You can think of happiness as being similar to exercise. The longer you go without exercise, the more your health deteriorates. The more of a priority you make it to exercise, the better you feel. Happiness is the same. Happiness is something you can experience every day, but it takes daily attention to create long-term happiness.
The actual fact of the matter is that this thing we call “happiness” does not even exist!
What we call “happiness” is actually just the release of various neurochemicals like epinephrine and norepinephrine, seratonin, oxytocin, GABA and dopamine. These chemicals can all be triggered by something happening to you, such as when someone kisses you or smiles at you but you can also trigger your own neurotransmitters yourself through certain actions and behaviors.
Exercise, for instance, can have a powerful impact on brain chemistry. In fact, it may be one of the most powerful ways to combat depression, thanks to the release of neurochemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that can be released just by looking at someone we love or even just playing with your dog. The great news about neurotransmitters is that there is an almost limitless number of ways to trigger them.
Unfortunately, there are both healthy and unhealthy ways to manipulate your own brain chemistry.
Social media addiction is one very real example of this. Individuals can actually become addicted to the tiny hit of dopamine they get from getting a like, comment or other form of recognition on social media. “Cutting” or other forms of self-injury is another type of unhealthy behavior that is a means of manipulating your own neurochemistry.
When the body experiences trauma, it releases a cocktail of neurochemicals that create an effect similar to cocaine. This can temporarily help alleviate pain, including emotional pain. When people live with undiagnosed mental, physical or emotional pain, it is natural to try and find ways of dealing or coping with it. Unaddressed or undiagnosed pain is actually the root of almost all forms of addiction.
One of the best ways to avoid these types of behaviors, however, is to learn to understand how to trigger your own happiness neurochemicals. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to do. Here are 5 healthy ways to trigger your own “happiness drugs.”
1. Go for a stroll
While strenuous exercise can certainly offer a number of benefits, the truth is, exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous in any way to have a positive impact on your mental and emotional health. Just going on a short stroll can actually help decrease anger and hostility, boost your immune system and even help you break through creative blocks.
If you’re angry or stuck on a problem you just can’t seem to solve, take a short walk around the block or even just around the parking lot. You might be surprised at how much clearer, calmer and even happier you feel! For a double boost of “happiness drugs” taking a stroll with a partner, friend or child can also help give you a boost of oxytocin.
Human beings have a strong need for connection. Most of our neurotransmitters are actually a type of reward our body gives us for good behavior as a way of encouraging us to do more of something. Thankfully, you don’t have to have a love interest or even access to another person to trigger your happiness neurochemicals.
Connection with nature or even a pet can trigger a reaction just as strong and powerful as connection with another human being. If all else fails, science has shown that simply looking at pictures of nature or a loved one can reduce stress levels and invoke a sense of peace and calmness.
3. Watch your diet
For most women, the idea of a diet is almost inextricably intertwined with weight loss. While we are slowly breaking free of this extremely unhealthy mindset, the truth is that what you eat has a powerful impact on how you feel. This doesn’t just include your energy levels but also your moods. In addition, however, your diet is not just about what you feed your body but also what you feed your mind.
It’s hard to have a positive mindset when you surround yourself constantly with negativity. Whether it’s the news, your social media feed or a friend that is kind of a constant negative Nancy, try to limit your exposure to negativity. One great way to do this is to leave your phone behind when you take a walk.
4. Learn to value silence
From televisions blaring to cell phones ringing to the thumping bass of passing cars, few people realize just how surrounded by sound we constantly are. The fact is, the constant noise of the modern world can have a significant negative impact on your mental and emotional health. While you may not be able to escape to the mountains or the beach every day, try to at least spend some time alone with your thoughts each day with a little help from some noise-canceling headphones.
5. Get to know yourself
From almost the time we are born women are generally told how to walk, talk, act, think and behave. By the time we are old enough to make those decisions for ourselves, our patterns are usually so deeply ingrained that we no longer even know what it means to have our own thoughts.
It is a sad, unfortunate truth that women often know very little about their own individual interests, tastes and passions. Women are naturally supportive, so the things we think we enjoy the most are often just the things our loved ones enjoy doing the most. We enjoy being with them, which can lead us to believe we also enjoy doing the things they love.
While there are dozens of habits that will help almost everyone live a happier life, such as eating a good diet, getting plenty of exercise, spending time with loved ones and getting plenty of rest; there are also hundreds of ways for you to be happy individually.
It might be cooking, sewing, gardening, carpentry, painting, traveling, writing, speaking, teaching or starting your own business. Whatever it is, you won’t know until you start getting to know yourself a little better. How do you do that? The same way you would get to know someone else – spend time with yourself. Journaling is a tried-and-true method for getting to know the real you.
The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. You may get married, divorced, date and break up several times and have your children leave the nest but through it all, you will be stuck with you. Relationships are what you make of them. The more time you invest in your relationship with yourself, the better – and more fulfilling – it will be.