Vinita Alvares Fernandes asks: What’s the real cause of our happiness? What makes us feel sensations of happiness, closeness and joy? The answer is brain chemicals!
We spend a lot of time discussing ways to be happier, maintain close friendships, look on the bright side, drink more water. But we don’t often think about how we feel happiness.
Did you know that the warmth you feel from a long hug is caused by an entirely different chemical sensation than the high you feel after a long run or bike ride?
What’s the real cause of our happiness?
What makes us feel sensations of happiness, closeness and joy?
The answer is Brain Chemicals!
There are four primary chemicals that can drive the positive emotions you feel throughout the day: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins (D.O.S.E.).
By understanding how these chemicals work on a basic level, we can better decide for ourselves whether the latest trends will be helping or hurting our happiness.
Dopamine (Pronounced: doh–puh-meen)
This chemical is meant to motivate your body toward a distant goal one step at a time. It is what helps you get through your to-do list or motivates you to start a new habit. However this isn’t the type of long-lasting happiness you’ll be able to savor and it’s likely not the goal on your quest for happiness. It is responsible for instant gratification.
Oxytocin (Pronounced: ok-si-toh–suh n)
The brain releases oxytocin during physical contact with others often affectionately referred to as the “hugging drug”. It’s also the feeling behind love, friendship or deep trust. Oxytocin is one of the main reasons why humans are social animals.
Oxytocin boosts our immune systems, makes us better problem solvers and gives us lasting feelings of calm and safety On your search for happiness, Oxytocin may be your best friend.
Serotonin (Pronounced: ser-uh–toh-nin)
When we feel a sense of accomplishment or recognition from others, we are experiencing the effects of Serotonin. It’s believed to affect digestion, bone growth and even organ development.
Serotonin is what motivates a leader to excel and grow their influence, to win awards and become popular in the news. But Serotonin also compels their followers to do well and not let down their leader, parent or teacher.
Endorphins (Pronounced: en-dawr-fins)
Endorphins are essentially released in response to pain. They help us push our bodies beyond their comfort levels and persist when we might otherwise want to give up. Once you remove the pain part of the equation, endorphins can feel like a “high” or even just a nice relaxing feeling.
“The runner’s high,” “A freezing cold shower,” “Deep belly laughs,”
“Starting a gym routine”
That feeling comes from endorphins.
Chemicals & Happiness
Now that we have an insight into the hormones (chemicals) and the reaction they have when released in our bodies. Each of these chemicals play a huge part in the way our bodies function, physically, mentally and emotionally. By taking control of those effects we can enjoy a healthier, happier life.
Everyone’s version of happiness is different, and so is their path to achieving it, choose to inculcate habits that bring positivity to you and others, let go of the rest.
Ways to kickstart your happy bubble:
Smile: Smiling causes the brain to release dopamine, which makes us happier. Start each morning by smiling at yourself in the mirror.
Exercise: Regular exercise can help to reduce stress, feelings of anxiety and symptoms of depression while boosting self-esteem and happiness.
- Take a walk around the block every night after dinner.
- Sign up for a beginner’s class in yoga or tai chi.
- Start your day with 5 minutes of stretching.
Get plenty of sleep: Most adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep every night for good health, brain function and emotional well-being. If you find yourself fighting the urge to nap during the day, a twenty minute power nap is better than feeling like you’re in a fog, your body may be telling you it needs more rest.
Tips to help you build a better sleep routine:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Reserve the hour before bed as quiet time. Take a bath, read, or do something relaxing.
- Avoid heavy eating and drinking.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet and invest in some good bedding.
Eat with mood in mind: Some foods affect your state of mind, so making good food choices does have an impact on your overall physical health. Carbohydrates release serotonin, choose complex carbs like vegetables, beans and whole grains to foods high in sugar and starch because that energy surge is short and you’ll crash.
Be grateful: Practicing gratitude can have a significant impact on feelings of hope and happiness. Start each day by acknowledging one thing you’re grateful for. As you go about your day, try to keep an eye out for pleasant things in your life and perform random acts of kindness, it brings great satisfaction.
Compliment people: Giving a sincere compliment is a quick, easy way to brighten someone’s day while giving your own happiness a boost.
Breathe deeply: The next time you feel stressed or at your wit’s end, try deep breathing:
- Close your eyes. Try to envision a happy memory or beautiful place.
- Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. Slowly breathe out through your mouth.
- Repeat this process several times, until you start to feel yourself calm down.
Acknowledge the unhappy moments: If you get some bad news, make a mistake or just feel like you’re in a funk, don’t try to pretend you’re happy. Acknowledge the feeling of unhappiness and let yourself experience it. Then, shift your focus toward what made you feel this way and what it might take to recover. A positive attitude is generally a good thing, but bad things happen to everyone. Its just part of life.
Face stress head-on: Life is full of stressors and it’s impossible to avoid all of them. Instead of letting yourself get overwhelmed, try to tackle the stressor head-on. This might mean initiating an uncomfortable conversation or putting in some extra work, but the sooner you tackle it, the sooner the pit in your stomach will start to shrink.
While these are deep-rooted habits to inculcate, lets not forget to enjoy the simple things of life too! Over the weekend; plan your week, see friends, ditch your phone for a couple of hours, Get into nature, Explore meditation, indulge in self-care rituals, take yourself out to dinner, take time to reflect, declutter your mind and home.
Sounds worthwhile, right?
Make your world a happy place.