What are Happy Hormones and How Do They Help with Recovery?

Have you ever experienced a runner’s high? Or maybe you’ve sensed a rush after seeing something beautiful and exciting? Perhaps you’ve felt a deep warmth while snuggling up with your pet. These are all examples of “happy hormones” doing their job of performing little chemical dances inside your body and making you feel good about life.

Farvah Fatima, M.D., a family medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health, says, “A lot of different hormones and neurotransmitters can help us feel better. And there are plenty of ways to trigger the release of these hormones.”

Understanding Hormones


Starting from the endocrine system’s glands—such as the thyroid, adrenal glands, and pancreas—hormones travel lazily throughout the bloodstream to reach tissues and organs far and wide. Hormones are pivotal in our everyday bodily functions, including metabolism, growth, and emotional regulation. The correct hormone balance influences our overall well-being and mood, so it’s important to get the balance right.


In contrast, think of neurotransmitters as the “swift messengers” of communication between neurons and their target cells. These neurochemicals cover much shorter distances than hormones, which allows them to act swiftly, often within milliseconds. However, their influence is fleeting, as they quickly disintegrate or are reabsorbed following signal transmission.


Neuropeptides are a unique chemical blend that exhibits characteristics similar to hormones and neurotransmitters. Even though they travel relatively short distances, their effects are more enduring, bridging the instantaneous actions of neurotransmitters and the prolonged influence of hormones.

Together, hormones, neurotransmitters, and neuropeptides make up a complex communication network of bodily functions that maintain our health, regulate our growth, and shape our emotions and behaviour.

What are Happy Hormones?

These naturally occurring chemicals, what we affectionately call “happy hormones” or “feel-good hormones”, regulate our mood, emotions, and overall sense of happiness. Each hormone uniquely shapes our feelings and behaviours, influencing everything from our daily mood to our ability to connect with others and find joy in everyday life.

The four key happy hormones and the disruption due to substance abuse:

The word hormones in human hands, on a light background.
  1. Serotonin, often called the “mood stabilizer”, impacts our overall well-being, helping regulate mood, appetite, and sleep. Its presence, or lack thereof, is closely linked to feelings of depression and anxiety.
    Chronic substance use can drastically reduce serotonin levels, leading to mood disorders, depression, and anxiety.
  2. Dopamine is the reward chemical. It motivates us to pursue activities that bring pleasure, which is crucial in how we perceive reward and satisfaction from our actions.
    Substance abuse overstimulates the reward pathway, eventually dulling the brain’s response to dopamine, making everyday pleasures feel less rewarding.
  3. Oxytocin, known as the “love hormone”, helps us with feelings of bonding, trust, and empathy. It helps to strengthen our relationships and form deep connections with others.
    Drugs and alcohol can impair social bonding, connection and trust, reducing oxytocin levels and impacting relationships.
  4. Endorphins are our natural painkillers. They help relieve stress and pain, giving us a sense of euphoria and well-being.
    Highs from substance use can suppress the body’s natural endorphin production, reducing its ability to naturally combat pain and stress.

Addiction and Happy Hormones

When we add in addiction and recovery, these happy hormones assume an even more prominent role. You see, addiction and substance abuse disrupt the natural balance and production of these hormones, creating a significant imbalance in the brain’s chemistry, which leads to a cycle of dependence on substances to feel happiness and relief from pain. 

For example, drugs and alcohol can cause an artificial spike in dopamine levels, leading to a temporary feeling of euphoria. However, this is followed by a sharp decline, leaving the user feeling worse off than before. Over time, the brain’s natural ability to produce and regulate these hormones diminishes, leading to dependence on substances to feel good or even normal. This imbalance contributes to the cycle of addiction, making recovery a challenge not just psychologically but biochemically as well.

Restoring Hormonal Balance to Aid in Recovery

By learning how to stimulate the production of these hormones naturally, those in recovery can work towards restoring balance, regulating mood and reducing cravings. These natural chemicals help rebuild the neural pathways to pleasure, satisfaction, and connection that addiction disrupts.

By practising a lifestyle that increases the natural selection of these hormones, you can find healthier ways to cope with stress, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and ultimately lower the risk of relapse.

Incorporating these strategies into daily life can significantly impact the recovery process:

  • Practising mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can increase serotonin and endorphin levels, relieving pain and reducing stress.
  • Setting and achieving small goals can create a sense of accomplishment, naturally increasing dopamine levels. Enjoying hobbies or activities that were once pleasurable before addiction can also help rewire the brain’s reward system.
  • Eating a balanced diet, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, can support the production of happy hormones. Spicy foods also trigger those “feel good” endorphins!
  • Making time for daily exercise, laughter, and good sleep can boost endorphin levels and help normalize serotonin and dopamine levels.
  • Engaging in community activities, support groups, or therapy enhances oxytocin production. You can naturally boost your oxytocin levels by establishing and maintaining close personal relationships, engaging in physical touch (like hugs), and pet therapy.

How Camino Recovery Can Help

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Camino Recovery offers a comprehensive approach to addiction treatment that understands the critical role of happy hormones in healing from addiction.

Our expert team provides personalized care that includes therapy, nutritional guidance, physical activities, and community support, designed to naturally enhance your “feel good” hormones and support your recovery journey. Our holistic approach addresses not just the physical and psychological aspects of addiction but also the emotional and biochemical imbalances, ensuring a well-rounded and effective recovery process.

Whether you’re taking the first steps towards recovery or looking for ways to maintain your progress, Camino Recovery offers the tools and resources you need to succeed. Don’t let addiction define your life any longer.

Reach out to Camino Recovery today to learn more about how we can help you rediscover joy, connection, and a sense of fulfilment on your path to recovery. Contact us now to take that step towards a brighter future.

Ameet Braich - Camino Recovery Spain

Ameet Singh Braich, a distinguished Clinical Director at Camino Recovery, is renowned for expertise in addiction and trauma resolution. With 15+ years of experience, he transforms lives through a holistic therapeutic approach. His research focuses on childhood maltreatment's impact on cognitive, emotional, and social functioning.

A dynamic speaker and trainer, Ameet empowers clients to achieve lasting recovery, prioritizing trauma resolution and relapse prevention. His diverse training includes EAP, crisis intervention, and EMDR. Committed to positive transformation, Ameet equips individuals across fields to address challenges of addiction.

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