How To Harness Happiness

13th Oct 2021
Harness Happiness

Happiness is achievable for everybody. To one person it may be a calm digestive system. To another time to switch off from the daily rush. Whatever your version of happiness, you can achieve it. It doesn't mean a bigger car or more money. It means contentment and well-being. It comes from inside you and you create it yourself. 

Happiness is the result, physiologically, biologically and chemically, of a complex network of neurons (nerve cells) in your brain. They shoot messages to one another via neurotransmitters, to make us feel, sense, behave, and more. So how do we ignite them to make us happy?

Our brain has four hormones that create happy feelings, but they need our help to get activated.

The body's natural pain relievers for discomfort or stress, and linked to a sense of well-being. Enjoyment triggers the release of endorphins. Exercising too, and they stay in the bloodstream for a while, prolonging our good feelings.

Essential for physical movement, motivation, feeling pleasure, learning, memory, motor system function, and well-being.

This helps with pain relief, mood, learning ability, memory, appetite, digestion. It also helps sleep by regulating our circadian (body clock) rhythms. Without adequate serotonin, we feel low-spirited. The gut produces 95% of serotonin, so an unhappy digestive system can make us feel low. Do we ever consider that our mood can be the result of what we've eaten or how we've eaten it, perhaps rushed eating, poor chewing, or junk food?

This governs maternal behaviour, such as cuddling, strong parent-child and relationships bonding, empathy, trust, behaviour and pleasure.

So how can you boost your happy hormones?

Adopt four daily habits: eat right, exercise, get outside, do things you enjoy. 

Eat tryptophan. You can't get serotonin directly from food but from foods containing tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin in your brain. Healthy nutrition, which includes green tea, dark chocolate, and plenty of high protein foods like meat, fish and poultry, plus carbohydrates, will help the body absorb the tryptophan. Carbs are fruits and vegetables, not just bread and pasta.

Because our gastrointestinal tract produces most of our serotonin, probiotics containing healthy gut bugs can increase tryptophan in your blood, helping more of it reach your brain. Live yoghurt and fermented foods like kefir, kimchi or sauerkraut are probiotics.

Exercise increases all four happy hormones, from martial arts to dancing, yoga, and weight training. If you've heard of a runner's high, you know about the link between exercise and endorphin release.

Get outside into sunlight, fresh air and rainy days They produce healthy air ions that enter our bloodstream, creating a natural high.  Serotonin is low on gloomy winter days. It can cause seasonal affective disorder. Try a lightbox that mimics sunshine. It boosts serotonin levels.

Do things you enjoy. They will flood your body with happy hormones. Make a list of what gives you pleasure and include some every day. Here are some ideas. You may not enjoy any of these, so make your own list.

  • Feet up with a cup of tea and a good book (not all day!)
  • Watch a comedy
  • Walk in nature
  • Meditate
  • Listen to music
  • Cook and enjoy a favourite meal with a friend
  • If you have a demanding workload, do nothing at all. Just the thought of doing nothing will produce happy hormones.

Above all, laugh! Laughter won't cure many health issues, and it may be difficult if you've been low for a long time. But it helps relieve anxiety, stress, and low mood. So please have a go. It does work.

Copyright © 2021 Brenda Martin

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