Happiness is a chemical reaction in the brain, which can be traced through scans that mark the firing synapses.
This happens when Chemicals we've often heard of like endorphins (released during exercise) and dopamine (the addictive validation we receive from social media likes) react faster than the speed of light.
Have you every thought of something, but couldn't find the words exactly to express it? It's because your brain works so quickly, that it's hard to catch all of it. Often it's why we can't exactly explain our feelings.
The book Crucial Conversations which talks about how we see something happen, tell ourselves stories to explain the event, and react on that story. The trick is catching your brain before it tells the story, and then telling a different one before our emotions take over.
It's like a fascinating dance with our own intellect, but once we understand what happiness is, we can learn to harness it for ourselves. What most people don't realize is that happiness can be taught, triggered, and self-induced.
This can happen a few different ways and it takes time to do, but being a happier person is worth the time and effort.
1. Literally train yourself to be happy: Setting triggers.
Remember Pavlov’s dogs? You probably studied the story in psychology class, but just in case…Pavlov rang a bell before he fed his dogs. After a while, the dogs got used to hearing the bell before they were fed. Pavlov noticed that the dogs began to salivate when the bell rang in anticipation of food.
Another example: In the book Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand, Trainer Tom Smith took Seabiscuit out on the track to train for his upcoming match race with War Admiral. Seabiscuit already knew that the ringing of a bell meant to run, but Tom wanted to seat the trigger even deeper into the horse's psyche.
He used a whip flicked across the horse's flank to simulate a predator's grasp, which the animal's instinct was hardwired to flee. Tom paired the stimulation with the ring of a bell consistently until the horse leaped off the line to the sound of the bell.
This is called Conditioning, and we can use it for ourselves, by creating triggers. We’re unconsciously doing this anyway, by the things we tell ourselves (which creates our attitude, mood, and affects behaviors), but by catching the process, we can turn it on itself and learn to reinforce Positive behaviors and weed out Negative ones (Operant Conditioning, although we’re going to stick to just the positive reinforcement).
Jordan Belfort likes to set what he calls 'anchors' to get his mind in the peak state before he sells, and he teaches his process to his students.
It's simple psychology. Find a trigger for yourself. Something that you love, and incorporates the senses; smell, taste, touch, sight, sound. (Our sense of smell is strongly linked to memory, so this one is highly recommended).
Whatever you decide on as a trigger, make it strong, and capitalize on it's attributes by incorporating more than one sense. It shouldn't be something you use too often, or your brain will begin to overlook the connection between the object and the physiological state you want to be in. Your trigger can become 'commonplace' to your brain, if overused, or not reinforced often enough.
Make sure you feel the emotion strongly from your brain, in your soul, to the tips of your toes. Feel happiness warming you like sitting next to a bonfire, roasting marshmallows and drinking hot cocoa.
Let it work through you with out interference from your brain or other feelings. Just exist in that moment, and when it's strongest, set your trigger by exposing yourself to the smell, taste, sight, sound, or feel.
You'll need to set this trigger several times before it can make you happy by itself.
You can even start simple. I read a story on Pinterest about a girl who'd click her pen every time she had a happy thought. The people around her knew she was doing this to train herself to be happy, but it also began to make them happy whenever they'd hear the click.
2. Actively seek out things that make you happy.
Find things to be happy about. Real things that matter to you. They don't have to be big. Not triggers specifically, but interests, hobbies, friends, and family. Surround yourself with good things that fill your soul.
For instance, I love family and friends. I try to talk with them often.
I also love books and beautiful things. Reading makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. Flowers make me happy because they seem happy. Art makes me happy, so walking into Michael's is like that first breath of spring. Kittens and puppies make me happy (even just pictures, which I collect on my Pinterest board and go to when I want to feel all fuzzy inside).
3. Use exercise to release endorphins.
Working out has tons of benefits, but one of the most powerful outcomes is that it affects attitudes. Not just with the chemical reaction inside your brain, but it helps our view of the world change. We are happier, so the way we see life is more positive.
Our physiological state affects those around us and creates better feelings in them towards us, which perpetuates a cycle of happiness.
4. Helping people.
Knowing you made a difference in someone’s life is a huge mood booster. Service, connecting with another human being on that level also gets the chemicals flowing (not to mention the fact that we feel happier when we’re productive). Again, it perpetuates a cycle of happiness.
Being happy with life is literally a game changer, and we can learn to be happy where we are. We just need to decide to take the steps and do the work.
I hope this article helped you. I'd certainly love to see less doom and gloom on the news and more Sunshine. We deserve to be happy.