There are tonnes of articles online, all giving you different information on how to be happy. We’ve taken a look at some books written by actual Neuroscientists to see what exactly they recommend! Here are 3 practices they recommend to make you happier.
Practice Being Grateful
“The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable …” – The Upward Spiral
Gratitute affects your brain on a biological level. Increasing levels of neurotransmitter dopamine and neurotransmitter serotonin. To give you an idea of how powerful that is, Prozac is also designed to boost the brains levels of neurotransmitter Serotonin. So start practicing being grateful!
“One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.” – The Upward Spiral
Put a Label on Negative Feelings
Putting a table on negative feelings actually reduces the impact they have on us. This is in part because we are acknowledging this negativity, but also because putting a name on something reduces its power overall.
“In one fMRI study, appropriately titled “Putting Feelings into Words” participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Predictably, each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.” – The Upward Spiral
Further to this, Trying to suppress negative emotions doesn’t work, and in some cases actually makes it worse. So remember the next time you have a negative feeling or emotion, identify it, put a label on it and analyse where it came from.
“People who tried to suppress a negative emotional experience failed to do so. While they thought they looked fine outwardly, inwardly their limbic system was just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused. Kevin Ochsner, at Columbia, repeated these findings using an fMRI. Trying not to feel something doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.” – Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long
Uncertainty can lead to anxiety and worry. Indecisive people show markedly higher levels of anxiety than people who are able to make decisions quickly, and there’s a reason behind this. Bring this back to yourself, have you had a situation recently where you were worried about making a choice, afraid it would lead to the wrong outcome? How did you feel after making that choice? Better, right? Even though you don’t know the outcome yet, the act of making the decision reduced the worry and anxiety you had about the situation.
“Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals — all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety. Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world — finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.” – The Upward Spiral
Excerpts Taken From The Following Books: