How Happy Happens In Your Brain
Your experience of your journey through life boils down to the chemicals in your brain. Happy, sad, mad, anxious, you name it can all be traced to whats going on inside your head. Your brain produces a chemical soup which directs your behavior, always instinctually encouraging you to seek pleasure and avoid pain to ensure your survival. When you have success , you get rewarded with happy.
Rather than being in the passengers seat in this process, science has proven without a doubt that you can take control, affect the balance in your brain, and hack into your happy neurochemicals. By understanding how these chemicals originate and function, you can work experiences into your daily life to increase them which can up your happiness, productivity, and peace of mind.
Chemicals That Make You Happy
Serotonin is manufactured with help of an amino acid called tryptophan. This chemical in the brain helps to maintain a feeling of happiness and also controls mood swings, sleep and anxiety levels. Dopamine makes people excited and increases their tendency to talk. It also has a bearing on brain processes which control emotional response, movement and the bodys ability to experience pain and pleasure. Another chemical in the brain related to happiness is acetylcholine. Apart from enhancing a persons memory, acetylcholine is related to arousal and sexual performance, as it controls blood flow to a persons genitals. It is believed, that a happy person has high levels of these.
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Do you know why people go to the beach on vacation? Why they put in Florida and not in Minnesota, where its cooler? Why caves are not more popular as a tourist destination? Its all because of what these guys studied in their new research, Feldman says. He did not work on the new study.
High-energy, UV rays come from the sun and the special lights used in tanning booths. Even though people know UV radiation can be dangerous, they continue to risk sunburns for a tan. Rates of skin cancer have been going up. David Fisher wanted to know why. Hes an oncologist a doctor who treats people with cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
We know dangerous, Fisher says, but many people choose not to protect themselves.
Fisher and his colleagues exposed mice to a moderate amount of UV light five days a week, for six weeks. The scientists shaved the mice so the light would reach their skin. The animals received an exposure to UV light that was similar to what a fair-skinned person gets after 20 or 30 minutes in the Florida sun.
UV light didnt boost beta-endorphin for very long, though. Levels returned to normal a week after the UV treatments stopped. And the mice didnt seem to have wanted those treatments to end. In fact, they showed signs of an addiction to this light.
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What Happens If You Smile Too Much
The researchers found that smiling frequently may actually make people feel worse if they‘re sort of faking it grinning even though they feel down. When people force themselves to smile because they hope to feel better or they do it just to hide their negative emotions, this strategy may backfire.
The Chemicals That Cause Depression
Serotonin and norepinephrine are the main chemicals responsible for depression. Studies have shown that low serotonin levels in the brain can lead to anxiety, irritability, and sleep disorders that are normally associated with depression. Similarly, reduced levels of norepinephrine, a chemical responsible for arousal and alertness can lead to fatigue and a general depressed mood.
Dopamine is another chemical in the brain that can cause depression in a few cases. Another fact about dopamine is that it is associated with addiction of alcohol and drugs, which can stimulate its production in the body.
Antidepressants prescribed to people going through depression help in increasing transmission of brain chemicals like norepinephine and serotonin. The medicines do not provide the body with any new substance, instead just slow the breakdown process of serotonin and norepinephrine, enabling the body to use these transmitters in the brain in a more effective way.
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Endorphins Make You Happy
Endorphins are released into your bloodstream once you have exercised, leaving you feeling more energised and in a better mood for the rest of your day. Endorphins are the counter balance to stress, so the more endorphins you release, the less stress and anxiety you will experience.
Along with regular exercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release. This tells us one BIG thing we need to have more fun! So, always keep your sense of humour handy.
There are some studies that attest that dark chocolate and spicy foods can help to release endorphins. Therefore, consider keeping a stash of dark chocolate and treat yourself to a curry every now and then for a quick endorphin boost.
Appreciate The Advantages Of Your Social Position At Each Moment
You may be the boss at home and a subordinate at work. Each role has distinct advantages and disadvantages. When you arent in the dominant position, someone else has the responsibility. When youre in charge, revel in the freedom and respect that comes with the position. Learn to focus on the positives of each while youre in them, rather than the frustrations.
You can find out more ways to increase serotonin here.
In Habits Of A Happy Brain, Breuning suggests that you concentrate on increasing one happy chemical at a time. Over time, with repetition and because of neuroplasticity, the new behaviors will actually form pathways and patterns of operating in your brain to help alter your outlook.
Maybe you can be a glass-half-full person after all.
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What Can Balanced Well
Escaping the grip of depression often requires the strong inept hands of others experienced at diagnosing and treating what is triggering the depressive symptoms.
At Balanced Well-Being Healthcare, we offer a multidisciplinary, integrated approach to treatment in order to restore health and internal balance. We start this by first identifying your physical, mental, environmental, and nutritional state. By incorporating goals for health maintenance, prevention we seek to treat the whole person rather than just one component of you. Our natural therapies, combined with our integrative approach to understanding the underlying causes of your depression, can help us find you the help you need.
Some possible remedies include:
How Does Serotonin Affect Your Mood
Serotonin is responsible for your feelings of happiness, wellbeing and the stability of your mood. It also helps regulate your sleep cycle and other processes in your body including your appetite. While dopamine is probably more famously known as the happy hormone, serotonin is also one of the feel good chemicals you need!
When you have adequate levels of serotonin, you feel emotionally stable and calm and youll also have noticeably higher levels of energy and focus.
If you have low levels of serotonin, youre likely to experience the following symptoms:
- problem sleeping
- memory problems
- craving for sweet foods
Low levels of serotonin are also thought to contribute to feelings of depression. Boosting serotonin levels can also help with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder .
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Brain Chemicals That Make You Happy
We spend a lot of time discussing ways to be happier – maintain close friendships, look on the bright side, drink more water. But we dont 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?
DOSE: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins
So then, whats the real cause of our happiness? What makes us feel sensations of happiness, closeness, and joy? Brain chemicals! There are four primary chemicals that can drive the positive emotions you feel throughout the day: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins .
Why Do People Laugh In Serious Situations
In these situations, people usually laugh in a subconscious attempt to reduce stress and calm down, however, it often works otherwise. Nervous laughter is often considered fake laughter and even heightens the awkwardness of the situation. People may laugh nervously when exposed to stress due to witnessing others’ pain.
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Proven Ways To Boost Your Happy Brain Chemicals
Happiness is an amazing feeling that far too many of us struggle to maintain. The fact that we are alive at all is a blessing in itself. However, instead of enjoying each and every day, we sometimes allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by lifes obstacles. Admittedly, its easy to do.
Wouldnt it be awesome if you could be happy all the time? Well, scientific research shows that you actually can boost your level of happy brain chemicals. The level of happiness in your life is controlled by the amount of happy chemicals and hormones that your brain produces. Luckily, there are a number of natural ways to boost the amount of these chemicals.
Did you know that just thinking about being happy can change your brains chemical structure? The human brain is an amazing thing. In fact, neurologists believe that the human brain is the most powerful tool on the planet.
While it is true that the human brain is responsible for magnificent creations, why cant we manifest our own happiness. Well, it is possible, but not many people know the correct way to go about doing it.
Dopamine The Motivational Molecule
Dopamine is another hormone that makes you happy while also keeping you alive and alert. Its involved in a wide range of activities, and a number of severe conditions are associated with the dysfunction of the dopamine system. Here are some systems its involved in:
- motor control and cognitive function
- the brains motivation and reward system
- memory and attention
- maternal and reproductive behaviours
This chemical is part of the brains reward system – its what gives you pleasurable sensations and keeps you coming back for more. Dopamine is considered to be the motivational cog in this system, and its naturally released when you perceive food or sex, but before you consume it.
FACTDopamine is the active neurotransmitter in addictions to substances and behaviours .
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Take Small Steps Towards A New Goal
You can move a mountain one stone at a time. Even a little bit of progress towards a goal is progress. Taking small steps in the right direction will help you feel unstuck and keep the dopamine flowing.
Commit to working towards a goal for just ten minutes a day, or more if you can. In ten minutes, you can plan, research, make a phone call, or take other actions. Small increments of progress are better than waiting for the huge leaps which may never happen.
Take Steps To Reduce Stress In Your Life
When we are stressed or afraid, a cocktail of chemicals is released in our brains and bodies, including adrenaline and cortisol. In the short term this is helpful, preparing us to fight or run from the threat, but if released persistently these chemicals can start harming our health and happiness.
There are plenty of stress-management techniques so its about finding one that works for you. Practices like meditation, yoga and tai chi often involve controlled deep breathing which may help calm the stress response, reducing heart rate and cortisol levels. Long-term meditators also become better at emotional regulation and self-compassion, which has been linked to happiness.
Practicing gratitude, by keeping a journal or counting your blessings, can also benefit health and mood. But practising is key it takes time to teach your brain to focus on the positives and become more resilient to stress.
For many, exercise is another stress-buster and a happiness booster. We dont know exactly why this is, but it changes the levels of many brain chemicals, including serotonin and dopamine, which may contribute to its mood-boosting effects. Endorphins may also be involved although, despite the idea being widespread, there is little evidence for it.
Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals by Ginny Smith is available at bloomsbury.com and all good bookshops.
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And When Do You Use Them
Here are a few rules of thumb to help you navigate the maze.
Is there a prize in sight? Dopamine is on duty.
Youll have a rush of it when you get an A+ or someone likes your post on Instagram, when you tick a checkbox on your ever-growing to-do list or score a goal, or when youre closer to hitting that target. Its your brains way to tell you youve done a good job. You deserve a pat on the back. Time to reward yourself.
Love is in the air? Oxytocin is to thank.
You spend time with someone you are attracted to or you care about, you hug or kiss a loved one , you cuddle a newborn baby, you hold your significant others hand, or you gaze into each others eyes. Warm fuzzies will soon fill you up, and presto, the love hormone will make you feel butterflies in your stomach.
Feeling cheery and good about yourself? Serotonin is at work.
Your hard work at school or in the office is being acknowledged and appreciated. You completed the assignment, you accomplished the task. You did well. People praise you, giving you genuine compliments. You glow with confidence and a deep sense of recognition. Life is good.
Wait, is the pain gone? You are on an endorphin high.
Whether you are running a marathon, sweating on a bike, or taking a freezing cold shower in the morning, if you can stand a minute or twoor moreof discomfort, rest assured endorphins will surely come to the rescue.
Leveraging Endorphins And Dopamine To Win More
Sinek refers to the combination of endorphin + dopamine as the selfish chemicals because they allow us to get more done.
By exercising regularly, we get the endorphins we need to push ourselves harder and get better. This is one of the reasons I think its a good idea to break a sweat daily.
Dopamine drives us to accomplish more, but the challenge is avoiding all of the false dopamine hits, as I call them, because they trick us into feeling more accomplished than we actually are.
You get false dopamine hits from constantly checking social media or playing around on your phone, checking email, or if youre a blogger, checking your analytics ever 30 minutes.
To keep yourself focused on the right tasks and to win more often, try to limit your dopamine hits from things that arent productive and focus on getting more dopamine hits from things that are.
This is also why I think its so helpful to keep a daily to-do list, as long as you fill your list with meaningful tasks.
You dont want to completely avoid dopamine because that is counterintuitive. Research has shown that people with low dopamine tend to have more self-doubt, a lack of enthusiasm, and procrastinate more.
Celebrate your accomplishments often just make sure your accomplishments are helping you make progress towards your objectives.
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Gamification Isnt Silly Its Science
There are four major chemicals in the brain that influence our happiness :
As Nicole explains, each plays a different role in happiness. And guess what? They are all triggered by gamified experiences. Lets dig a little deeper.
Dopamine is what we normally think of as the happiness drug. However, thats a big misconception. Dopamine is actually involved more with anticipation than the actual happiness feeling. Nicole describes it as a striving emotion.
Oxytocin is the neurochemical that has allowed us to become social creatures. It makes us feel empathy which helps us feel close and bonded to others when its released.
If youre in a good mood, youve got serotonin to thank. And if youre in a bad mood, youve got serotonin to blame. Its a regulator. Interestingly, Nicole explains, 80 percent of serotonin exists in the gut, and is governed by your state of hunger .
Endorphins are responsible for masking pain or discomfort, which explains their association with the fight or flight response. When it comes to designing happiness, endorphins help you power through. Nicole, for example, is an avid runner. Endorphins allow her to push farther and harder as she works towards distance goals.
Chemicals That Activate Happiness & How To Gamify Them
Nicole Lazzaro is a world-renowned game designer. And if youre thinking, what does game design have to do with a website that covers workplace software, you havent been paying attention.
Gamification is changing how companies build software and how consumers interact with it, not just at home, but at work as well.
To get an insiders perspective on this revolution, we spoke with Nicole about her theories on the science of fun. Listen to our short interview then read on for more about why gamification works so well .
If youre interested in hearing more from Nicole, check out her website, 4k2f.com. And if you need a gamification platform for your own business, check out these great options.
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Deploying Serotonin And Oxytocin To Be A Better Leader
Sinek refers to the combination of serotonin and oxytocin as the selfless chemicals because they allow us to create meaningful connections with others and experience improved collaboration.
As a leader, you get boosts in serotonin every time others show you respect, admiration, or give you special treatment. That boost in serotonin makes you more confident when solving problems and protecting your group.
This is great up until a certain point because too much serotonin causes leaders to become complacent and stop following through on their end. Once this occurs, leaders lose the trust of their group and their serotonin plummets, lowering their ability to lead effectively.
Great leaders remain empathetic by building strong connections with their group members. The easiest way to do this is by spending time with those you lead. Not only does it foster better relationships, it makes you more empathetic to their fears, needs, and desires.
Plus, it prevents you from experiencing serotonin overload because it indicates that your time is as valuable as their time.