Who or what do you think makes us happy? You yourself, a loved one, or perhaps pleasant events? It’s much more prosaic than that: neurobiology, particularly the chemical processes that go on in our brains. Today we’re talking about how neurobiology makes us overwhelmed with positive emotions.
What is the basis for such conclusions? Just look at this picture:
On the left is an X-ray of brain activity during depression, and on the right is the brain of a happy person. The difference between the two is enormous!
So how do we make our brains look like the picture to the right and be happy every day? Neurobiology experts offer the following advice:
1. Smile and be thankful more often
Neurobiologists compared the mechanisms of the brain in depression and in the normal state and found that in the first case there is a disturbance in the metabolism of neurotransmitters, which are involved in the formation of nerve impulses. There is also a decrease in the number of dendrites – the neuronal outgrowths that provide communication between them. And some depressed neurons get damaged and die, and new ones are formed very slowly to replace them.
What is the treatment for depression other than antidepressants? That’s right: with a positive attitude. People are taught anew to be happy, to raise their serotonin levels naturally. And this can be done with… simple gratitude.
So if you’re feeling down, sad, or moping, think about who you can thank right now!
Think of those people who had a positive impact on you, helped you in a difficult situation. Or maybe you want to thank yourself? Wonderful! Think back to when and where you showed your best qualities and where you learned that?
What is the secret here? When you think about gratitude, you focus on the positive aspects of life and there is a natural production of serotonin in the brain cortex.
2. Don’t put problems in a drawer. Solve them as they arise
Guess how long the brain can solve a problem? 24 hours a day! Yes, our brain works endlessly and never rests, even at night. If we have several problems that we want to solve in parallel, our brain will work at maximum speed. It will waste a lot of precious energy, which it will take from your… health. There will also be irritation that the tasks have not been solved and so much time has passed. Hence apathy, depression, and many other unpleasant conditions.
On the contrary, if you solve problems as they come, and don’t clutter your head with questions that “haven’t appeared yet, but can”, it will become much easier. For each problem solved in life, the brain rewards itself with a portion of neurotransmitters that harmonize the limbic system, relax our body, and help us perceive world events more easily.
3. Don’t keep negativity inside yourself
Situations when we see something we don’t like and remain silent, and when we talk about our negative feelings, are completely different. In the first case, our brain actively suffers from negative emotions that have not found an outlet. The result is excessive tension and psychosomatic illness. In the second case, however, we change the situation with our words, help other people to adjust to us and help our brain to produce serotonin, which reduces stress levels.
Of course, psychologists and their patients have different opinions about this technique. Some people believe that to vent negativity out of oneself is to complain, to show oneself weak, insecure, and so forth. If you are in this category, try to rid yourself of negativity with this technique:
Simply write down your negative thoughts on paper, then seal it in an envelope and burn it.
4. Touch your loved ones
How did you feel when you extended your hand to a colleague and he didn’t say hello to you? Or when you wanted to hug a guy and he turned away from you, offended by something? Frustration, unneededness, rejection, pain?
That’s right. There is an area of the brain that is responsible for tactility and empathy, and it is also responsible for physical pain. This is what it looks like:
If a person is deprived of tactility and empathy from other people, his brain will perceive communication with people as unbearable physical pain. And in order to avoid it, he will hide in his shell, slowly falling into depression.
Don’t let it get to this point! If you feel sad, bad, or unhappy, find someone you want to touch. Give your husband a massage, hug your child, pet your fluffy cat. The human is a social creature, do not deprive yourself of tactility, no matter how strong person you may be.
5. Walk at least 25 minutes every day
A normal 25-minute walk is a kind of stress relief for the body. Yes, yes, it comes from positive events. Once the “stress” is over, the body produces endorphins as a reward for the “inconvenience” suffered. Endorphins reduce pain and elevate mood.
By the way, they are similar in structure to opiates, such as morphine. So if you want to lift your mood, you don’t need to exhaust yourself with heavy physical activity: a simple walk will do wonders.
6. Use a sleep mask
Everyone keeps telling us: “Sleep eight hours and you’ll be happy”. But few people specify that these eight hours we must sleep in the dark. Why is it so important?
When it is dark, our body produces the hormone melatonin, which slows down all the processes inside us. Melatonin also protects against stress, regulates the endocrine system and blood pressure, has antioxidant properties and improves mood and mental state.
When the body fixes the light, it produces a certain stress hormone that prompts us to wake up early and deprives us of the aforementioned perks. As a result, we feel tired after sleeping, may suffer from headaches, etc. In these cases, a sleep mask helps a lot.
7. Make plans and anticipate the good
There is a well-known folk wisdom that says:
“The process of waiting for the holiday is better than the holiday itself”.
And it really is! Anticipating a joyful event, a party, a career achievement, or a meeting with a pleasant person, our emotions become brighter and more positive. And it is a very effective (and most importantly – endless) source of happiness!
Neurobiologists explain this phenomenon by the work of the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brain. It is responsible for happiness and pleasure, but what is even more interesting: it is produced not only at the moment of a joyful event, but also in the process of its approach!
That’s why a person can get pleasant feelings not so much from situations, as from anticipation of the result. For this reason we are so fond of counting the days, hours and minutes before the desired event: a date, sex, tea with goodies, wages, etc. So if you desperately need to get happy soon, arrange something nice for yourself in your schedule and look forward to it with trepidation.