We all know what happiness is and hopefully what it feels like. However, those giddy, silly, smiley moments are created by the human body’s biological responses to outside influences in our environment. Think nature and nurture and you are on the right track.
Consider how you feel when you see a picture of your favorite relative, most loved vacation destination or how a song reminds you of something fun. In contrast there might be a quite different experience if an image or sound reminds you of something scary or unpleasant. In both cases, what happens as we live life impacts the biological response and subsequently our emotions. That response, nature, is what gives us the feel-good boost otherwise known as happiness, or without a good balance, we can end up feeling sad and depressed. What we hope for is to be able to stimulate the body's natural process and be rewarded for behaviors that create a positive outcome.
To achieve happiness, we need the right neurotransmitters to carry messengers from the brain to our nerve cells. There are four that can take us from elation to trauma and any feeling in between. The trick is to know how to promote the production of these chemical messengers to live a happy life. It is important to realize that much of the success to win cheer and bliss is within our control. It is like walking a path through a forest filled with greenery, flowers, and fresh air versus one that is dark and bare. There are some surprisingly easy steps to take that will keep your biochemistry boosted.
- 1.Goal setting is a popular “go-to” slogan and may sound a bit cliché, but without it, your level of Dopamine may suffer. Each time you achieve something, you are rewarded with a boost of confidence which in turns motivates you to accomplish the next thing on your list. On and on it can go, all the while creating pathways to happiness. This goes for any area of life including fitness, career, or relationships.
- 2.Eye contact, hugging and giving or receiving compliments are on the list for raising levels of Oxytocin. Forming bonds with other humans (and even animals) facilitates a positive life. Those exposed to optimism and upbeat interactions will thrive.
- 3.Reflecting on your past can sometimes be considered unproductive. But, if what you “dwell” on is a series of successes, socially and professionally, you will boost Serotonin and the result will be a more consistent joyful mood. Other behaviors that build Serotonin are proper sleep and healthy eating.
- 4.The urge to run from danger or toward something pleasurable comes from our Endorphins. Our brains give us power if we give it the right stimuli. Endorphin production is increased during strenuous exercise, but also with laughter, aromatherapy and even treats like dark chocolate (in moderation, of course).
Keeping our neurotransmitters balanced is essential to a happy life. Ensuring this equilibrium as a daily commitment sets us up for the days when life throws us challenges. There are events that we don’t have control over, loss of a loved one, job or trauma from an illness or an accident. Some may need help to break out of a cycle of sadness caused in the aftermath of trauma, grief, or disappointment. This can come in the form of talk therapy and sometimes even medication. However, prescriptions that focus on stabilizing mood do not always address all four of the neurotransmitters needed for balance. If you ordered a happiness cocktail at the local eatery, it would need Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins as ingredients for complete success. Additionally, some of these medications bring with them undesirable side-effects.
Alternative treatments can include aromatherapy, meditation and yoga, and vigorous exercise. There are also holistic remedies like Cannabidoil (CBD) which has been shown in many studies to help relieve anxiety, induce relaxation, and alleviate chronic pain without any addiction or negative side-effects.
Any efforts to improve upon and add happiness to life must begin with proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Starting a plan of positive imagery, movement, sound and social stimuli will be like a snowball rolling down a hill. It gets bigger and bigger, as our neurotransmitter production increases, resulting in a more blissful existence.
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