The Science of Happiness
I was surprised to learn this past week about the bio-chemiscal connection between my experience of happiness and my physiology. For example, you've heard of ‘runner’s high’, that blissful state that marathoners love. As you probably know, it's triggered by the release of endorphin hormones (leptin, to be specific).
Here's the good news: We don’t have to turn ourselves into 10K-racers in order to get happier. Endorphins, thank goodness, are only one example of Happiness-engendering hormones. Bio-chemists say there very specific happy emotional states that are connected with equally specific hormones. I scribbled down this list:
More Good News: It's actually quite easy to increase the level of these happy-making hormones whenever we want. Gotta love that!
For example: If I want to increase my Amandamide and experience the feeling of bliss, all I need to do is close my eyes and recall one of those two wonderful times in my life when I held my new-born infant in my arms for the first time. Swoosh! My body is once again awash with Amandamide, just as it was back then.
There must be some Oxytocin washing around inside of me as well as I remember those moments, because along with the blissful happiness, I also experience again the astonishingly deep sense of connection with those two dearly beloved souls. Two happy hormones for the price of one - what more could one ask?!
Another example: I can wallow in the memory of how I felt on those occassions when I have been applauded, praised or appreciated, aka "rewarded". As I recall those times, I feel the same delight right now as I did when I was initially rewarded. My body is flooded with Dopamine, and I feel pretty darned good!
In addition to remembering and recalling good times to trigger these happy hormones, I could use our human faculty of Pretending, Imagining or Visualizing. Remember the White Queen’s good habit, of imagining six impossible things before breakfast? A great practice for those of us who are a little Seratonin-starved.
Wouldn’t it be satisfying if, by the end of today, I had everything on my To-do List done?!? That would be SO satisfying! I can feel how good that would feel.
Why do I get to enjoy this feeling of Satisfaction even though my To-Do List is still waiting? Because my imagined completion of the list has triggered a bunch of Seratonin to go swooshing around in my blood stream. The White Queen was onto something!
However, I discovered one quite tricky aspect to this practice of deliberate hormone-induction.
After playing around with the deliberate induction of these various hormones, I've concluded tha this (Hormonal) Game of Happiness takes a fair bit of self-discipline. Is it worth it?
I should think so. Indeed, I’m sure it is, especially since I don’t have to tie on my running shoes! I can play this game in my PJ's. Who wouldn't be up for that? The reward - more happiness!
All the Best, Elaine
PS: The Bonus: Apparently as we flood our bodies with these delightful hormones, they are doing more than helping us Feel Happy Right Now. Turns out these good hormones also do support and repair work throughout the body. Happiness and Health go hand in hand. How cool is that?!?