Work is supposed to be an emotionally satisfying experience. Usually it is. But the sense of satisfaction we get from toiling at a desk is sometimes diminished and occasionally even eclipsed by other feelings.
I’ll be the first to admit that there have been times when I had those other feelings. Negative thoughts were the main ones, especially early in the morning. And then there have been times when my energy levels dipped, leaving me feeling like crawling back into bed for an hour or three.
Thankfully, I found a way to fight those counterproductive feelings. How did I get rid of them? By finding out that most of them are actually physiologically induced and then releasing into my bloodstream the antidote—my own happiness chemicals.
What are happiness chemicals?
Happiness chemicals are hormones our bodies manufacture to tell our brains to sweep out the cobwebs, turn on the lights, and crackle with power. There are mainly four happiness chemicals, but before I tell you about each I want to cut right to the chase and explain how you can make more of them to lift yourself up like I did (and still do).
One of the best ways to activate the production and release of happiness chemicals is by getting active. The more active we are, the more happiness chemicals we pump out and—by extension—the greater our sense of well-being and satisfaction.
There’s a problem, however: it can be a challenge to find time during the busy workday to engage in physical activity. Most of our workday is spent sitting behind a desk. The only parts of our body that engage in activity are our fingertips (as they tap at the keyboard) and our lips (as they form spoken words).
Of course, it is possible to be a lot more physically active than that even while glued to our workstations. That’s where active sitting comes into the game. It is your best bet to induce constant activity while at your desk. If you’ll take a look at our Active Chair Guide , you’ll learn more about a variety of chairs crafted expressly to promote physical activity while you’re seated. Pair those with a standing desk and you will get even more movement (our Desk Guide will tell you all about it). Get one of these for yourself, then see how much more motivated, energized, uplifted, and overall healthier it can help you feel.
The name of the game
Now, as promised, let’s take a look at the four happiness chemicals. Here they are:
Dopamine. This hormone affects learning, motivation, mood, attention span, and pain processing.
Serotonin. When you feel happy and all seems right with the world, you’re feeling the effects of serotonin. This hormone can improve memory, reduce fear, alleviate stress, aid digestion, make it easier to kick bad habits, sleep more restoratively, breathe better, and stabilize your body temperature.
Oxytocin. Sometimes called the "Love Hormone," oxytocin increases your desire to bond with people and to put your trust in them. If you have low levels of oxytocin, you're apt to feel disconnected not just from people but also from your job and the tasks set before you.
Endorphin. There are roughly 20 different types of endorphin; each one influences a different set of emotions or body functions. Mainly, they relieve stress, lift your spirits, and create a feeling of general well-being.
The name of the game is to increase the amount of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphin your body produces. Using an active workstation with an active chair for instance, helps you produce higher levels of happiness chemicals. It is one way to win at that game—but it’s not the only way.
For example, we previously wrote about the body’s very important circadian rhythms and how exposure to light enhances them. Turns out the same is true when it comes to happiness chemicals, especially serotonin. Indeed, light therapy is one of the main treatments for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the winter blues that may be triggered by a drop in serotonin levels. Accordingly, you should consider acquiring indoor smart lights like the ones from Shadelights or Midgard.
Meanwhile, production of happiness chemicals is also boosted by contact with nature. There is nothing better for you than a walk in the green, but the good news is you can also feel the benefits simply by adding some biophilic design elementsto your work area. For instance, Suiteplants and Just Vertical offer some nifty green solutions.
Other ways to pump more happiness chemicals into your bloodstream include meditation, listening to music, and tickling your funny bone (i.e., finding reasons to engage in laughter). One more suggestion: add the soothing presence of a fireplace with brands such as EcoFeu.
My own journey to enlightenment
I became “happiness chemical”-conscious since childhood as I noticed I’d feel better riding my bike than laying on the sofa and watching cartoons all day.
I didn’t develop my awareness of that connection until years later when I was well into adulthood as I find fascinating how our brain works and how we can improve your daily experience with simple habits. As increased wellness makes us better beings for ourselves and others, implementing some of those small changes goes a long way! I like to start my day with some quick exercise and stretching. What do you like to do?
Remember that the Phil Zen Design team is here to answer your questions about the ways your work-from-home experience can be perfected to give you the greatest possible peace of mind, energized motivation, bodily vitality, and emotional well-being.
Check out our 2022 guide to see the bestselling active-seating brands including HAG, Varier, and Salli. Then go here to look at standing desk solutions with brands such as Direction Desk. Drop us a line any time!