For centuries there has been the relentless search for happiness. We’ve heard many times that happiness cannot be found externally, that true happiness is found within.
Well, there is much truth in that age old advice.
Our search for happiness must begin with knowing or defining what we are searching for otherwise how would we know when we found it. So, let’s begin by
recognizing that happiness is an emotion that is preceded by a thought. Therefore it is what we “think” about an object whatever it may be that triggers the emotion
which gives birth to the feeling that we call happiness. It is not the object itself no matter how beautiful the object of our desire may be that gives us happiness.
It’s our thought process that brings us happiness. Two people could have different emotional responses to the same object, or a person such as a child gets bored
with an object that once brought them happiness.
When we say we want happiness are really saying we want “to be” happy or we want “to have” things that trigger happiness. For those who are seeking the former here is the secret:
Our brains are designed to provide us happiness. In a healthy state our brains produce 4 neurotransmitters or chemical messengers referred to as “neurochemicals of happiness” or
colloquially known as the “happiness chemicals”. These messengers can be controlled by our diet and lifestyle. When we are feeling sad or depressed without knowing why, it is
possible that our brains are not producing sufficient quantities of one or more of these chemicals.
These 4 chemical messengers can be easily remembered by the acronym DOSE which refers to: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin,
and Endorphins. Here is a brief overview:
Dopamine is known as the “feel-good neurotransmitter”. It has a role in how we feel pleasure, think, plan; our ability to focus and learn; our motivation,
mood, and movement; and many other functions. Dopamine creates feelings of pleasure and reward which motivate you to repeat the behavior. The brain releases
dopamine when you are having sex or when you eat your favorite dessert causing your to go for a second helping. Insufficient dopamine can negatively impact
your overall health. Here are a few ways to naturally increase your level of dopamine:
- Exercising is the most productive method.
- Eating more protein, less saturated fat, and consuming probiotics.
- Managing your sleep schedule and quantity.
- Listening to music.
- Spending time in nature and sunlight. Sunlight is a source of vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D can lead to fatigue which can lead to a feeling of
melancholy or sadness.
- You can also take supplements
Oxytocin plays a role in the bonding process between a mother and newborn; sexual arousal, developing trust, and anxiety. Oxytocin levels tend to increase
when we hug or kiss. Due to its significant role in the bonding process has given oxytocin the nickname “the love hormone”. Here are a few natural approaches
to increase your level of oxytocin:
- Spend face-to-face time with family and friends. This may be challenging during these times so creating a “social bubble” if you don’t have one.
- Get a pet.
- Get a massage.
Serotonin known as the “happy chemical” because of the role it plays in our overall well-being including regulating our mood balance, sleep-cycle, emotions,
cognitive and autonomic functions, appetite, as well as helping to promote positive feelings and prosocial behavior. Low serotonin levels have been linked to
depression, loss of appetite, fatigue, and being irritable, impulsive or aggressive. You can increase your serotonin levels by doing the following:
- Eating foods high in tryptophan (wheat bread with turkey and cheese, oatmeal w/nuts, or salmon w/brown rice).
- Spend time outside to get some bright light or in the presence of a light therapy box
Endorphins are a powerful chemical messenger in the body that serves both as a natural pain killer and a reward system. The word “endorphin” is the combination
of the words “endogenous” meaning inside the body and “morphine” meaning, a medication that relieves pain. Your endorphin levels increase when you injure
yourself or experience stress as well as when you eat, exercise, or have sex. We are most familiar with endorphins relationship to “a runner’s high”. When
athletes talk about being in the zone they are experiencing an endorphin high as endorphin levels drastically increase during high-intensity cardio and strength
training. The zone is a euphoric feeling that makes you feel like you can do anything. You feel no pain. The level of endorphins necessary to put you in the zone
differs for each of us so you don’t have to be a high-performing athlete to experience and enjoy the feeling. Here are some ways to elevate your levels of
- Take a whiff of a euphoric essential oil such as vanilla, lavender, rosemary, citrus oils like orange, grapefruit, and bergamot; ylang ylang, or frankincense.
- Take some ginseng.
- Exercise. Take a group class to get the benefit of elevating your serotonin levels too.
- Laugh then laugh some more.
- Have sex and some more sex.
- Enjoy some chocolate.
- Listen to music and dance.
- Enjoy a dish with something spicy foods.
- Give of yourself to others.
The human body is elegantly designed with beauty and power. As with all living things, we are gifted with the ability to be resilient but it requires that we take care
of our mind-body-spirit.
Happiness is an emotion, a feeling often resulting from a preceding thought. It is not a thing to be had but a feeling to be experienced. If you truly want to
experience the feeling it is within you. You have the ability to tap into our happiness pretty much at will if you choose to do so thus proving that happiness is a choice.
It is a challenging task to accomplish which is mainly due to our conditioning.
If you want to experience better moods and thus better days assess your daily activities, diet, and thoughts. This assessment will not change your external
circumstance but it could change how you view those circumstances and how well you cope with them which are necessary to be able to change them.
The brain is sophisticated and complex but it can be tricked simply because our brains cannot distinguish between reality and imagination. So, if you want to
lift your spirits just sincerely smile. Doing so will trigger your brain to release "happiness chemicals" and you will feel better. You may end up laughing which
makes for a more positive moment.
Stop searching. Somethings we frantically search for that have been with us all the time like looking for our glasses that are propped upon our head.
Why is any of this important? Well, happy people tend to perform better in all areas of their life. They tend to have better relationships, better coping skills; are
healthier; and are more engaged in living. Over the years people have said to me, "You are always seem to be in a good mood." Though that is not true, my usual
response has been , "Why would anyone want to be in a bad mood." I don't! I've encountered disappointment and failure many times that have led to "not so happy
moods" which tend to be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining resulting in lost time and productivity.
Life has this knack of giving us reasons to be unhappy at anytime. The lyrics in the song, “Here’s to Life”, states is so well, “There is no ‘yes’ in
yesterday and we do not know what tomorrow will bring or take away.” So get your DOSE of happiness or choose to be mad, sad, or grouchy. It is your
Author: Darin C. Wright(Bio)