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Happiness is a slow burn, something existentially different from the various feel-good ‘rewards’ that most of us believe to be happiness, and are therefore addicted to.
With many of us who are unconsciously looking for happiness online, the little releases of dopamine when we get ‘likes’ or any other social media validation has made us forget the real, longer-term happiness that comes from bonding, or feeling healthy, or even by just breathing in nature.
People who exercise regularly feel a certain bliss post-workout. It is a state of happiness that comes from the release of endocannabinoids after the body has pushed itself harder than normal.
Runners experience this state of ‘high’ after they complete a good run.
Also known as the ‘reward’ high, it is a happy chemical released in the brain as a reward for anything that is pleasurable. It is a short-lived feeling that goes as soon as it comes.
The plus side is that it is also felt when we achieve any goal, or even when we simply tick a box in our to-do list.
Bonding with fellow humans and animals makes us happy. A hug from a loved one, or even stoking one’s dog releases oxytocin in our brain and has lasting benefits of happiness.
Even looking at old pictures of fond memories does the same thing to us.
Our vast catalogue of hormones produced in the body also includes the ‘energy’ molecule, adrenaline (epinephrine) which when released, creates a surge inside the body which feels exhilarating.
Extreme sports, horror films, roller coasters and sudden accidents (fight or flight situations) trigger this hormone.
We could help ourselves with the following understanding:
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There are four main hormones that trigger the feelings of happiness: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins.
Understanding these chemicals and how they work can help...
The hormone dopamine is related to motivation and reward. It's why you feel good to reach a goal or lack interest when you have low dopamine.
How to boost it: While unhealthy habits like drinking, caffeine, eating sugar or consuming certain recreational drugs can increase this hormone, there are other ways to boost it. One way is to embrace a new goal and take small steps toward it every day. Your brain will reward you with dopamine each time you reach your goal.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood. It is important for reducing depression and regulating anxiety. It also regulates digestion, sleep, and bone health.
How to boost it: Confidence increases serotonin. One way to build confidence is to start a new exercise routine, which helps increase your confidence when you stick to it over time. Another is to find ways to get out of your comfort zone each day.
Once you realize that happiness is predominantly an internal process, you will gradually understand that happiness is also a choice, and you will be able to transcend the limits of what it is that makes you happy.
We all seek happiness, and there is a scientific way we can find it.
Dopamine, the feel-good chemical in our brains, positively affects our mood, focus, energy and behaviour.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls our brain's reward and pleasure centre. It can help us:
The body and mind seek pleasureable experiences, resulting in the neurons creating dopamine in our brain. This can be also overdone using drugs, leaving a negative impact eventually.