Chemistry…and the pursuit of happiness

Feeling blue at work lately?  The solution to happiness may just come down to science – four chemicals which give us feelings of satisfaction in different ways:

Endorphins: “No pain”

Endorphins diminish our perception of pain and keep us going during work-outs, giving a “runner’s high”, and helping us to endure difficulties. Good for those late nights, 70+ hour weeks, and back-breaking middle seats.

Work example: 2am late night at the office, rushing to meet a deadline.

Dopamine: “One More”

Dopamine motivates us to achieve incremental goals and rewards motivated behaviour. It makes us feel good when we check things off the “to do list” and is highly addictive.

Work example: Setting and achieving milestones.

Serotonin: “Loyalty; allegiance”

Serotonin provides the feeling of significance, pride, status. It drives us to seek the recognition of others. Want to do it “for my mum, my boss, my husband.” It reinforces the sense of relationships with the group (allegiance).  It creates a sense of organisational cohesion.

Work example: Making your boss proud.

Oxytocin: “Intimacy and Safety”

Oxytocin creates intimacy and trust; the feeling of safety and that someone will protect you. Mums, babies, lovers feel this when they are protected and loved.

Work example: Team dinners and one-on-ones with your manager.

It has been argued that these happy hormones have wired us to be driven, organised, relationally-motivated creatures.  We succeed because we understand the benefits of co-operation and teamwork. Feeling better now?

Read more Lighter Side articles from Pamela Hellig

Pamela Hellig