mind & body

How to be Happier

Who wouldn’t like to be happier? Besides the obvious, feeling better, being good company, and avoiding boredom, there are health benefits that happen automatically as we generate and express happiness.

Let’s look at the way you create happiness through four important chemicals, known as hormones, that you produce for yourself with your brain and body.

mind & bodyThere are four important hormones that generate the shades of happiness in your mind and body. Don’t be intimidated by these scientific terms – they are easy to understand once you get comfortable with them.

The first type of hormone to look at is endorphins, substances that shut down pain, like for example when you exercise. They generate the rush you feel when you complete a vigorous workout. Endorphins are also produced when you experience something funny, like jokes or your favorite comedy show. So if you want more of this happiness hormone, exercise regularly and your body will get good at creating it. Also, read, listen to or watch something you find funny or entertaining, and that will bump up your endorphins.

The second happiness hormone is dopamine, which is turned on when you finish or complete something, leading to feelings of satisfaction. Dopamine spikes when you feel appreciated for something you did, making you feel successful due to your achievements. Any new experience where you accomplish something will turn on the dopamine, so you feel good about yourself.

The third happiness hormone is serotonin, which is produced when you do something nice for someone, or serve them well. Solving problems for others, offering information that helps someone, or inspiring other people to do good will generate serotonin.

The fourth happiness hormone is oxytocin, which is produced when you are close with or touching someone. When you shake hands, hang out with family or embrace someone you care about, your body spills oxytocin into your bloodstream, producing feelings of pleasure that lead to happiness.

When you are happy, the challenges of your life become more manageable, so you can handle the stresses you encounter without undue wear and tear on your mind and body. And there are many practices and actions you can use to get these happiness chemicals flooding your system with good feelings.

Of course, your definition of happy may be somewhat different from someone else’s but there are many ways you can personalize this happiness chemistry, and turn on the joy for yourself. Try some or all of these easy techniques for getting happier.

For example, if you want your kids to be happy, consider this – you can encourage them to engage in physical activity, which will fill their systems with endorphins. Get them to complete their school assignments and homework, and acknowledge them for it, and they’ll be rewarded with dopamine. Assist them in seeing the value in charitable pursuits or volunteer work, or get them to help out around the house, and their serotonin will flow. And of course, hug them if you want to boost their oxytocin.

As far as being happier yourself, there are so many options, you’ll surely be able to find a recipe that works for you. You could simply sleep more, or eat better, or exercise regularly. You could practice mindfulness, or conquer one anxiety, or lose one bad habit. You could learn to meditate, or do yoga, or study martial arts. You could spend ten minutes or more outdoors every day appreciating nature, or develop more supportive self-talk. There are also many wonderful books, recordings and videos that can entertain you, focus you on happy thoughts, and give you a sense of purpose to move forward with a pleasant outlook.

Whatever you decide, you can be happier, in your family, your work and your life in general, based on your lifestyle decisions. It’s your choice – choose wisely, and you and those you care about will have a happier, longer, more productive life.