The Chemicals of Happiness

Loretta Graziano Breuning says there are four chemicals that produce happiness in our brain.

  • Dopamine produces the joy of finding things we seek
  • Endorphin creates oblivion that masks pain
  • Oxytocin creates the feeling of being safe with others
  • Serotonin creates the feeling of being respected by others

All of these chemicals are produced and released the limbic system, a mammalian system in our brains made up of structures such as the amygdala, hippocampus and hypothalamus. The limbic system reacts quickly and claims to know what is good and bad for you. It makes sense between pleasure and pain.

The cortex is the part of the brain associated with primates and most evolved in humans. This much larger section of the human brain is the thinking, processing part of our mind. They are not involved in chemical production or the release of those chemicals.

Our work with being happiness requires us to work on those lower level systems, given the enormous effects those chemicals have on our mental well-being.

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