How to use your brain to make you feel happier!
September is here and summer is becoming a distant memory. The schools are back and the little ones and older children are beginning a new year of learning and experiences. Many of us have returned to work after a break. Or perhaps you’re taking advantage of a more affordable holiday now the kids are back.
September can be a good time for reflection and self-evaluation. A time perhaps to feel the excitement of starting something new. Whatever is happening in your life, it is always reassuring to have a plan and to know the reason why you are following it.
One of the things I always raise during an initial consultation with a client is:
“What do you do for you? Have you got hobbies and interests that you enjoy?”
It is amazing how many people struggle to answer this question!
My clients often feel that they just don’t have the time to do something for themselves. Work schedules, the demands of children, running a busy household. Their day-to-day pattern of living is very stressful and they feel trapped within it. Squeezing something else in, even if it’s for ‘me’, just seems too much.
So what’s the solution? Think about it. If your way of life is not allowing you to feel happy and confident then it’s time to make a change.
Albert Einstein said:
‘’If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.’’
It’s time to focus on some small changes which will lead to learning how to live a happier life. A life where you feel more in control and more confident. In a word, happier!
Making Positive Change Happen!
Your brain is an amazing organ. If you understand how it works, you can use it to make the changes needed to help you feel happier.
There are chemicals in our brains called neurotransmitters. These influence our mood and motivation, our feeling of wellbeing, and our trust in and connection with others.
Depression, pain, loneliness, stress, anxiety, lack of motivation and low mood are all connected to low levels of these neurotransmitters.
The Four Happiness Chemicals
Four chemicals in the brain have a major influence on our mood and sense of wellbeing:
Dopamine – The Reward Chemical!
When you achieve something dopamine is released. It informs your brain that you have done something worthwhile. Dopamine motivates us to take action towards our goals, needs and desires. It gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when we get what we want.
On the other hand, low levels of dopamine can lead to procrastination, self-doubt, and a lack of enthusiasm.
Often the problem is that your goals seem unachievable or unrealistic. I can appreciate the size of the challenge when everything feels overwhelming. However, often the desired goal can be achieved by simply breaking it down into manageable steps. And by focussing on enjoying the process rather than the reward itself.
As a Solution Focused Therapist I help my clients turn their unachievable goals into a realistic plan.
Oxytocin – The Cuddle Chemical!
This is the chemical associated with human bonding and intimacy. It helps to build trust and positive relationships. It is often referred to as ‘the cuddle hormone’ as oxytocin levels increase during periods of closeness to another human being, most notably when giving birth and breastfeeding, and during sexual intimacy..
Inter-personal touch not only raises oxytocin, but it is also thought to reduce cardiovascular stress and to boost the immune system. Humans are social animals. It is necessary to our survival to bond together in “tribes.” We are stronger together.
Humans crave the sense of belonging that we find in our tribe. Loneliness leads to unhappiness. In our busy lives when it is easier to send a text rather than take the time to actually have a conversation, it seems that our ability to produce oxytocin is being reduced. Building healthy social relationships is essential to our feeling of wellbeing.
Endorphins – the Feel Good Chemical!
Endorphins are produced after physical exertion. They help to alleviate anxiety and to lift low mood and they are natural painkillers. Intensive exercise releases endorphin, leading to feelings of well-being and happiness. Even euphoria! Many athletes report that when push their bodies to the limit, they experience a euphoric state known as “Runner’s High.”
Exercise is not the only way to benefit from the feel good effects of endorphins. Positive thinking and positive action can be very effective ways of producing endorphins.
Think about the different ways you might be able to encourage your brain to release endorphins. I encourage my clients to tap into their inner resources and work out how they can use their personal skills and strengths to achieve positive outcomes.
Serotonin – The Calming Chemical
Serotonin has a calming effect on the brain. It has many other functions, and although created in the brain, it is also found in the gut and blood platelets.
Serotonin is believed to help regulate mood and social behaviour, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, sexual desire and function. Low serotonin levels are linked with low mood and depression. Many of us are familiar with the role of antidepressants in boosting serotonin levels.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help you understand how your brain works and what the triggers are which can help your brain boost its production of serotonin naturally.
Chemical processes are taking place in our brain all the time, affecting our moods and confidence levels. As I’ve explained, these processes have a major impact on how we feel. Whether we feel happy and in control of our lives, or overwhelmed and depressed.
Discover More About ‘Happy Brain!’
In my next three blog posts I will look in more detail at three key strategies we can put in place to encourage our brains to produce more of the “Happy Brain” chemicals. Helping us put overwhelm behind us and to feel more confident and more in control. Happier!