Work, family, school, sports, and pretty much every other facet of life all have one commonality. They have the potential to make us happy. So, what is happiness? What does it mean and look like? How can you maintain a life of happiness day after day?
Each of the above questions are ones that many of you have probably pondered, at least unconsciously. I am someone who believes that happiness is a choice we must make and practice. It’s not easy, but it does make a difference when you can choose happiness and be grateful every day.
Recently I came across an article discussing some research by UCLA neuroscientists on brain science and some actual findings regarding this. I would like to summarize some of the main points and encourage you to think about your own day to day journey. Many of the things discussed seemed to make a lot of sense. I would love to hear what you think and any comments or questions you have. The brain is an amazing complex thing that we are still learning more about every day.
The key points that the authors discuss in this article include
1. Ask what you are grateful for. Even if you can’t think of much to be grateful for, just asking the question to yourself actually makes a difference in activating positive areas of the brain. Do things like send thank you notes.
2. Label negative emotions. Just labeling them as sadness, anger, frustration, etc affects how the brain is activated and causes them to lessen.
3. Decide to go for “good enough” rather than “best decision ever made on earth”. Making a decision, even if it isn’t perfect, lessens stress and affects our brains positively
4. Hugs, hugs, hugs – human touch is lifegiving and stimulates our brains in very positive ways.
Throughout my own journey, these have all been very important things that have helped me be a more joyful person. Focusing on what I am grateful for and making an effort to thank others has played a very important role in my success. Whether it’s writing thank you cards at Christmas or a simple comment on a Facebook post, expressing appreciation and gratitude is a very positive action for both the giver and the receiver.
Labeling and identifying negative emotions has been one of the things which has played the largest role in my happiness. Just like when I mentioned having a choice each day when you wake up in the morning as to what kind of a day you will have, being able to identify and positively affect our emotions can really dictate our happiness factor.
The more I have the opportunity to speak and share my message, the more I have come to realize that being “good enough” is “good enough”. The longer I beat myself up about making mistakes and not being perfect, the longer it takes for me to be true to myself and portray the message that I really want to get out.
Lastly the authors discuss the importance of “” hugs”. If anyone has ever given you a real hug filled with love and compassion, then you know how powerful they are. Every time I am hugged, I am overcome with that happy emotion that leaves me feeling great.
The researchers found all these actions positively influence brain chemistry not unlike some of the antidepressant drugs to increase serotonin and dopamine levels and stimulate those areas of the brain associated with joy. Commit to practice these 4 things for 30 days and you will surely begin to develop a more joyful life, helping to ensure that the best is yet to come!