On Happiness

Sep 22, 2017 by

On Happiness

The field of Positive Psychology emerged about thirty years ago and has expanded as more psychologists and neuroscientists are researching the subject of happiness or well-being. Here are some things you can practice that can boost your enjoyment of your life:


  1. Practice Gratitude: I list this second because it does not take a lot of time and it causes a person to evaluate their present circumstances and find the things that make them feel good.  Gratitude and the positive feelings associated with it create cause the reward circuits in the brain to release the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.  It takes practice to find things you are grateful for, including people.  When we look for the positive, we find the positive.
  2. Declutter:  Keep your spaces clear of objects that have no meaning or use.  If you take the time to sort through an overflowing closet or a too full drawer, your living room, bedroom, office, bathroom, etc., and you ask yourself if the object or item has meaning or some other value, you will reinforce your connection to the meaningful objects and you will feel good about discarding the useless clutter that we are likely to amass over a period of years.
  3. Be Decisive: Agonizing over a decision; regretting a decision or not following through with a decision doesn’t feel good.  Being decisive; setting and achieving goals; and having good boundaries feels good because dopamine production is activated.
  4. Label Emotions: Labeling your emotions reduces amygdala reactivity and activates the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, thus making us more resilient and less impulsive. This also helps to reduce arousal, which allows you to be more focused.  Also, you don’t have to be perfect.
  5. Touch:  Much of our brain’s circuitry is directed toward interpersonal relationships.  Touching another person in a loving way can actually cause the release of the neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin which is produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland.  You can practice meditative hugs by focusing on the close physical connection you can experience when hugging another person with warm feelings in your heart.  This also causes the amygdala to be less reactive.
  6. I place this last on the list because it is something that takes more effort and which many people do not have a good attitude about.  Strenuous exercise causes the pituitary gland in our brains to release    endorphins, which help relieve pain and which induce a feeling of euphoria.  Exercise instills other positive emotions such as a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of competency.




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