Have you ever noticed how much better you feel when life and all of its events seem in order? Or how much more balanced you feel? This is all due to the chemicals in our body. With time and many life changes, the chemicals throughout the body will increase and decrease.
When life events create uncertainty, pain, and struggle, our happy chemicals begin to slowly decrease. Then, days or weeks later, a new life event stimulates that good feeling and very quickly, those happy chemicals increase and our bodies find balance again. Then sure enough, life does its thing and we are back on our behinds, feeling low again.
Sudha Seshadri, a professor of neurology says, “An important message to myself and others is that when challenges come our way, getting frustrated is very counterproductive—not just to achieving our aims but perhaps to our capacity to be productive” (Weintraub).
The hard truth is that this will be a continuous cycle throughout our lives. But the good news?
We have the ability to boost happy chemicals to revive our life.
So what happens when we are faced with many challenges at once, creating the inability to recharge as easily as before? A good place to start is having the self-awareness of our current state.
When having an imbalance in levels, you may experience:
- Lack of motivation
- Low self-esteem
- Inability to focus
- Feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, or sadness
- Disconnected from yourself and the world around you
- Obsessive, disruptive thoughts
Bruce McEwen, a neuroscientist and cortisol expert says, “Cortisol, he notes, is necessary for life—so it is obviously not all bad. But stress can lead people to potentially problematic behaviors such as smoking, drinking and eating unhealthy food (Weintraub).
With that said, I’d like to acknowledge those that are and were trying their very best in those moments, with the resources available at the time.
“There are a number of intriguing, fairly simple things that have been shown to change these levels,” Seshadri says, (Weintraub).
Below are the 11 ‘happiness habit’ ideas to increase and sustain happy chemicals.
By creating authenticity around the decisions you make in your life, you begin your journey back to life balance!
By connecting to nature, we are connecting with the present moment. This is a way to dissipate anything that is outside of the now, in order to stabilize our mood. By doing so, we are practicing staying present, increasing serotonin, and focusing on something other than the body and our thoughts.
Another way to increase a happy mood is by sitting quietly and focusing on our breathing. This can also be done through meditation. Finding a guided breathing exercise can also be helpful when it comes to something specific that you are struggling with. e.g. sadness, overwhelming feelings, struggles with self-worth, or productivity.
If you’re in a quiet space with yourself, clasp your hands together and place them in your lap, like you would if you were holding hands with someone else. With a few deep breaths, close your eyes and focus on the hand holding and the connection felt with yourself. Feel the love in this moment and come back to this exercise to feel the love—it’s more easily accessible than we knew!
When it comes to exercise routines and keeping them consistent, it is crucial to find what works for you and your body. Aquatic therapy is my personal pick. The water offers a feeling of calm as it moves freely. I feel lighter in my joints, an increase in confidence, and strength building to create stability.
Exercise will remain a large part of my life, even if I have to change my definition of what exercise is. Find your own form of exercise and movement that your body can tolerate.
Let’s shift toward an active participation in an—oftentimes—passive part of our lives—sexuality. It’s important to get comfortable, not only with the idea of sex with a partner, but even more so, the importance of self-pleasure practice. We have the opportunity for self-discovery and a deeper connection with the self, resulting in the release of happy chemicals. So why not do it! Whether it be with yourself or a partner, the development of trust through an emotional bond will result in replacing shame and hesitation with satisfaction and confidence!
Another personal favorite of mine is celebrating small victories. Any and all victories should not only be acknowledged, but also celebrated for the time and energy that you put forth to accomplish them. We can look at small victories examples specifically around completing a self-care task.
A self massage of the face followed by a face mask, rolling out tight muscles with a foam roller or ball, starting that new book that you’ve been meaning to read
It can be easier to grab the foods that aren’t necessarily good for us, just for the temporary satiation. I encourage you to choose a meal that is nourishing and fuels your brain and body. When our meals support our digestion, our happiness chemicals increase and stress hormones decrease.
I cannot express the importance of enough sleep! This is the time for our bodies to recharge, regulate, and heal. A great victory to add to your small victories workbook would be seeking guidance or help if this is a recurring struggle.
Experience play time with a pet, if you or someone you know has one. Our oxytocin happy chemicals increase during this interaction. Along with the happy chemicals of the pet who LOVES to receive your love in return!
Find ways to create laughter in your life, whether it be a conversation with someone, watching or listening to something funny. I believe that laughter brings the life out of us and creates the lightness that we need surrounding it.
Find an outlet, hobby, something that you can put your full self and attention into. This doesn’t have to be something that you are a pro or even great at. I was never a pro at drawing, but this is one of my go-tos! I encourage you to try something that you’ve never done before, but wish you had. Now is the time!
With this list, start by incorporating just one of these happy chemical shifters. You can spend 30 seconds, with your eyes closed, clasping your hands together to increase your love hormones.
Resurfacing that feeling of love within, creates a greater external reality.
You could set a reminder for yourself, an alarm, or put these habits into your calendar. It’s important to create a habit, while making sure that these habits become a priority. They deserve just as much importance as your other tasks and parts of life, in order to keep everything as balanced as possible.
Wherever you choose to start, do not stop there. I encourage you to reintroduce and explore the best ways to increase your joy, getting back to yourself and the things that align most with you!
Reference: Weintraub, Karen.”'Stress Hormone' Cortisol Linked to Early Toll on Thinking Ability.” scientificamerican.com. 2018.