The Complete Guide to Boosting Happy Neurochemicals at Work

April 14, 2021
Fred Melanson
4 min
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Why is this important?

Mental health is one of the most pressing problems in the business world.

Working from home + lack of real social interactions add to the existing stress that come with working in a corporate environment.

This article is about helping increase people’s wellbeing, happiness and productivity at work.

More specifically, how to increase your "happy" neurochemicals at work.

Why work?

Because most of the happy neurochemicals are produced by our brain by activities/behaviours that occur outside of the scope of our workdays. However, we spend more than a third of our adult lives working. Almost half if you exclude sleep!

Now more than ever, we need to shift from a "work-life balance" to a "work-life harmony" (coined by Jeff Bezos). Part of that strategy is finding joys in the workday.

Why you should share this with your boss:

Happy workers = productive workers. Especially with the ever-increasing market share of technology companies. Your people are your most valuable assets. Integrating the concepts mentioned below into your work processes will deliver amazing results!

Let me present the stars of this article (neurochemicals) and what they do for you 👇

DOPAMINE: "The reward molecule"

Dopamine is responsible for reward-driven behavior and pleasure seeking:

ENDORPHIN: “The Pain-Killing Molecule”

Do you know the amazing feeling that we feel after an intense workout or sex?

Well, this feeling is caused by neurochemicals released by your body called endorphins.

Endorphins are released in response to stress and pain. Since endorphins act on the opiate receptors in our brains, they reduce pain and increase our feelings of pleasure.

And the benefits go beyond pleasure:

SEROTONIN: “The Confidence Molecule”

Serotonin, formally named 50-hydroxytryptamine, is mainly found in the brain, bowels and blood platelets, and is used to transmit messages between nerve cells. It helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles and plays a big role in appetite, emotions, motor, cognitive and automatic functions.

Maintaining normal/high levels of serotonin helps:

GABA: “The Anti-Anxiety Molecule”

GABA is an inhibitory molecule that slows down the firing of neurons and creates a sense of calmness.

Higher levels of Gaba results in:

Our passion is about making professionals happier and more productive.

Here are cool habits to increase happy neurochemicals' levels in a work-related context 🤩👇

1 . Listen to music while working 🎧

Neurochemical ⤴️ : Dopamine

Several brain studies have found that listening to music increases activity in the reward and pleasure areas of the brain, which are rich in dopamine receptors!

More specifically, instrumental music. Here’s my favourite “in the background” music to work: ChillHop Music or Tony McGuinness deep sets!

2 . Get enough sleep 😴

Neurochemical ⤴️ : Dopamine

Very undervalued in the Startup/business grind world, but trading long work hours with sleep hours will greatly benefit your dopamine levels and performance at work.

Studies have found that dopamine is released in large amounts in the morning, and reduces late at night when it’s time to go to bed. Furthermore, bad sleeping habits appear to disrupt this cycle. So make sure to have a normal 7-8 hour sleep habit every night!

3. Volunteer to help a colleague 🤝

Neurochemical ⤴️ : Endorphins

To act of volunteering without expecting anything in return creates endorphins in the body and lifts the spirit’s wellbeing.

A simple gesture to help a colleague will lift your mood but also make you a great teammate!

4. Split your work into small, achievable tasks 🎯

Neurochemical ⤴️ : Dopamine

The feeling that we get from completing a task is found to secrete dopamine in the brain. Don’t believe me? Go into your to-do list and check something off. Feels good, doesn’t it?

It’s a tactic that software and video game makers use to foster behavioural habits in their users. (More on this in “Hooked, by Nir Eyal”).

Micheal Jordan has made this notion famous when he shared that he views big obstacles in small, calculated steps, which gave him momentum to continue, and by default higher dopamine levels.

To take advantage of this “setting” in our nervous system, split your work into small tasks that you can complete each day.

5. Work outside (summer) or move your office to a sunny room ☀️

Neurochemical ⤴️ :  Serotonin + Dopamine

Exposure to bright light has been shown to be a great remedy to stabilize serotonin production. Thus, try to work in an environment where you get direct sunlight.

If you can’t, take walk breaks and go outside for 15-30 minutes when it’s sunny. Taking a forced break will also benefit your cognitive capabilities at work and increase focus.

6. Take small "do nothing" meditation breaks 💆

Neurochemical ⤴️ : Serotonin + Gaba

If you can fit a small 15 to 20-minute exercise routine often into your workweek, the results will be astonishing.

First of all, there’s a clear correlation between meditation and antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. But most importantly, the frequency will help regulate dopamine production and reduce swings, making your dopamine levels normal and stable.

Taking a forced break will also benefit your cognitive capabilities at work, increase focus and increase motivation levels.

7. Yoga 🧘‍♀️

Neurochemical ⤴️ : Serotonin + Gaba + Endorphins

Laughing at the next door company taking yoga breaks every Wednesday?

They're probably happier than you are.

Yoga affects chemical synapse in your brain and is involved in helping regulate anxiety, irritability, appetite Sex, aggression and motivation!

One added benefit is the mindfulness that yoga and mediation will create can help with really hard business problems and act as a creative thinking catalyst.


8. Even remote, make time for social interactions 🤹

Neurochemical ⤴️ : Dopamine + Endorphins

It might be dull and awkward at first to socialize over Zoom/Teams, but the reason why it’s important to find innovative ways to interact in a meaningful way is because of laughter.

Laughing is one of the easiest ways to produce endorphins!

Hence, book some short meetings to talk about non-work-related topics, send funny images to your colleagues, tell jokes or share funny stories that happened during the day.

It may seem silly, but siloed remote work has depreciated our work lives from laughing moments without our realization, which is affecting our endorphin levels.

9. Vanilla or lavender aromas in your workspace 💐

Neurochemical ⤴️ : Endorphins

Again, another subtle but easy way to way to produce endorphins is through aromatherapy.

The Journal of Caring Sciences has recently proven the effect of inhaling lavender aromas as a way to affect anxiety through endorphins!

10. Work with a creative mindset 🎨

Neurochemical ⤴️ : Endorphins

This one is not fit for all, but definitely more accessible than you would think. The act of creating something is a strong endorphin producer.

It does not necessarily have to be art or music.

If you’re working for a tech Startup, for example: Brainstorming on new features, new ways to help people, innovative ideas, are all forms of creativity.

Make sure to reserve time to brainstorm with others and think deeply about problems worth solving.

11. Your happy brain's diet 👩‍🍳

A serotonin diet

High-protein foods like cheese, turkey, eggs, soy products, tofu and salmon are said to contain tryptophan, amino acid and precursor to serotonin production.

However, for the tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier, aka cause serotonin production, it is best to combine high-protein foods with carbohydrates like fruits, nuts, bread or milk.

An endorphin diet  

Your brain releases endorphins when you eat food that you really enjoy.

Depending on your budget constraints dietary restrictions, it would be a good idea to spend a little time preparing good lunches and snacks during your workday.

Not only will it naturally force you to improve your eating habits, but you’re also working from home! Use the time savings from commuting as an excuse to spend more time cooking what you love eating!

If you don’t have time or other restraints, dark chocolate and spicy foods have proven to generate endorphin production.

A dopamine diet

A combination of high-protein foods with small carbohydrate levels can be associated with dopamine production.

Probiotics have a different impact since they affect the gut, also referred to as the “second brain”. Certain bacterias in the gut also are capable of producing dopamine, which may impact your mood.

On the other hand, saturated fat, if consumed in high amounts, will cause a reduction in produced dopamine levels.

12. The jack of all trades: Exercise 🏃

Neurochemical ⤴️ : All 🤩

Having a busy schedule means most of us don’t have 2 hours per day to spend working out, even 1 hour is hard for people with a busy schedule.

However, if you can fit a small 15 to 20-minute exercise routine often into your workweek, the results will be astonishing. First of all, there’s a clear correlation between exercise and antidepressant and anxiolytic effects.

But most importantly, the frequency will help regulate serotonin production and reduce swings, making your serotonin levels normal and stable.

Worth noting in the context of endorphins: exercising in a group is even better.

Dwight the office receiving crown gif

Honourable mentions but less related with work:

(If your work has those things, you’re a lucky person 😎)

man standing on sand while spreading arms beside calm body of water

I hope this was helpful to some of you who, like me, or struggling to prioritize wellbeing at work.

If you found this useful, share the post for others to benefit from the benefits of those habits 💛

Source: Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and (