Apparently, there are the four ingredients to much of our happiness (EDSO):
Endorphins. Diminishes our perceptions of pain. Keeps us going during work-outs, gives us a “runner’s high”, and helps us to endure difficulties. Good for those late nights, 70+ hour weeks, and long distance cycle rides.
Dopamine. Motivates us to achieve incremental goals. Rewards motivate behaviour. Kind of like the “greed” function of our brain. Makes us feel good when we check things off the “to do list” or get through project milestones. Highly addictive.
Serotonin. Provides the feeling of significance, pride, status. It drives us to seek the recognition of others, like wanting to do something “for my partner, my teammate, my boss, my wife.” It reinforces the sense of relationships with the group, allegiance. Simon Sinek calls this the Leadership chemical and what creates a sense of allegiance and organisational cohesion.
Oxytocin. Creates intimacy, trust and feeling that someone will protect you. Moms, babies, lovers feel this when they are protected and loved. Feeling of safety.
Simon Sinek argues here that these chemicals – over the long evolutionary arc – have wired us to be driven, organised, relationally-motivated creatures. We succeed because we understand the benefits of cooperation and teamwork. He argues that we are mentally wired to submit to organisational hierarchy, and when leaders betray that trust, we get upset and disengaged.
Personally i think this is a great summary of the behavioural determinants of our neurochemistry (and vice versa). It also points to how we can easily alter our neurochemistry by altering key behaviours (like raising serotonin by relating to others and helping them). For more about this, check out part 2 on happiness hacking