Though you cannot control your work environment or the people, the good news is that you can take actions to trigger the right hormones.
DOSE—Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphin— in your brain are known as the “happiness hormones”. These can also be called your “success hormones” because apart from a happy mood, they give you optimism, energy, connect with people and higher focus and thus elevate your drive, leadership and confidence at work. Though you cannot control your work environment or the people, the good news is that you can take actions to trigger the right hormones and be on top of every situation. Here’s how.
Achieve Your Goals
Dopamine is your achievement hormone. Higher the dopamine levels in your body, higher is your alertness, focus, creativity, long-term memory and concentration. Dopamine is the motivation molecule that drives you to seek rewards in achieving goals and enables you to take the effort it requires to be successful. Higher levels of dopamine also tend to make you social and extroverted with people who matter, in turn supporting your goal-seeking behaviour. Dopamine increases your assertiveness in social and professional situations, is co-related to higher socio-economic status and higher perceived social support. To get your body to increase healthy dopamine levels at work, you need to find out what rewards motivate you and link them to goals. That’s the hard part. The simple part to is break down those goals to smaller short-term milestones and trigger a reward and dopamine high with each one.
Similarly, for an unpleasant task like making a presentation, commit the first five minutes to making the first slide. As soon as that is done, it is a milestone achieved that triggers dopamine release. This makes subsequent effort easier. Thus, you need only a little willpower to achieve the next incremental milestone and then you can let the dopamine kick power you forward. Remember to mute your cell phone notifications when trying to achieve a milestone, because those distractions hijack your dopamine pathways. Finally, build a routine or system to get the small tasks completed so that they stop being hurdles on the path to claiming your dopamine rewards.
Increase Loyalty and Trust
Oxytocin is your attachment molecule. Trigger it to increase loyalty, trust, empathy and generosity at your workplace. Apart from inter-personal bonding, oxytocin reduces stress levels and boosts security and contentment. To increase your oxytocin, take out time .A single minute of positive social interaction is enough to trigger a short burst of oxytocin. Similarly, free expression of work-appropriate emotions like laughing together at a common joke, smiling in the form of a greeting and sharing stories supplement your oxytocin levels. When a colleague is speaking with you, listen deeply. Both parties experience an increase in oxytocin and you benefit from greater trust and productivity at work.
Fortunately, higher face-time with a person works in the same way so working with and spending time with your team actually beats the blues that comes from working alone. Finally, oxytocin helps you say “How can I help you?” without expectations in return and thus builds a network of people who will reciprocate your generosity by having your back.
Serotonin is your leadership hormone. It boosts will power, self-esteem, inner satisfaction, confidence and a sense of purpose. Simultaneously it battles cortisol or your stress hormone. People love to follow your purpose when they see in you the confidence, high self-worth and low stress that they seek in a leader. To boost serotonin, get out in the natural sunlight during your lunch break or choose to walk outside while taking a call. Next, saying “Thank you” boosts your serotonin levels. So, email your colleague or verbally express your gratitude for his help on a project or thank your boss for her support. Finally, figure out what is the purpose of your work or why your contribution makes a difference to the world. Lending meaning to what you do, sustains your serotonin levels over time and makes you an effective leader.
Stay Determined and Happy
Endorphin is your determination and bliss hormone. It elevates mood and reduces physical pain and emotional stress. It increases your cognition too. At work, increasing endorphins mostly involves fun activities. Choose to laugh often to trigger an instant endorphin release. Similarly, your neighbour who is working on his laptop while listening to music through earphones is also increasing his endorphin levels. Go for a walk outside with a colleague during a break and the combination of exercise, good company and sunlight all contribute to higher endorphin levels. Finally, try out this mini-exercise – contract your muscles and take short deep breaths. This instantly releases both adrenaline and endorphins.
Increase Dose Outside Work
1. Heart Rate
Treat yourself to an weekly exercise routine. Choose a team sport, running, cycling, swimming, dancing, yoga or any other that catches your fancy. Incorporate it into your lifestyle to benefit from endorphins and dopamine while reducing your stress hormone cortisol. If that is not possible, choose to walk some of the distance while returning home from work.
2. Heart Matters
The biggest time investment outside your work hours should be your relationships. Whether family or friends, invest in your close bonds and find a steady source of oxytocin and serotonin to help you succeed at work. Take that vacation together, play with your niece, hang out with friends or even take your dog for a walk.
Meditation may sound boring but find one technique that suits you. From sitting quietly and observing your breath to chanting or even playing a musical instrument with complete focus—you bring down your stress hormones while driving up your serotonin and oxytocin levels.
4. Dark Chocolate
Foods affect your hormones so read up on what you eat. Eat dark chocolate to trigger dopamine and serotonin. Similarly, hot peppers releases endorphins while caffeine give you a dopamine rush. Tryptophan found in carbohydrates improves serotonin and sugar gives a dopamine high. Change your foods to change your mood.
If you want to switch from what you are feeling right now, simply observe your breath and change it. If you are stressed and breathing shallow, consciously take deep breaths to increase serotonin and reduce your stress. If you are feeling low on energy, increase your breathing rate to boost endorphins.
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