Mind altering chemicals – have you had your daily DOSE?

Posted in: Kate Elliott

Is it just me or is the change of season bringing a distinct note of lethargy with it? Getting out of bed feels like a struggle, cycling to work seems too much and getting this blog written on time impossible! 

My conversations with colleagues around the University indicate that many of us continue to feel a bit overwhelmed. Too much to do, too little time and a sense that our inboxes and calendars are ever-present virtual dictators, ruling our days and sapping our energy.   

Sadly, I don’t have the power to get rid of emails or reduce your workload (though I would if I could!) but I do have some neuroscience tips that might just help you carve out some more balance for you and your teams. 

DOSE is an acronym for the brain’s major chemicals – the ones that help us to feel happy, energised and motivated: 

D is for Dopamine 

Dopamine plays a key role in motivation, learning and reward – it’s released in anticipation of a reward such as completing a task, receiving praise (or eating a bar of chocolate). Dopamine makes us feel good and motivates us to repeat the behaviours that led to the reward. Mobile devices are designed to ‘hijack’ this reward mechanism and give us a little dopamine hit every time we check an email or like a social media post, which is one of the reasons we find them so hard to put down. 


  • Setting clear, achievable goals for yourself and others, and breaking large tasks down into smaller tasks  
  • Making sure that successes are recognised – both your own and your teams’ 
  • Turning off any non-essential notifications on your mobile phone and turning off email altogether outside working hours 

O is for Oxytocin 

Oxytocin is also known as the ‘trust hormone’ and is released during social interactions such as hugging, kissing or talking to someone you care about (more appropriate for the workplace 😊). It plays a role in empathy, attachment and bonding and is usually found in high levels in new parents.  


  • Prioritising and scheduling relationship building time – both in and out of work
  • Giving people your full attention and demonstrating empathy 
  • Collaborating with others and encouraging collaboration in your teams 

S is for Seratonin 

Seratonin regulates mood and helps to alleviate anxiety and depression. It is released when we remember happy events or think about something that makes us feel good and is boosted by sunlight.  


  • Taking regular breaks  
  • Getting outside 
  • Starting a gratitude wall – write things you are grateful for on post it notes, stick them on the office wall and encourage others to do the same 

E is for Endorphins 

Endorphins are our natural painkillers and play a role in alleviating depression. They are released during exercise, stress and laughter and produce feelings of euphoria and well-being. 


  • Taking a proper lunch break and going for a brisk walk 
  • Using your commute to listen to a comedy podcast or sing along to your favourite song 
  • Incorporating breathing exercises into your day 


Endorphins: The brain’s natural pain reliever - Harvard Health 

The Neurochemicals of Happiness | Psychology Today 

How Smartphones Hijack the Brain (brainfacts.org) 

How Music Can Boost Your Productivity 

To find out more about neuroscience at work come to our first Psychology Leadership Conversation 

Posted in: Kate Elliott


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