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Here’s a simple way to increase dopamine every day, according to a longevity expert

Here’s a simple way to increase dopamine every day, according to a longevity expert

Turns out there is a recipe for happiness.

According to a longevity expert, there's an incredibly simple way to increase dopamine every day. And that's a good thing — because our mental health is something we work on from the moment we wake up, whether we're conscious of it or not. Optimism to some extent, too.

But first: what is dopamine, exactly? It's a hormone and neurotransmitter in your brain that acts as your “reward centre,” giving you feelings of pleasure, motivation, and more things associated with your mental wellbeing. And you can generate more of it yourself — something Dr. Olivier Courtin-Clarins, director of the Clarins group and an expert on healthy ageing, breaks down in his book Guess My Age If You Can.

With the help of several specialists in longevity, Dr. Courtin-Clarins shares things we can do (that aren't genetically predetermined) in order to age well, less quickly, and with a better quality of life. In his analysis, several lines are dedicated to how positive emotions create a “virtuous circle” that stimulates the body's ability to repair itself, relax, and generate wellbeing hormones like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. (More on those in a minute.)

One of Courtin-Clarins's easiest recommendations for cultivating that optimism? “Being optimistic is something you have to work at every day,” he says. And to do that, “give yourself something good three times a day.”

These can be simple things that nonetheless tremendously help with our wellbeing: cooking, journaling, giving a loved one a hug for 30 seconds, a bath, enjoying a coffee without doing anything else (in solitude or practicing fika, the Swedish custom of stopping for coffee in the company of friends or family).

Or maybe it's dancing “for three minutes to your favourite song,” a Courtin-Clarins recommendation based on the philosophy of Florence Servan-Schreiber and her book 3 Buzzes a Day: How to Activate Your Optimism to Be Happier. He sums her method up as this: “Write down, think about, and remember three [good] things that happened during the day. This brightens your thoughts and encourages you to see the glass as half full. It changes the way you see things from day to day and stimulates the secretion of feel-good molecules.”

How to cultivate optimism (and boost dopamine and other feel-good hormones)

So there you have it: A simple way to generate dopamine is to remind yourself of something good three times a day; then, before you go to bed, write, think about, and remember what those three things were.

Easy, but something you must consistently work at. This important detail in the book comes from one of the interviews Cortin-Clarins has with Catherine Testa, founder of L'Optimisme.com. “All studies agree that between 30% and 50% of personality traits are biologically determined,” says Testa. “This means that 50% to 70% of these traits can be acquired and worked on throughout our lives.”

So while our environment and the people around us have an influence, Testa argues that we can also take measures to be more optimistic. And in doing so, our gestures and habits can stimulate hormones like oxytocin (related to feelings of security and confidence in social relationships), serotonin (linked to emotions and mood), endorphins (which causes feelings of euphoria and prevents stress and pain), and dopamine. The latter “is responsible for feelings of motivation and reward. It promotes a feeling of pleasure,” Courtin-Clarins explains. We often call them the feel-good hormones, though experts say they're really neurotransmitters associated with mood regulation, a sense of well-being, and reduced anxiety. In the specific case of dopamine, it's a neurotransmitter that provokes a quick sensation of pleasure that's energising and stimulating.

And yes, it is possible to generate them on our own. “When someone asks me if there is a recipe for happiness, I usually say that to be happy you have to be optimistic and draw on your own resources,” says Courtin-Clarins.

A cheat code for increasing dopamine

When looking for those three highs a day that activate our wellbeing, there's one that never fails: laughter. It's been proved that both natural and voluntary laughter generates dopamine.

This is how psychologist Lourdes Ramón, from Clínica Palasiet, explains it to us: “The insula, which is one of the parts of the brain most involved in identity, is activated when we see someone smile or when we smile ourselves. We see the power that a smile has on us, because the brain dedicates a large number of neurons to the face. When we smile, there is an increase in endorphins, neuropeptides, dopamine, and serotonin. These hormones when acting together are able to decrease stress, lower heart rate, increase productivity, and reduce anxiety.”

This feature originally appeared on Vogue Spain.