Lifestyle: We All Like Hugs

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There are four chemicals that exist in our bodies that are responsible for making us feel our lives are satisfying, happy, content and fulfilling.

Each of these chemicals is responsible for different experiences in our life that lead to fulfillment. These chemicals are dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin.

Endorphins kick in when we exercise or are active. These endorphins make us feel happy, and feel good about ourselves.

Dopamine is released when we do or get things that make us feel good in the moment.  For me, that is eating chocolate. Both of these chemicals feel wonderful, but they do not stay with us long term. We have to keep working at releasing these chemicals to feel good.

There is a lot of emphasis in our society to put our energy and time into getting the release of dopamine and endorphins. They are easy and feel good, but we need to focus more on the other two chemicals that create long term affects for not just ourselves but for those around us and our society.

We can see in the media people who have fame and wealth, which releases dopamine and endorphins, and still they are not content in their lives.  Wealth and fame will only go so far, and only create a short feeling of satisfaction.

What we need on top of the release of dopamine and endorphins is the release of serotonin and oxytocin.

Serotonin is released when we “do” for others. This is when we are connecting with people at a deep level. Sadly, I see that people are doing this less and less out of fear of being hurt, being too vulnerable or maybe wanting more of the feel from dopamine and endorphins.

When I look back on my life and what truly makes me feel good in the moment is when I have made a difference, or have helped out people along my own life journey. That feels good.

I remember assisting an elderly lady who could not find her money and was holding up a grocery line. I reached over and paid for her. I don’t think she was even aware of what had happened, yet sometimes I think about that moment and it makes me feel good. I know I did the right thing.

Obviously, there is a balance here as we need to hold a sense of self.  However, there are plenty of opportunities to give and we all have something to offer others, no matter how small it is.

Oxytocin is my favorite chemical. This is one that feels so good. Most of us are aware that oxytocin is released when a mother is breastfeeding her baby.  However, it is also released when we look into someone’s eyes, or attach to another person by hugging or having sex.

Feeling connected is such an important part of being human. When we do not have this connection with others it affects our immune system, our mental health and our happiness level.

When these four chemicals are released, they fight stress hormones and decrease anxiety. What is even better is when we fall in love—all four chemicals are released.

Allowing ourselves to connect is important for our well-being and our happiness. All four chemicals are important, so make sure you invest in the release of serotonin and oxytocin as well as endorphins and dopamine.

We all like hugs so don’t be afraid to share.

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected]


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