We all want to be happy. Everything we do in our life is to eventually increase the level of happiness that we feel.
But chasing happiness is tricky. That’s why countless neuroscientists continuously research this topic.
How to increase the amount of happiness we feel in our life has more to do with how we use our brain and mind than with what we acquire and possess.
Many people who seem like they can have everything are clinically depressed, and folks who seem like don’t have much radiate with happiness.
UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb says that your happiness is something you can control and gives us the hows. He gives us 3 easy ways to genuinely feel happier.
Neuroscientists Suggest 3 Easy Ways To Feel More Happiness:
1. Push your brain’s happiness buttons.
Your brain is powerful, really powerful. But it is meant to be used by you, it should be used as a powerful tool. If you let it be responsible for your happiness you would not be very satisfied with what it does.
Our brains are biased to think more negative thoughts because this was evolutionary advantage while we were surviving as primitive humans back in the past. It gave us an edge to be more cautious and careful in a world full of danger around every corner.
Most neural connections within our brain we would not consciously even consider to have anything together, are interlinked together. Experiencing guilt or shame might be your brain trying to activate its reward system.
Korb continues that “worrying stimulates the medial prefrontal cortex and lowers activity in the amygdala, thus helping your limbic system, your emotions, remain copascetic.”
“Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves, they’re activating the brain’s reward center.“ says Alex Korb.
So how can we use our brain and how to push its buttons for happiness? Neuroscientist Alex Korb suggests asking yourself ‘What am I grateful for?’ is pushing its happiness button. His reasoning is chemical, “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.”
2. Genuinely accept that you are not perfect.
Most of us strive for perfection. You might say you are not, but if you are tested whether or not you are satisfied with who you are right now, even if it means this is the best you’ll get, almost nobody will be fully satisfied.
This slight predicament gives us a state of constant anxiety. It makes us feel as if we are always one step behind of something, as if we are always late or chasing something that’s right in front of us. It’s like a carrot on a stick.
We are always chasing something, we are always looking for ways to be better, to fix something, we are always competing. This is the biggest drive in our life, to get the thing that will make us whole, enough, worthy. And this stands in the way of our happiness.
“Trying for the best, instead of good enough, brings too much emotional ventromedial prefrontal activity into the decision making process. In contrast, recognizing that good enough is good enough activates more dorsolateral prefrontal areas, which helps you feel more in control…” says neuroscientist Alex Korb.
“Actively choosing caused changes in attention circuits and in how the participants felt about the action, and it increased rewarding dopamine activity.” continues Korb. He says that making active decisions while accepting that you are not perfect is key to feel happier.
“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.”
3. Touch, hug, pat, hold or shake hands with people daily.
Human touch is our basic need. We might think food, shelter, oxygen and water are necessities, but try living without any human connection. Some even speculate that for our psyche connection is more important than food.
If you want to test whether or not this is true, try to think about a moment when you broke up with someone you really cared for. Most people will lose hunger all together and stay with the sole craving of reestablishing connection.
Of course, for survival food and water are more important, but our psyche has a perspective that needs another element, human connection. We need to be physically around other people otherwise we are prone to mental illness.
That’s why in order to increase the happiness in our life it is crucial to have physical connection with other people daily. Of course, we should touch and hug people that want to be touched and hugged.
“A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.” says Korb. Hand holding, pats on the back, and handshakes would also do the trick.
Korb cites a study in which subjects whose hands were held by their partners experienced a reduced level of anxiety while waiting for an expected electrical shock from researchers. “The brain showed reduced activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, that is, less activity in the pain and worrying circuits.”