So what’s going to make you happy? And to be more specific: what’s going to make your brain happy? We’ll focus on things that are simple and easy to do instead of stuff like winning the lottery.
1. Listen to music from the happiest time in your life.
Music affects the brain in an interesting way: it can remind you of places you have listened to it before. Were you happiest in college? Play the music you loved then, and it can transport you to that happier place and boost your mood.
One of the strong effects of music comes from its ability to remind us of previous environments in which we were listening to that music. If you start listening to the music that you were listening to at that time, it can help you feel more connected to that happier time in your life and makes it more present.
For example my daughter used to be a huge fan of K3, as all Dutch girls around the age of 6. For ‘family sake’ there was a rest period of 10 years. Now a days as she is a teenager and plays it again, she says that its making her happy, and me too!
2.Smile and wear sunglasses
The brain isn’t always very smart. Sometimes your mind is getting all this random info and it isn’t sure how to feel. So, it looks around for clues. This is called “biofeedback.”
Biofeedback is the idea that your brain is sensing what is happening in your body and it reviews that information to decide how it should feel about the world.
You feel happy and that makes you smile. But it works both ways: when you smile, your brain can detect this and say, “I’m smiling. That must mean I’m happy.” So happiness makes you smile, but smiling can also produce happiness. Feeling down? “Fake it until you make it” can work. In fact, research shows smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2000 bars of chocolate, or 25.000 euro’s.
What about sunglasses?
Bright light makes you squint. Squinting looks a lot like being worried. So guess what biofeedback that produces? Yup. Your brain can misinterpret that as being unhappy. Putting on sunglasses means you don’t have to squint and therefore you’re not contracting this muscle and it stops making your brain think, “Oh my God, I must be worried about something. So Sunglasses kill the squint and can help tell your brain that your happy.
“Smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2000 bars of chocolate”
3. Thinking about goals
Having a goal literally change how you see the world. When you’re feeling stressed or challenged, think about your long-term goals. It gives your brain a sense of control and can release dopamine which will make you feel better and more motivated. The goals and intentions, that you set in your prefrontal cortex, change the way that your brain perceives the world. Sometimes when we feel like everything is going wrong and we’re not making any progress, everything is awful, you don’t need to change the world, you can just change the way you are perceiving the world and that is going to be enough to make a positive difference.
For example; by thinking, “Okay, what is my long-term goal? What am I trying to accomplish?” Calling that to mind can actually make it feel rewarding to be doing homework instead of going to the party because then your brain is like, “Oh yeah. I’m working towards that goal. I’m accomplishing something that’s meaningful to me.” Then that can start to release dopamine and that can start to make you feel better about what you’re doing.
4. Get good sleep
We all know depression messes up how people sleep. But what’s interesting is it’s actually a two-way street: bad sleep also causes depression.
Research says, people with insomnia or chronic insomnia were much more likely to develop depression. Depression causes sleep problems, but sleep problems are also more likely to lead to depression. So how do you improve your sleep?
– Get bright sunlight in the middle of the day.
– At night, try and stay in a dimly lit environment.
– Having a comfortable place to sleep and having a bedtime ritual
– Trying to go to sleep at the same time every night
5) Avoid stress
Stress is mostly work related. The trick to not worrying about work stuff while at home is to make specific plans to address concerns before you leave the office. The best way to reduce job stress is to get a clear idea of what is expected of you and stop working overtime. Remind yourself how unimportant your worries are in the big scheme of things. No matter what happens, you will probably be fine. Still stressed? A few tips:
– Watch a video of a cute animal, this reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
– Lean back instead of leaning forward.
– Chew gum.
– Smell vanilla.
– Spend time in nature
After a little something to reduce stress, find one small thing you can do to get started. Taking one small step toward it can make it start to feel more manageable.
6. Go for a walk
The simplest way to an upward spiral is to go for a walk outside every morning, and if possible, do it with a friend. The walk engages the exercise system and when you’re walking outside the sunlight you’re exposed to has benefits on the sleep systems and can impact the serotonin system. If you do it every day, then it starts getting ingrained in the dorsal striatum and becomes a good habit. If you can do it with a friend, that’s even better because you get the social connection.
while playing your favorite music, call your friend for a morning walk. Smile. Put on your sunglasses. Go outside. Put one foot in front of the other. And you’re on your way to neuroscientific happiness.