but it will also help us look good, too.
But how can we make sure we’re getting those natural mood boosters to work for us, and can we hack these hormones to improve our mindset on a bad day? Thankfully, it’s not all down to good or bad genes, and there are actions we can take to improve our moods and our complexion long term.
Let’s take a look at the hormones that make you happy or content, and learn the ways that they affect your feelings, body, and skin.
Serotonin: The Feel Happy Chemical
Ever wondered, “what is the happy hormone?” The answer is Serotonin. Serotonin contributes to feelings of acceptance, well-being, and happiness. You might get a burst of serotonin chemicals when you spend time in the sunshine, or when you get a sense of importance. Serotonin helps fight depression, anxiety, and loneliness, which is why it’s often called the “happy hormone.” In addition to stabilizing moods, serotonin helps regulate your sleep cycles and appetite.
When it comes to your skin, this happiness hormone’s benefits are virtually endless. Serotonin creates smoother, clearer skin. Since it contributes to adequate sleep and balanced moods, you’re way less likely to experience stress-hormone surges that contribute to blemishes and cause skin cell damage that leads to premature aging. A balanced body means balanced skin, and balanced skin looks and feels younger and healthier. Moreover, research shows that abnormal serotonin receptors could exacerbate eczema – just further evidence that well-adjusted bodies have well-adjusted skin.1
Oxytocin: The Bonding Chemical
Oxytocin is sometimes referred to as the love hormone because it is released during hugs, childbirth, nursing, and during times of intimacy and care for people. Oxytocin is the life-affirming hormone that helps regulate sleep, improves social skills, fosters generosity, triggers protective instincts, and can even reduce cravings for unhealthy things.
A vital chemical to building strong bonds with other people, oxytocin has a calming effect, lowering stress and anxiety, reducing cardiovascular strain, and improving the immune system and gut function. Ultimately, oxytocin is a boon for your health and sense of well-being. When stress is reduced, cortisol is reduced, which minimizes glycation, a stress effect that damages the collagen in your skin.
So, when you feel better, your skin looks better, too. Oxytocin is released in the brain and skin nerves, which is why close contact causes rushes of oxytocin. There are studies indicating oxytocin levels can affect atopic dermatitis and could even contribute to pain relief in the skin, known as oxytocin-mediated analgesia. Most importantly, oxytocin’s profoundly positive effect on your emotional state translates to skin that looks and feels smoother and more radiant, with fewer lines and wrinkles, and improved skin elasticity.
Dopamine: The Rewarding Chemical
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter related to rewards and reinforcement. When we enjoy something, dopamine allows us to feel that enjoyment and want more of it. The more enjoyable things we experience, the more dopamine is released.
Conversely, the lower our dopamine hormone levels, the less interest we have in pleasurable activities. Achieving our goals provides a surge of dopamine and positive feelings, though after a goal is achieved, you may feel depressed as dopamine levels decrease. So, in answer to your question “what is the feel good hormone?”, the answer is Dopamine.
How you feel affects your skin, so low dopamine levels can cause skin problems, too. Studies show dopamine supports microcirculation, minimizing irritation and improving your skin barrier’s ability to recover. When dopamine is low, you’re more likely to experience irritation and slow recovery.
There’s even evidence that lack of dopamine can cause seborrhea and seborrheic dermatitis. Dopamine hormone levels that are well balanced and controlled, however, result in skin that’s balanced, too, with adequate microcirculation and the ability to recover faster from damage. When you experience those rewarding feelings from a surge of dopamine, your complexion is rewarded, too.
Endorphins: The Pain Relieving Chemical
Endorphins are neurotransmitters released in the brain, the pituitary gland, and throughout the nervous system to combat pain and stress. They interact with opiate receptors in the brain – much like morphine and codeine – to naturally reduce the perception of pain. Endorphins create a sense of euphoria and can moderate appetite and improve immune responses.
Endorphins are released during vigorous exercise, laughter, pregnancy, and intimacy, or when experiencing certain foods, like chocolate and chili peppers, or smells like lavender or vanilla. Beyond their incredible pain-relieving abilities, endorphins can reinforce attachment with other people, reduce depression and anxiety, boost confidence, and help with weight management.
Endorphin releases are undoubtedly pleasurable, but you’ll experience further pleasure when you discover the ways that those endorphins not only help your brain but your skin, too. Because they reduce stress and decrease cortisol, the more endorphin releases you have, the less you’ll experience the acne, wrinkles, lines, and sagging that result from stress and collagen-destroying glycation. And, if your endorphin rush comes from exercise, your skin also benefits from better oxygenation and higher collagen production.
10 Tips To Boost Happy Hormones, Improve Skin Tone, and Look Years Younger
We often get so busy with our family, work, and kids that we forget to take care of ourselves and our needs, leading to high stress levels. We might be asking our doctor how can we switch focus, make healthy choices, and get our happy hormones working?
Luckily, we don’t need huge triggers or achievements to get these happiness hormones flowing, there are plenty of ways to drastically improve our mood. And when our brain is happy, our body and our skin will follow!
Here are our top 10 tips for boosting your feel-good hormones like serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.
1. Spend Some Time In The Sun
They don’t call it a sunny disposition for nothing! The positive effects of sunlight on our mood are endless! Sunshine and natural daylight help our bodies produce the hormone of happiness, serotonin, as well as vitamin D3, both of which are huge factors in our positive moods, as well as contributing to good skin and bone health.
In fact, when we don’t see enough sunlight, our bodies and minds can feel depleted, and many people around the world are even prone to something called seasonal affective disorder (aptly abbreviated to SAD). Simply put, most people feel sad when they don’t get enough sunlight. Research has shown that winter’s short days and lack of sunlight can deprive us of serotonin and have negative consequences on our mental health.2
Spending some time outdoors in the sunlight will increase our serotonin levels, provoke a significant mood boost, help us sleep better, and even regulate our appetite.
Provided we wear enough sunscreen, the sunlight can also be good for our skin. Sunlight provokes vitamin D production in our bodies, which can improve skin conditions like dry skin, psoriasis, and eczema.
So use this information wisely and get outside if you can, even for 20 minutes. It will help you boost your serotonin production and feel happiness while leading you towards radiant skin!
Meditation and mindfulness can have seriously powerful effects on our nervous system, helping us reduce our cortisol and adrenaline levels (the stress hormones), and boost our serotonin. Serotonin, as we know, is essential not only for a good mood but also for regular sleep cycles, hence the frequent connection between mindfulness or meditation and sleep.3
There is also plenty of research and information showing mindfulness to be effective in treating chronic stress, anxiety, and depression, although we would always recommend that you speak with your doctor if you are experiencing these types of health concerns. 4
What’s important to know is that a happy, relaxed brain can improve your heart health, blood pressure, circulation, and even your skin. Healthy circulation is key to skin cell rejuvenation, which in turn is the key to radiant, youthful skin.
You can find plenty of free mindfulness exercises online, why not try one out and see if your mood improves!
3. Get Enough Sleep
We’ve all heard the term beauty sleep, but why is it so important to get a good night’s rest?
Well, sleep is absolutely essential to a healthy body and mind. It is the time in which our body works to rest and repair itself, after which we awake refreshed and reenergized for a new day.
A bad night’s sleep increases our cortisol levels, leading us to feel tired, stressed, and hungry throughout the next day. And our skin will look like we feel! Dark under-eye circles, puffiness, dry and dull skin are just some of the pesky side effects of a lack of sleep, and a continued pattern of poor sleep and excess stress hormones can prematurely age us by years.
We recommend getting to bed early, ideally by 10.30 pm to allow your body to get enough quality sleep cycles before sunrise. You’ll also want to reduce your screen time before bed as blue light can damage skin while also interfering with your sleep cycles.
The reward? When we get good quality sleep, the neurotransmitters in our brain will boost serotonin happiness hormone levels throughout the following day, leaving us feeling happier and more content. In the long run, this will benefit our overall health, and it will help our skin appear supple and youthful with fewer lines and wrinkles.
It has become a bit of a cliché in recent years, but self-care is actually a powerful step you can take for your physical and mental well-being, and it can come in many forms.
The reality is that taking time for yourself releases all kinds of feel-good hormones. Whether you use some free time to do a DIY spa day or practice a creative hobby, the act of looking after yourself triggers the brain to satisfy the reward-seeking cravings associated with dopamine. Serotonin levels will also get a boost as your confidence levels increase, and your stress levels decline.
If you’re looking for a way to relax that will truly benefit your skin, why not try a luxurious face mask? Face masks are a great way to hydrate and replenish your skin while you take time to unwind.
5. Get Active & Exercise
Exercise is crucial not only to your physical health but to your mental health, too. It is one of the best and most effective ways to boost your happy hormones.
Exercise triggers our brains to release endorphins, the pain-relieving neurotransmitter that also works to combat stress and induce a feeling of euphoria. Regular exercise can also boost your serotonin and dopamine levels, helping you to feel more happy and confident.
The best news is that you don’t have to be a marathon runner to achieve that “runner’s high” hormone release, all sorts of activities can get your happy hormones flowing in your body. You can use swimming, cycling, yoga, or even brisk walking to get your endorphins up. And if you can do these kinds of activities with a network of friends, even better, as this will help you boost oxytocin levels for each other too.
So make sure to include exercise in your day-to-day routine in order to boost your happy hormones, pump up your heart rate, and get the blood flowing. And while you’re feeling great, the circulation and confidence boosts will do wonders for your skin too!
6. Eat Some Mood-Boosting Foods
They say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Well, there are also some foods that not only keep our bodies fighting fit but our hormone levels, too.
Food can make you feel good, and we’re not talking about comfort eating french fries or ice cream here. There are certain foods that studies have shown to be a gateway to happy hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.
If you love spice then we have some good information for you – spicy food can actually mimic a “runner’s high” euphoria in the brain. This is because spicy food triggers an endorphin rush, which relieves pain and makes us feel good. Thai curry, anyone? 5
And if spice isn’t for you, you might be happy to learn about the word ‘tryptophan’.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps boost serotonin production, which means it really is possible to eat your way to a good mood! We can find tryptophan in bananas, milk, tuna, poultry, oats, nuts, and cheese, so try incorporating these into your diet to help increase your serotonin.
You can also look to berries and dark chocolate for some mood-boosting goodness. A study done by the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies has shown that these foods rich in antioxidant flavonoids are not only good for our health, but their flavors can also mimic the effects of valproic acid on our brains.6
What is valproic acid, you may ask? Valproic acid is an ingredient used in mood-stabilizing prescription medication, particularly in technologies used to treat depression, anxiety, and mood swings. So the evidence in this study shows that eating these foods could help you reduce inflammation, improve your mental health, avoid mood swings, and generally improve your well-being.
Finally, the act of cooking and eating a good meal can also release dopamine, the brain’s reward system for completing a task and enjoying it. So a little attention to our diets can go a long way to boosting our happy hormones and improving our mental well-being.
And when we eat well to feel good, our skin will show it too! Well-nourished, happy skin will look and feel younger, firmer, and more radiant. And, it may help you if you’re planning on losing weight too!
7. Spend Time With Friends & Loved Ones
Oxytocin is called the love hormone for good reason. One of the best ways to trigger an oxytocin release in the brain is to spend quality time with loved ones and keep a close network of friends and family around you.
Physical affection is particularly important when it comes to oxytocin, so make sure to hug, cuddle, and hold hands, in order to really feel the benefits. You’ll be making them feel good and boosting their oxytocin levels too!
8. Share The Love & Give Compliments
It’s really true that it feels good to make others feel good. It’s not just good karma. The science behind this is oxytocin, the love hormone and neurotransmitter that’s released when you give affection, show kindness, or help someone out.
So go ahead and pay it forward, do some volunteering, or simply give someone a compliment to help get your happy hormones going.
9. Laugh, Sing, & Dance
Laughing out loud is fun for a reason! It releases endorphins, reducing anxiety and relieving stress while giving you that giddy, euphoric hormone rush while also boosting your serotonin levels.
Regular laughter can make a big impact on your mental health. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it can trigger a chemical reaction in your nervous system that will make you feel good.
So try to watch a funny video, read something amusing, or hang out with a friend who makes you laugh on a regular basis. Laughing together with a loved one can also have the double whammy effect of boosting your oxytocin, too.
Music and singing are also factors linked to a dopamine neurotransmitter release. You don’t need to be a talented musician, singing a few of your favorite hits in the shower will have the same mood-boosting effect!
10. Celebrate The Small Wins
Dopamine, the happy hormone that is your brain’s reward system is linked to achieving goals and feeling a sense of satisfaction. So you can really give yourself a mood boost by setting small, achievable goals every day, and taking the time to reflect and recognize each achievement you make.
It’s not all about getting a big promotion or meeting the love of your life. You can just celebrate checking one thing off your to-do list for the day, cleaning your home, or learning some new information. Your brain will trigger the same kind of dopamine release as you’d get with a bigger win, and with daily practice, you will begin to recognize and feel grateful for the little things in your life that make you happy.
This is sometimes referred to as practicing gratitude, and it can be one effective way to treat anxiety and depression, too.
Together, all of these 10 tips will help you boost your happy hormones, making you feel and look better in the process. And by reducing your stress and cortisol, you will also be protecting your body’s collagen, which is essential to maintaining healthy, radiant skin.