A diverse group of employees smiling and laughing
Employee Benefits

A Different Kind of Booster: Self-Care Practices to Release Happiness Hormones

Cal Beyer
Cal Beyer
Holmes Murphy

It is well known there is a body-brain connection to health, wellbeing, and performance. This is why I appreciate and lean into the whole person approach to wellbeing. Wellbeing encompasses the aspects of life that can positively influence the physical and emotional health of individuals. This is proven to improve brain health and cognitive capacity.

Take a Self-Care Inventory

It’s an individual’s imperative to evaluate their life to determine if adjustments are necessary to achieve a better life/work integration. Like well-oiled machinery, our bodies and minds require ongoing preventive maintenance, like a tune-up, alignment, and systems check in a vehicle. This helps ensure we can perform well in all aspects of our lives, including responding well under pressure of daily life.

Self-care practices can help enhance physical wellness to promote mental and emotional wellbeing. When people engage in their favorite self-care practices, they often feel refreshed, replenished, and restored. Likewise, self-care practices can foster calm, clarity, and confidence. However, a major shortcoming with self-care practices for many of us is not incorporating them into our daily lifestyle as routines or habits. When we save the power of self-care practices only for times of rising stress or a life crisis, we’re seeing them only as an indulgence and not as a necessity. We need to change that!

Establishing daily regimens or rituals for self-care is a personal investment in your overall wellbeing.

A tool I have shared for many years is from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and is called the NAMI Self-Care Inventory. It was shared with me in back in ’08 or ‘09 by a mental health practitioner I was co-leading workshops with to address the after-effects of traumatic workplace incidents. It remains a good reminder for me to periodically assess my personal commitments and gaps in my wellbeing practice.

Brain and Body ‘Happiness’ Chemicals

In her book, “Habits of a Happy Brain,” Loretta Graziano Breuning describes several neurotransmitters and hormones in your brain and body that have been popularly referred to as “happiness chemicals” because of the way they are proven to lift our spirits. Each of the four main ones is linked to positive impacts on wellbeing:


Dopamine is associated with pleasure and rewards and is released when sleeping well, as well as when completing tasks and performing acts of kindness.


These are acknowledged to naturally suppress pain and are released through physical exertion, as well as laughing, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.


This is attributed to feelings of affection and love and is released when we express affection, like hugging or holding hands, as well as while playing with children or pets, or when spending time with friends and family.


This is known to stabilize moods and is released through mindfulness and meditation, eating a balanced diet, walking in nature, and exposure to sunshine.

These four and other hormones and neurotransmitters countereffect the presence of cortisol, which affects the body’s response to stress. Cortisol is attributed with rising respiration and blood pressure, thereby activating your body’s fight-flight-freeze response to stress. Cortisol is associated with midsection weight gain and contributes to the development of chronic stress which has adverse health effects, including delayed healing and lethargy.

It’s All about Your Gratitude

Have you ever heard the expression “attitude of gratitude”? It has been shown that expressing gratitude increases the release of neurotransmitters and hormones in your brain and body that lift your spirits. The same phenomenon comes when we engage in acts of kindness and volunteer service.

I appreciate Holmes Murphy providing all of our employees with up to two days per year to use as Volunteer Time Off. This year, during our 90th anniversary celebration campaign, we’re also all encouraged to volunteer an additional 90 minutes during 90 days in a community service activity of our choice. This is called the Give90.Fully. campaign. I love this, and I hope you’ll agree with me that this is the type of boost we can all use!

Want to encourage your employees to have strong mental wellbeing? Holmes Murphy can help your wellbeing plan thrive. Let’s talk today!

Explore more from Holmes Murphy