The Neuroscience of Happiness
If you listen to neurologic scientist, they would make you belief that happiness is purely a neuroscientific matter. That whether you’re happy, sad, angry, creative, stressed or something else entirely, it all ultimately comes down to your neuroscience. However, we find that’s going a little bit extreme with the statement.
Even if there is a lot of truth in the fact that the wiring and chemistry of our brain is what defines our every experience, it is not so that we react to the same situation in the same matter every time. As we are in fluctuating moods, we also react differently depending on that mood, and so is our every behavior as such.
Where neuroscience and happiness can positively influence our experience and behavior is by looking inwards to our thoughts and the feelings and emotions those thoughts produce. When we learn to do that, we can unravel and understand on a deeper level the aspects of our human experience.
This is particularly useful if you’re trying to improve your mood and be consistently happier. What is going on inside the brain when you feel truly content and at peace? And what can you do to try and get your stubborn brain to be like that more often?
Obviously, happiness is what we all strive to find and keep, even when it’s as elusive as ever. Nobody is jolly and elated all the time, but some individuals are definitely more fulfilled than others. Studies about neuroscience and happiness reveal that happiness has little to do with materialistic needs, goods, wants, or high achievement; but that instead it boils down to your outlook on life and the neurologic “wiring” of your brain.
Neuroscience and Happiness and The Influence of the Neurologic Wiring of Your Brain
On a neurologic level it is true that ultimately our mood comes down to chemistry – specifically neurochemicals or ‘neurotransmitters’ which are produced in the brain in response to certain other activities in the brain.
When you think of something or experience something that is happy, sad, scary or stressful, the brain responds in kind by producing the relevant neurotransmitter. These transmitters include serotonin, cortisol, norepinephrine, dopamine, oxytocin, adenosine and many others.
When it comes to neuroscience and happiness, we want to increase the number of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters which include serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. These are chemicals that make us feel alert, happy, content and even loved. On the other hand, we want to reduce the ones like cortisol (which makes us stressed).
Neuroscience and Happiness — How to Control Neurochemistry
At this point, you might be wondering how you can control your neurochemistry. One way of course is with drugs and that’s where recreational drugs and antidepressants come in. Antidepressants often work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain or increasing GABA which makes us tired but also reduces cortisol.
The problem with changing brain chemistry directly though is that the brain is all about adaptation. If you add a certain amount of particular chemicals to your brain then it will often respond by producing less of those chemicals naturally. This can then lead to tolerance, dependence and withdrawal symptoms – worsening depression and triggering addiction.
Therefore, it would be much better to learn to alter your neurochemistry through lifestyle changes. Diet impacts on which neurotransmitters our brain can create, while things like sleep, exercise and social interactions can all also boost our mood.
Ultimately though, the very best way to control your mood is to change what you focus on and the way you react to what you focus on. Remember, your neurotransmitters are released in reaction to your subjective experiences. Change your experience by changing your thoughts and beliefs and you can improve that neurochemistry.
Obviously it’s easier set than done, when you face some emotional challenges. But when those challenges come, or you feel overwhelmed with sadness, negative thoughts, or just simply in a bad mood, look at the glass half-full instead of half-empty.
Your boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you? It must mean that you ware not right for each other, so now you have the chance to meet someone that might fit perfectly with you, and you perfectly with her/him! You lost your job? Now you can seize the opportunity to find a better one, or start your own business you have always been dreaming about!
Adjust your mentality so that, in everything that happens to you, there’s some kernel of good. When you catch a negative thought, destroy it, delete it, and replace it with a better one.
Ask yourself before you act: Am I setting myself up for success or for failure? And put yourself in situations where fabulous, fortunate things are likely to happen to you. It’s easier to remain optimistic if you set yourself up for success.
Think of your current situation (however hard it may be) and then think of how much harder some other people have it. Just be happy that you are not in that worse situation. Learn to enjoy your life, even if you face some challenges!
If you find that hard, here is a must read article for you. 6 Nepalis Tell How To Not Worry And Be Happy