Happiness Hacks Can Help You Engage Your Inner Resources to Achieve Your Goals
Happiness Hack #1 Searching for Gratitude
Guilt and shame are two emotions that trouble us frequently in spite of our best efforts. Why is it so hard to let go of these feelings when we recognize intellectually that they are not pleasant or useful? Neuroscience is showing us that guilt, shame and worry activate the brain’s reward system. Essentially these feelings make the brain feel better by calming the limbic system but they are not good long term remedies. So what do you do instead? Practice Gratitude!
Asking what you can be grateful for boosts the same neurotransmitter targeted by a major anti-depressant. The best news may be that it is the search itself that triggers the serotonin. So if you feel badly that you are having trouble finding things to be grateful for you can just relax into the search.
Happiness Hack #2 Naming Feelings
Many of us have tried to use suppression of feelings as a coping mechanism. There is a common hope that simply not paying attention and sidestepping feelings coupled with time will take care of difficult emotions. Short answer—it won’t! Our brain and nervous system still is reacting even as we put on a happy face and try to distance ourselves from difficult feelings.
So what to do? Naming our emotions activates the prefrontal cortex to quiet our limbic system. It is the first step in knowing what expression the emotion may need to release it.
Happiness Hack #3 Decide
Trying to be perfect and find the perfect solution or decision to an issue overwhelms our brain with emotion and we end up feeling out of control. It turns out that good enough decisions are good enough. Making a decision helps our brain feels in control. Stepping into our power on whatever level we can helps stress chemistry decrease. Active choices triggers changes in the attention circuits and increases reward centers thereby increasing dopamine activity.
Happiness Hack #4 Human Touch
Appropriate touch releases oxytocin, increases endorphins and thus reduces pain. Neuroscience has also found that the latter makes you more persuasive and increases performance. 5 hugs a day for 4 weeks has been shown to increase happiness significantly! Massage is an excellent way to receive the kind of touch we need to generate happier chemistry that reduces pain and enhances sleep.