Hack Your Happiness Chemicals On Your Commute
As many Americans are back to the daily commute, we challenge you to ask yourself: Am I making the most of my commute?
Are you spending your ride into work micromanaging your daily schedule, worrying about the dishes you left in the sink, or driving a little too fast to make up for hitting the snooze button one too many times? If no one else has told you this, let us be the one to say it: Take a breath. Your commute does not have to be a stress vortex. In fact, it can be a moment of joy within your workday.
Our Happiness Chemicals
Happiness is the driving force keeping us going and impacting our behaviors. What is it that creates such happiness when we pet a puppy, talk to our best friend, or eat our favorite food? It’s actually chemicals called “hormones” at work. The endocrine system, made up of our bodies’ hormones, are constantly regulating every bodily function we have; everything from our mood to our heartbeat. Things like disease, stress, or even poor diet can disrupt this system regulating us by altering the quantity of hormones we receive.
That’s why every chance we get, we should hack our hormones to give them a little boost. There are times of the day we tend to overlook when it comes to the impact they may have on us. But we can easily change that during our daily commute.
Moments like driving to work may be mundane, but being intentional with even the smallest actions can kickstart your ‘happiness hormones’. Let us show you some ways to hack your happiness chemicals in the routine act of getting to work.
Dopamine: The Reward Chemical
The neurochemical called dopamine works as our brain’s reward system. It channels the feeling of enthusiasm and encouragement we get when we are praised or reach a goal. Hacking your dopamine will boost your mood, motivation, and energy. We could all use some of that heading into the workday.
How can you hack the happiness chemical dopamine? Give into a craving, specifically one good for you. Drink some refreshing, cold water or a good coffee from your favorite travel mug. The pleasure from the first sip will send you sailing into a good day.
Check a task off your to-do list on your way into work. This one is especially good for commuters who take transit, giving themselves downtime before work instead of driving. Check your email, giving yourself one less thing to do when you get to work. And just like that: Dopamine boosted.
Oxytocin: The Love Hormone
It’s all about self-love, and how we can nourish the part of ourselves needing trust and relationships. High levels of oxytocin reduce stress and anxiety, increasing feelings of calmness and security. So, on your commute to work, how can you ensure there is love in the air?
The easiest way to hack this happiness hormone: Socialize! Being around people and socializing is the best way to boost oxytocin. And the best part is you can easily make your commute a social experience by taking transit or carpooling. Even better, you can feel great in knowing carpooling does wonders for the environment. So, not only are you helping yourself regulate your emotions, you are helping the world around you. That’s what we call a win-win.
If you drive into work, here are our favorite ways to boost your oxytocin: Sing along to music you know by heart. Listen to a podcast that makes you laugh. Have a healthy snack. Feel the love!
Serotonin: The Mood Stabilizer
This is the hormone responsible for regulating your mood and your feelings. Serotonin plays a major role in mental health, sleep cycle, memory, cognition, digestion, and overall well-being.
Exercise is one crucial way to boost serotonin. If you live in a reasonable distance to do so, try biking to work. This is beneficial in so many ways. Cycling is an environmentally friendly form of transportation that lets you skip the morning traffic!
If you take transit to work, you can try to work on mindfulness to boost serotonin. Try the “Three Blessings Exercise” where you think of three good things, write them down, and reflect on them. These things can be from the day before, your morning, or maybe even good things to come.
Endorphins: The Pain Killer
The neurotransmitters geared to save our bodies from the wear and tear of stress and discomfort are called endorphins. High levels of endorphins boost our self-esteem, relieve stress and anxiety, regulate our appetites, and improve our overall health. You probably know endorphins from what is often referred to as a ‘runner’s high’. We feel it as the rush of positive energy from a good workout, a hearty laugh, or watching an amazing TV show.
Speaking of a runner’s high, the perfect way to boost this happiness hormone is to make your commute a form of exercise. Not many people want to jog to work and show up sweaty, but a good bike ride is great middle ground.
Here’s a lesser-known endorphin booster: Aromatherapy. Bring some pleasing scents into your commute with an essential oil diffuser you can clip onto your car’s AC vents. Pick your favorite motivating scent, like eucalyptus, lemongrass, orange, or frankincense!
Let’s Get Happy!
Once you learn how to hack your happiness chemicals, these small changes become staple parts of your day. Putting on your favorite album to sing along to, having a great travel mug full of coffee, practicing mindfulness—you’ll never stop once you start! You deserve to feel good as you start your day. Our commutes connect our personal lives to our professions. It matters. You matter. Happy commuting!
Author bio: Isabelle Brown spreads the message of sustainable living in her work and daily life. She is the Digital Content Coordinator for The Rideshare Company, a nonprofit organization committed to sustainable transportation through all forms of ridesharing.