Do you like a good joke? Would you like to win the lottery? Maybe you’d enjoy both, but would this make you happy? This might seem like a strange question, but if you look at “what is happiness”, then it makes more sense. This month we are talking about happiness in our Tonic and Me app topic, which contains lots of information, hints and tips. You can choose to be happy and, if you’ve not subscribed to our app yet, here’s a shortened version of the article to give you a taste of what’s on offer!
Happiness is actually a state, not a trait. In other words, it is not always long-lasting or a permanent part of your personality, but more changeable. Think of happiness as feeling pleasure or contentment and not to be confused with ecstasy, bliss, or other more intense feelings.
The brain chemicals that make us feel good include; dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphin.
Dopamine is released in the brain when we expect a reward. It’s that exciting feeling we get when we are about to be rewarded. For example, when you achieve a long-sought goal. Or even when you simply take a step toward a goal. It’s also released when you see another person take a step toward a goal. Ultimately, it’s all about taking a step toward a goal and expecting to be rewarded for it. Learning to ride a bike, playing an instrument, finishing a crossword puzzle, and getting a promotion all release dopamine in our brain.
Serotonin flows in the brain when we feel significant or important. When you feel confident and take pride in your work, serotonin is flowing. Similarly, when we feel bigger or stronger than another, we release serotonin. And ultimately, when we receive social recognition from our peers and communities, we release serotonin.
Oxytocin is released when we feel trust. It’s that good feeling when you are with someone you trust. Social trust feels good because social alliances promote survival. It’s similarly released through physical touch of a loved one. As such, oxytocin is often called the love hormone.
Endorphins are released when you are feeling physical pain to give you a brief moment of euphoria as a survival mechanism. Real physical distress triggers endorphins. Though laughing and crying also releases small bursts of endorphin.
These chemicals are not meant to flow all the time for no reason. They evolved to do a job, rewarding us with a good feeling when we take action to promote our survival. When you know what causes the release of happy chemicals, you can do more to make it happen!
The science is interesting, but what does it mean for you to feel truly happy?
Do you need a little help answering? If so, try following these steps:
Try to forget what everyone else says happiness should be – what do you think? Start with a clean sheet.
Write a journal. Make a note of WHEN you feel super happy and WHY!
Lovingly dissect those happy moments so you can make more of them.
Think about what made you happy as a child.
Remind yourself “This makes me happy”. It might sound ridiculous – but sometimes we do forget when we feel happy!
We (along with many scientists) say YES, you can choose to be happy. Most happy people realise happiness is a choice and it is up to them to intentionally choose it every single day.
Happy people are not held hostage by their circumstances, and they do not seek happiness solely in people or possessions. They understand that when we stop chasing the world’s definition of happiness, we begin to see the decision to experience happiness has been right in front of us all along.
Our happiness level is a result of a complex interaction of genes, behaviours, and what’s going on in our lives at a specific moment in time. And while each of us has a genetic “set point” says science, for happiness, we have the ability to offset it, which brings us to the most important takeaway from the scientific research:
You can choose to be happy. You have the power to take control of your happiness by choosing your thoughts, behaviours, and actions – synonymous to boosting your wellbeing too!
Recent research into the types of interventions, or exercises, designed to promote positive emotional qualities, such as kindness and mindfulness, suggests that such qualities may be the product of skills we can learn through training—in the way that practice improves our musical or athletic abilities. Over time, we can build lasting habits that increase our resilience and improve our happiness levels.
According to June Silny, happiness is so important because happy people:
Do these apply to you? Do they motivate you?
If so, which ones really resonate with you?
Our parting “thought for your day” …
Rather than success being the key to happiness, is happiness the key to success?!
Whatever your viewpoint, together, let’s make this Summer a time to commit ourselves to living a more positive, healthier and happier life. And try to remember…
We don’t get the optimal happiness and wellbeing all at once. It is day after day combination of small, but essential actions we take.
If you are really captivated by this topic then please ask us about subscribing to the Tonic and Me app for more information and links to more useful reading!
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