The Neuroscience of Happiness

Neurocience

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The Miraculous Human Brain

The wiring and chemistry of our brains defines every experience and every behavior, which makes using neuroscience the best way to unravel and understand any aspect of the human experience. Whether you are happy, sad, angry, inspired, stressed, or something else entirely, looking at how your brain functions can be a big help.

It is particularly useful if you’re trying to improve your mood and increase your happiness quotient. What is going on inside the brain when you feel truly content and at peace? Then, one step further – you should ask: what can you do to get your brain to function like that more often?

Neurochemicals

Ultimately our mood comes down to body chemistry – specifically neurochemicals or ‘neurotransmitters’ which are produced in the brain in response to other activities in the brain.

When you have happy, sad, scary or having hurtful thoughts or experiences, the brain responds in kind by producing the relevant neurotransmitters. There is a wide variety of these transmitters, which include serotonin, cortisol, norepinephrine, dopamine, oxytocin, adenosine and many others.

When it comes to happiness, the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters – serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine – are released. These make us feel alert, happy, content and even loved. So, we want to do what we need to do to increase them.

On the other hand, we want to reduce transmitters like cortisol, which creates stress.

Controlling Neurochemistry

At this point, you may be asking, “Is it possible to control your neurochemistry? And, how?” One way, of course, is with drugs – making the desire to “feel good” the driving force behind recreational drugs and antidepressants.

Antidepressants often work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain or increasing GABA which reduces cortisol. Unfortunately, it also causes fatigue.

The problem with changing brain chemistry directly though drugs is that the brain has great power to adapt. If you feed particular chemicals to your brain, it will often respond by producing less of those chemicals naturally. This can then lead to tolerance, dependence, and withdrawals, which triggers addiction and contributes to worsening depression.

The safe way to alter your body’s neurochemistry is through lifestyle changes. Diet impacts the neurotransmitters the brain creates. Plus, sleep, exercise and social interactions also affect your moods.

Ultimately though, the very best way to control your mood is to change the way you think and how you react to life’s experiences.  By focusing on the positive and good in life and limiting your negative thoughts and actions, you will begin to be happier. Remember, neurotransmitters are released as a response to thoughts and actions.

Change your experiences by changing the way your think about life and how you respond to every situation – and you will improve your neurochemistry and ultimately the level of happiness that you enjoy on a daily basis.

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