Creating Confidence from Neurotransmitters


Converting Neurotransmitters into Happiness

Samuel Johnson said, “Self-confidence is the first requisite for great undertakings.” Business leaders need confidence for most every task in their busy days. The concept is so important, most how-to business books contain at least a chapter on how to create  confidence.

The following definitions discuss the meaning of confidence.

  1. The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.
  2. The state of feeling certain about the truth of something.
  3. The feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. (Online Dictionary)

Maintaining self-confidence is difficult when someone places everything on the line. They are concerned with their performance and the outcomes. Entrepreneurs often spend their life savings or go into debt just to open their doors. Expenses include: Lawyers, building materials, government permits, space, furnishings and inventory. As money disappears, problems grow. The risk of failure increases. Fears multiply as family life is disrupted by work. Negative thoughts can overwhelm new business owners.

Building confidence helps overworked managers by

  •     Increasing beliefs in their hopes and plans.
  •     Offering flexibility for goal creation in the midst of change.
  •     Overcome perfectionism.
  •     Increase interaction abilities.
  •     Supports for positive thinking, energy, and assertive behaviors.

Throughout history man relied on his capabilities to improve performance. Researchers believe confidence may be an important contributor to success (S.B. Kaufman, 2011). Well trained athletes perform better when they are confident they can win. Self perceptions make a difference in performance. These concepts are based on biochemicals.

Scientific studies suggest strategies for stress management.  Recent studies unveil how neurotransmitters  allow individuals control the internal environment. People can now alter self-care to increase the chemical levels needed to produce confidence.

There are about 200 chemicals impacting bodily functions. The chemicals are complex substances that are impacted by self-care. Knowledge of how the body works reduces the need for medications during normal stress.  Self-confidence is like a handcrafted, just-in-time product consisting of confidence, perceptions and decisions.

While a number of different factors play a role in creating confidence, recent studies suggest that levels of neurotransmitters  affect performance. Some scientists say perceptions of confidence can improve performance abilities. Personal beliefs are changed by perceptions. Both observation and decision making produce who we are and what we choose to do. Neurotransmitter levels change and are changed by the perceptions in a fast moving feedback loop. Healthy people influence how much of different neurotransmitters are produced in each situation.

Science is still trying to determine how much bodily function is influenced by choice, health, genetic characteristics, history, and the situation. Not enough is known about how other influences like trauma, health, abuse, and the environment impact outcomes. We can learn more about the chemicals which operate the body.

For instance, dopamine and serotonin contribute to cognitive exploration, positive emotions, anxiety, depression, perceptions of risk, values of fairness, engagement with the world, and mood fluctuations. Several studies suggest that when people are exposed to abuse, nuerotransmitters produce anxiety and depression but if people are not exposed to abuse, the same neurotransmitters are associated with low levels of anxiety, fear, and depression.

We know several factors influence our emotions including confidence, satisfaction and happiness. It may be that several factors can improve our situational confidence. Rachael Grazioplene believes neurotransmitters influencing the cholinergic system will impact neural plasticity and learning. In other words, we can strengthen our responses to both expected and unexpected change but it takes several chemicals to produce a change. These responses are related to norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter.

Controlling our neurochemicals is like creating minestrone soup with lots of vegetables. One needs to understand the recipe before altering the measurements, the proportions, the ingredients, and/or the cooking process. After the soup is ready to serve, the chef presents it with a variety of other foods and in a relaxing environment. Each stressful experience is different just as each pot of soup is different. The final soup depends on which vegetables are used. The chef changes the recipe by altering proportions of each ingredient, choosing the spices and liquids and how he decides to cook the soup.

The fear of failure due to a lack of self-confidence can paralyze growth. Researchers state we can intentionally trigger the main neurotransmitters that cause happiness: Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. Being happy includes the flow of motivation, productivity, and wellbeing. It is possible to increase the amount of happiness we experience by altering the amounts of neurotransmitters we produce.



Low levels of dopamine are linked to procrastination, self-doubt, and the lack of enthusiasm. While increasing dopamine levels produces actions toward setting and accomplishing goals and satisfying needs. The surge of pleasure one feels when goals are achieved also comes from dopamine. People need to actually celebrate goal achievement in order to feel accomplishment pleasure. In order to encourage a steady flow of dopamine, people create new goals.


Serotonin is important for feeling important. A lack of serotonin produces loneliness and depression. Unhealthy attention-seeking behaviors, and belonging to a group can indicate needs for more serotonin. Barry Jacobs from Princeton states most antidepressants focus on the production of serotonin, but it is possible to stimulate our natural supply.

Reflecting on past achievements and happy moments is a serotonin booster. Memory allows us to relive an experience which promotes the same amount of serotonin experienced during the actual event. Gratitude reminds us we are valued and boosts serotonin.

Working both the dopamine and serotonin systems together, occurs when people set goals, work to achieve them, celebrate the achievements and then begin working on the next goal.  Spending 20 minutes soaking in the sun can also make a difference to production of both chemical systems.

Low levels of dopamine are linked to procrastination, self-doubt, and the lack of enthusiasm.


The cultivation of oxytocin is essential for creating strong relationships and improved social interactions. Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and builds healthy relationships. Men and women experience oxytocin during orgasm. New and breastfeeding mothers feel surges of the neurotransmitter. Sometimes called the cuddle hormone, hugs are known to increase the flow. Some scientists have tried to determine how many hugs a day keep lonliness away. One says 8 will do the trick. Skin-to-skin contact, affection, gifts and intimacy are key to oxytocin release.


Runners’ high is produced by endorphins which are created in the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus during strenuous physical exertion.  This neurotransmitter is released in response to pain and stress to alleviate anxiety and depression. The protein acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing our perceptions of pain. Sexual intercourse, orgasm, exercise and laughter are common ways of releasing endorphins. Smelling vanilla and lavender as well as eating dark chocolate and spicy foods can also boost endorphin levels.


Our body produces neurochemicals to turn life’s struggles into pleasure. We feel happy when we achieve the small victories that come with being alive. Self-respect, self-confidence, and general self-esteem is not dependent on others or environmental conditions. We control our neurochemical production by increasing our perceptions of readiness and worthiness, We can improve perceptions of ourselves.  This knowledge allows us to grow and become the wished for person.

Remember the statement that quality of performance doesn’t matter as much as perception of performance? Performance still counts and daily practice matters. Whether practicing a skill, a sport, or a virtue, daily improvements increase our positive perceptions and build confidence. We can practice being grateful, polite, generous, kind, etc. Our neurotransmitter levels will improve and we will feel more confident about ourselves. We will believe in our abilities, support our decisions, and be convinced that we are right.

Here is a list of ingredients for happiness. Mix well and enjoy.

  • “Act positive” is another way of saying, “Fake it until you make it”. Acting impacts the neurotransmitter production.
  • Look your best. This consists of good grooming, appropriate dress, and even photo shopping your image.
  • Think positive and purposefully deleting negative thoughts leaves us with more time to feel good, and to say good things about ourselves and others thus triggering the production of neurochemicals.
  • Appreciate yourself. Look for opportunities to praise yourself. Some say one must repeat 28 positive compliments to undo the harm of one negative statement.
  • Think about what is affecting your self-esteem and alter the situation.
  • Connect with people who love you.
  • Serve others. Attempt to ease their burdens.
  • Learn new skills and practice old ones.
  • Act assertively.
  • Set challenging goals,work the plan to achieve your goals, celebrate achievement, and work on new goals.
  • Focus on your positives.
  • Practice delayed gratification. This exercise strengthens decision making.
  • Reflect on success and past happy moments.
  • Look for ways of saying “thank you”.
  • Regular exercise.

We become more resilient by practicing habits that control daily thinking. Reflect on what works for you. Will you share with us which self-care habits work for you under stressful business conditions?


  • Bari, A., Theobald, D. E., Caprioli, D., Mar A. C., Aidoo-Michar, A., Dalley, J. W., & Robbins, T. W. (2010). Serotonin Modulates Sensitivity to Reward and Negative Feedback in a Probabilistic Reversal Learning Task in Rats. Neuropsychopharmacology; 35(6). 1290–1301.