Really, how content are you? We all have to deal with difficulties, frustrations, and unknowns every day, which can make it tough to always feel happy and content. We also know that happiness, even in good times, is not permanent.
By focusing our attention on the small, positive experiences that fill our lives with hope and joy, we can rewire our brains to be more optimistic and joyful.
All of us could use a bit of extra joy, right? Can we, as humans, find ways to change how our brains work so that we experience more joy? After doing some reading, I came up with a few easy strategies that science has shown can retrain our brains for greater happiness.
Express Your Thanks
Our mental game may be honed with repetition just like any other sport. According to Alex Korb, a neurologist at UCLA, thinking about things you're grateful for throughout the day raises your brain's dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (a molecule that carries information between neurons) that, when present in greater quantities, contributes to emotions of pleasure and contentment, also known as happiness.
Get Some Extra Zs
There is a lot of evidence showing that persons who get more sleep report higher levels of happiness. However, a study conducted by Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger of Princeton University found that the quality of one's sleep significantly impacted ratings of both overall life satisfaction and one's mood during the day. You should strive to improve the quality of your sleep with each passing night.
Review Your Achievements
It's true that our minds are predisposed to dwell on the negative, but we have the power to break the cycle of pessimism if we choose to do so. According to Alan Korb, "thinking about our accomplishments (or about anything we really enjoy) can release serotonin in our brains;" hence, by focusing on a single source of joy, one can "effectively train their brains to be more optimistic."
It's satisfying to work toward a goal, even if we aren't sure it's the best one. Not only is it more productive than putting off work out of a desire for perfection, but it also has positive effects on our mental health. Alex Korb claims that "making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals"; these mental processes share the same neural architecture and have a calming effect on the mind.
If joy is what we want, then it's comforting to know that via mental exercise we can alter the very structure of our brains.
We determine our level of contentment through the thoughts we think. Happiness comes from thinking positively, whereas unhappiness stems from thinking negatively. Doesn't that just sound easy? We can improve our mood by learning to replace negative thoughts with more optimistic ones.
We develop "thinking habits" by the ways in which we respond to a variety of situations. We may strengthen the habit of positive thinking and weaken the habit of negative thinking by consciously selecting positive thoughts. By appending a neutral "but" to every pessimistic idea, we may maintain a healthy balance of optimism and realism.
For instance, the statement "I feel like I will never lose weight" may be rephrased as "I feel like I will never lose weight, but I know there are other people who used to be exactly like me and made it happen!" To begin, we will require practice. Putting a "but" in front of a negative concept is not something we do naturally at first. But the more we do it, the more our brains are rewired to automatically think "but" whenever we have a negative thought...The more we think positively, the more we'll think positively.
I think we can all agree that there is no universally accepted definition of happiness. Happiness can be defined in several ways, but improving one's quality of life is always possible with some effort. We have the power to create our own happiness and pleasure. The first step toward achieving that happiness is realizing what works best for us.