The neuroscience of happiness.
What really makes us happy? Is it money, relationship, a new car, religion, or a new job? The answer to this question is often inconclusive.
Because happiness is complex, people have different speculations. In fact, if you surf the internet, there are thousands if not millions of articles that talk about this subject.
However, not all of those experts’ pieces of advice are credible. We can not trust them. The best thing we can do is to base our belief on empirical evidence.
Thus, when it comes to understanding happiness, the neuroscience can be the best tool. The neuroscience of happiness has the last say on what makes us happy (excluding the external factors).
For instance, Alex Korb, a UCLA neuroscience researcher, suggests four rituals that can truly make us happy.
1. Ask what are you grateful about.
You might hear from others say that being grateful can make you happy. Yes, it is true. At the biological level, gratitude can boost neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. What do these neurotransmitters do?
The neuroscience of happiness states that, according to the study, these neurotransmitters help you focus on the positive aspects of your life. Not the negative ones.
The more grateful you are, the happier you become. And this will create a chain reaction to other aspects of your being including your relationship.
But sometimes, becoming happy is easier to say than done. We live in a world that is full of challenges. What can we do when we experience pain and suffering? Can we still be happy even if we feel bad?
Fortunately, neuroscience has the answer.
2. Give negative emotion a name.
You feel bad. It’s not good, right? But what can you do now? Give that “not so good feeling” a name. Is it anxiety? Sadness? Frustration? Anger?
How important is to naming your negative emotions? Neuroscience study found that identifying bad emotions can lessen the bad feelings. Suppressing them can make your feelings even worse.
Identifying emotions is an old practice that is still being used today. It is called mindfulness. Ancient people understood the process well as a medium of decreasing negative feelings.
3. Make a decision.
Yes, as simple as that and you’ll feel better.
The neuroscience of happiness states that making a decision can reduce your anxiety and make you even more capable of solving problems.
Furthermore, making decisions can change the way you view the world (in a positive way of course).
But what kind of decision should you make? Well, not a perfect one. Don’t try to pursue perfection. It will only create anxiety and distress. Instead, try to come up with something that you think the best for you. Trust your instinct.
4. Touch people.
Sounds funny, right? But yes, touching people can make you happy. A hug can be the best especially the long one. Why? Because touching activates a brain’s region that secretes endorphin, the body’s natural painkiller. This is the reason why a massage is relaxing.
In addition, touching is an important part of a successful marriage. Couples who struggle in their relationships are those who have little or no physical contacts with each other.
So when you feel bad, don’t just text or call your loved ones. Meet them and talk to them personally. And of course, hug them – long. Doing that can make you feel good.
So what does the neuroscience of happiness teach us today?
Well, the most important lesson is that happiness is not heavily influenced by social or external factors. Happiness rather originates in our brain – it’s biological root. Thus, searching the source of happiness on the outside may be inadequate.
The neuroscience says that you can only be happy if you:
- Ask what makes you happy
- Give your bad emotion a name
- Make a decision
- Touch others
Thank you for spending your time on this. I hope you enjoy.
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I’m a licensed psychometrician, author, and blogger. I’m currently working as a University instructor teaching psychology. I love writing and doing psychological research.