Shhhh…Listen! Do you hear the sound of a Happy Person?
You can get all kinds of information from the internet these days. You can find countless advice from people who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about, especially when it comes to happiness. In fact, you shouldn’t even trust me! Leaving that aside, here are some things (recommended by me) that you can do to make yourself a happier person (This is one topic you can almost not go wrong in).
The first step to becoming a happy person is this;
- An Important Question to ask When You Feel Down
Sometimes, our brain has this curious effect where it seems as if it just doesn’t want us to be happy. Sometimes you feel guilty, sometimes you feel shameful but the question you have to ask yourself is ‘Why?’ There is a very simple reason for this. Whether you believe it or not, guilt and shame actually activate your brain’s reward centre.
Interestingly, Pride is a powerful emotion that triggers the most activity in these regions of your brain. So in order to access our brain’s reward centre and feel good about ourselves, we may need to feel some shame and guilt in the first place. This helps explain why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves for no apparent reason (haha, weird, I know).
Do you seem to worry a lot? Again, ask yourself that same question, ‘Why?’ The short version is that whenever you worry, your brain feels a little better because at least you are doing something about your problems. This might seem counterintuitive, but this shows that if you are feeling bad or worried about something, doing something about it – even worrying – is better than sitting down and doing nothing.
On the long run, guilt, shame and worry are very horrible solutions. So what do you do? Ask yourself this question:
“What am I grateful for?”
Gratitude sounds good, but does it alter your brain and outlook to things? You bet it can. Thinking of things that you are grateful for in your life will force your brain to focus on the positive aspects of your life.
What about when life really gut punches you and just plays puppeteer with your life? What happens if there is absolutely nothing to be grateful for?
The point of the exercise is not to land on something you are grateful for, but to begin searching and keep your brain busy! It’s the searching that really counts. If you begin looking in the first place, I can guarantee you that you will be just that little bit happier as you would already be doing something at least (oh, by the way, for those who seem to think they really have nothing to be grateful for, they can try being grateful that they are able to read this post 😀 )
Not only does being grateful make you happy, it can create a positive feedback loop in all of your relationships. Make sure you practice expressing your gratitude to your friends and people you care about.
Sometimes you really are having a bad day (or two), so what do you do if you really cannot get your brain to start thinking about being grateful? When you hit rock bottom and it is almost depressing how upset you are? There is an easy answer…
Label the things that upset you…
- Labeling Negative Feelings
Let’s try this. You feel awful. Great. Label that awfulness. Are you sad? angry? Anxious?
There you go. Step two done.
Suppressing emotions might seem like a good idea but in reality, it always backfires. It is a highly unhealthy habit that will not work out well for you. People that do this more often than not end up failing. You might think that this person looks absolutely fine on the outside, on the inside, their limbic system is running off the charts. Trying to not feel anything does not work either and sometimes backfires too.
Labeling, on the other hand, makes a huge difference.
This technique works to decrease certain arousal nodes in the brain, especially if you use symbolic reference or language to your emotion. Use metaphors and simplify your experiences and feelings. The main idea is to label that emotion into just one or two words, and you will see that your emotions will be reduced.
Many ancient cultures were actually far ahead of us when it came to techniques for increasing happiness. Meditation has worked well for centuries.
Life stresses can accumulate and snowball, leaving you feeling awful and unhappy, but stay positive as here are some simple ways to beat them.
Decide to do something…
- Make that Decision
How do you feel when you make a decision, and then carry it through to the end? Ever make a decision and then your brain finally feels at rest? Well, that’s no random occurrence.
Neuroscientists have discovered that the act of making decisions can reduce your worries and anxiety, not to mention solve your problems at the same time!
For those of you unfamiliar with what ‘a decision’ is (and hopefully there aren’t many), it is basically your choice and actions to complete something, that also includes creating intentions and setting future goals. Studies have shown that making decisions can help you overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and/or routines. Lastly, making decisions changes your perception of the world through finding your own solutions, to your own problems.
But making decisions can be hard. So what type of decisions should you make?
All you have to do is make a ‘good enough’ decision. Don’t bother trying to make sure it is the absolute ‘100% best decision’.
When you make decisions, your brain feels you have control. The most interesting part is that making decisions also boosts pleasure. Actively choosing what you are going to decide causes changes in your attention circuits, and also in how you feel about the action. In turn, this increases the rewarding pleasure hormone, Dopamine. Feeling good because you decided to complete something isn’t just a coincidence, your brain rewards you for taking care of your day to day situations that you actually care about and want to do. This also begs the question of why dragging your butt to the gymnasium can be the most difficult task in the world.
When you head to the gym, try to remember how you felt just before you left and on your way to the gym. Did you feel that you had to or should be going, or did you feel that you wanted to go? If you chose the former, it’s not a voluntary decision. You are forcing yourself to go and you don’t want to. This means that instead of producing dopamine, your brain starts producing stress, leading to an uninviting exercise routine. Your brain doesn’t get the pleasure boost, it just creates negative stress and that’s no way to build a good exercise habit. Without choice itself, the stress is all you will receive from things you don’t want to. The remedy; make more decisions! We don’t just choose the things we like, we like the things we choose.
So you’re following the advice so far, being grateful, labeling negative emotions and making more decisions but the only problem is that this is starting to feel a little lonely for a happiness prescription. Let’s add people to the mix.
Have any idea of what you can do with others that would lead to happiness? What’s something so stupidly simple, with absolutely no force required? Well, it’s easy!
Have fun with friends.
- Touch Someone
Alright, alright take it down a notch. Take those dirty thoughts and remove them. It doesn’t mean touch people indiscriminately as this is a sure-fire way to end up in A LOT of troubles.
Being human, we need to feel accepted and loved by others, and when we don’t it is downright painful. While I do mean emotionally painful (for some), I primarily mean PHYSICALLY painful. Experiments were carried out by neuroscientists hoping to learn more by conducting a study. In this study, people played a ball-tossing video game. The rules were simple. The other players tossed the ball to you and you tossed it back to them (well actually, there were no other players; this was all done by the computer’s AI). The subjects were told the opposite, being told that they were playing with different, real people. During this experiment, when the computer’s AI didn’t share the ball and ‘play nice’, the subject’s brains lit up and responded as if they were experiencing REAL, PHYSICAL PAIN. Rejection hurts. So if you want to further increase your happiness, you need to touch people.
It’s obviously not always appropriate to touch people (and it’s getting ridiculously more so every day) but simple things such as a handshake or a pat on the back work wonders. Use simple things like these with your friends, acquaintances, and colleagues but try to make more of an effort to hug, kiss, laugh and play around with your family. You will begin to see that you are feeling happier. As social creatures, social interaction is a MUST!
We really don’t give enough credit to the incredibly powerful effect touching has on us as human beings. Now that’s something everyone could use more of! Touching someone you love has also been proven to reduce pain. In fact, when further studies were carried out on married couples, the stronger marriages produced the most powerful effects. So what’s the moral of this story? Hug someone today, and don’t give them any of this barely touching, quick hugs. No, no, no just tell them your doctor prescribed longer hugs.
People hug all the time for various reason but have any of you thought to ask why? What is hugging and what does it do? Why do we do it so much?
A hug is an embrace between two or more people, usually to signify solidarity, unification, gratitude, love, and a number of other emotions. So when you get or give a hug (especially a long one) your brain releases a hormone called oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.
Current research and studies have proven that getting five hugs a day for four weeks increases your happiness on a major level.Don’t have anyone to hug right now? Sorry to hear that and I would totally give you a hug right now if I was able, but there is an answer. You should get a massage.
Unfortunately, texting doesn’t help whatsoever. When people are caught in stressful situations, visiting loved ones or chatting to them on the phone will always make them feel better. However, if they are just texted to and fro, their bodies respond in the same way as if they had no support at all.
Author’s Note: I completely approve of texting if you can’t make a hug appointment
Just so your brain is not strained and completely overwhelmed (a way to get stressed remember?), let’s round it up with a summary of all we’ve discussed, not to mention a few extra things. Follow these rules and I can guarantee that you will increase your happiness in quick, simple steps and start that upwards spiral of happiness.
So, here are the things brain research says will make you happy:
- Ask yourself this “What am I grateful for” Can’t figure anything? No worries. Searching alone is a step.
- Label those negative emotions; give them a name so your brain won’t be so bothered about it.
- Make decisions. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever”
- Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text; touch!
So, how do you start that upward spiral of happiness?
Just send anyone a small thank you note. (If you feel awkward about it, you can send them this post to tell them why. *COUGH*)
Follow these rules and you will begin that upward spiral of happiness in your life. Thank you for taking the time to read this and remember to send someone you care about that thank you note!