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3 Simple Brain Hacks for Happiness 

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a magic happiness button we could press? Well, that might not be possible, but there are things you can do to leverage your brain chemistry and make yourself feel more content and joyful. Today we’ll be sharing some quick ways to ‘hack’ your brain and boost your mood. Brain processes can get endlessly complicated, but we’ll keep it simple, so you feel confident in ‘hacking your happiness.’   

Step 1: Get to Know Your ‘Happy Chemicals’  

Some brain chemicals can bring us a sense of happiness, pleasure, or calm when released. Sometimes, people take mental health medications to balance these chemicals because they can get out of whack if our brains produce too much or not enough, which can really affect our mood. However, when our brains naturally release these chemicals during various activities and experiences, they can make us feel amazing. The easiest way to remember them is using the DOSE acronym – because we need to get our daily dose! 

Step 2: Release the Chemicals!  

Now that we know the chemicals we’re after, let’s talk about the activities and experiences most associated with their release. Integrating the following practices into your routine will support your overall well-being and happiness: 

Dopamine: the reward chemical 

Oxytocin: the love hormone 

Serotonin: the mood stabilizer 

Endorphin: the pain reliever 

Step 3: Repeat, repeat, repeat! 

These brain hacks can give you boosts of happiness while they’re happening or shortly after, and that’s great! But, when most of us think about happiness, it’s more of a long-term sense of well-being that we want. The more often we engage in practices that bring us joy, the stronger those neural connections become. We can’t exercise once a month or call our friends once a year and expect to feel a lasting effect on our mood. Rather, the consistent and repetitive use of these practices will improve our mood overall.  

As a parent, you can use the list above to take an inventory of the practices in your household. Maybe you’re doing wonderfully on the exercise and peer connection front, as your child is involved in several team sports, but you haven’t incorporated opportunities for gratitude or connecting with nature. Or maybe your child has a very strong family and friend support system but doesn’t exercise much. Once you’ve identified areas where you’re doing well and those needing improvement, you can work with your child to pick activities they’d like to add to their life, with well-being, joy and happiness as the goal!

If you or a family member needs behavioral and/or mental health treatment, but aren’t sure where to start, read more here or call 888-764-4161. We’re here to support!

About the Expert: Annike Sprow is a licensed social worker with PM Behavioral Health in Pennsylvania, providing therapy and clinical services to both children and adults. She is certified in the CHATS model of CBT through the University of Pennsylvania, which is used for “here and now” problem solving and behavior modification. Annike takes a holistic approach to therapy with children, assessing and targeting environmental stressors while teaching and modeling emotional regulation skills that assist in increasing an internal sense of calm and control.