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10 Ways To Hack Into Your Happy Brain Chemicals

10 Ways To Hack Into Your Happy Brain Chemicals

How you experience life boils down to the chemicals in your brain. Happiness, sadness, anger, anxiety – all can be traced to what’s going on inside your head. In the past decade we’ve come a long way in the science of happiness and have a pretty good idea of what happy looks like in your brain these days. Rather than being in the passenger’s seat of this process, science has proven, without a doubt, that you can take control of your brain and hack into your happy neurochemicals.

Happiness can be found in the seemingly insignificant, mundane things you do every day. These give your brain a boost of feel-good chemicals and keeps them flowing. Your brain is a positive feedback system, meaning that being happy often leads to more happiness. Usually all it takes is a small attitude adjustment to keep your brain feeling good or start it on an upward cycle.

What works for one person may not do anything for another, but there are many little things you can try today to give your brain a more positive slant. So whether you’re depressed, feeling anxious, or have found yourself in one of those crisis freak-out moments, there are simple steps – backed by neuroscience – that you can take right now to start your brain on a more positive path.

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Give or get a hug

A long hug releases the neurotransmitter oxytocin, the bonding hormone, which calms down your amygdala, the fear alarm, and just makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

Get out in the sun

Bright sunlight helps boost the production of serotonin in your brain. Make an effort to get outside on your lunch hour, go for a walk on a sunny day, or take a break and step outside to soak in the sun. Sunlight also improves the release of melatonin, which helps you sleep better at night.

Put your feelings on paper

Studies have shown that linguistic processing of emotions produces less amygdala activity, helping you to feel less distressed. A calmer amygdala means a happier, less anxious you.

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Remember some happy memories

Just thinking about happy times boosts serotonin levels in your brain, according to research. Serotonin is necessary for the highest functioning of your prefrontal cortex, the executive, which controls self-reflection and your emotions, helping it to override old knee-jerk patterns. Try visualizing a joyful time in detail or even better, write it down.

Splash cold water on your face

Seriously. Find a sink, fill your hands with cold water, and rinse your face. Doing this will slow down your heart rate by indirectly stimulating your vagus nerve, which regulates a variety of vital bodily functions including your heartbeat and the muscles used to breathe. The vagus nerve also controls the chemical levels in your digestive system, which greatly affect mood and health.

Smile

It’s a simple thing to do and really does improve your mood. Most people think we smile because we feel happy, but it works the other way too. You can feel happier if you smile. Your face doesn’t just display emotion – it also creates it. Your face isn’t simply a billboard for your internal feelings, it’s an equal partner in the emotional process.

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Laugh

Laughing works for the same reasons smiling does. You may feel silly, but opening your mouth and letting out a chuckle or thinking of something funny to make you giggle can make you feel happier. There’s not much difference in your brain between fake and genuine laughter and before you know it, provoked laughing can often lead to the real thing.

Be around other people

If you start to feel your mood slipping go somewhere around other people, like a coffee shop, book store, or break room. You don’t even have to interact with them, just being in the same physical space does the trick. Chatting or chilling with a friend is even more beneficial. If you don’t feel like talking, try doing an activity with a friend where you won’t feel forced to talk. Social interaction causes your brain to secrete oxytocin that supports the serotonin system, giving you get the benefits of both feel good chemicals.

Spend time with a pet

Just stroking your pet or even someone else’s can increase the oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine in your brain. Several studies have shown that having a pet can reduce depression, encourage healthier habits, and increase feelings of connectedness. One Japanese study determined that playing with a dog with which you have a bond increases oxytocin levels.

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Diaphragm Breathing

Taking long, deep breaths into your tummy slows your heart rate and activates the calm, parasympathetic nervous system. Place your hand on your diaphragm, the center of your stomach a couple of inches below your lungs, and take slow, full breaths. Count to six and make your hand move in and out with each inhale and exhale. After you get the hang of it, you can practice diaphramatic breathing anywhere without using your hand.

Boost Your Gut Bacteria

Science is uncovering more and more evidence that the bacteria in your gut exerts influence on your brain. Probiotics and prebiotics are showing the potential to help lessen anxiety and depression.

While no one is happy all the time, staying consistently positive begins in your brain with simple changes in thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Small steps can help nudge or keep your brain in a more upbeat cycle and literally start bettering your life immediately.

Featured photo credit: Girl Throwing Autumn Leaves In The AIr – Vicktor Hanicek via picjumbo.com

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10 Ways To Hack Into Your Happy Brain Chemicals 10 Ways To Hack Into Your Happy Brain Chemicals

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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