Is there a shortcut to happiness?
"A Woman with Flowers" by Tessa Mendoza
Is there a shortcut to happiness?
ALL IN MY HEAD - Monique Toda (The Philippine Star) - September 15, 2020 - 12:00am

What is happiness, exactly? Can we really define this personal experience that seems so elusive to many? I think the pursuit of happiness has become more intense lately in light of the pandemic and despair around us.

Happiness is meant to be a profound transformative state of being. People find it in external circumstances, objects and experiences, while most find it internally —when cultivating peace, love, forgiveness and all the goodness one can muster.

I come from the school of the internal source of happiness. I really work on myself by practicing what I have learned will make me happy. These are acts of kindness, finding purpose or doing meaningful work, meditation, living a healthy lifestyle and most of all, having good relationships and worthwhile human interactions. I know I sound “new-agey” and like a self-help book. I admit, I read a lot of them.

We all know that happiness is a journey, but is there a shortcut? Apparently, there are physiological ways that can fast-track happiness, even if it’s just a bump of feeling good about ourselves and the world. Here are some clever tips.

Happiness hacks

• Dopamine: The reward chemical. Let me simplify the definition of this hormone and feel-good neurotransmitter that plays several roles in the brain and body. One of the dopamine pathways is the brain’s reward system. This is closely associated with happiness because of the pleasurable feeling one gets after a desire or craving has been met.

How to get it: Complete a task, big or small. That feeling of accomplishment will make you happy. Eat delicious food. This does it for me!

Celebrate little wins. Do self-care activities. This includes some “me” time.

• Oxytocin: The love hormone. Oxytocin is called the “love drug.” It is released when people hug or socially bond. It promotes feelings of love and warmth. I don’t mean to sound unromantic, but neuroscience researchers have revealed that love and oxytocin are intimately related. It plays a role in romance, long-lasting friendships, maternal instinct, parent-child bonding, marriage and orgasms. Oxytocin increases with physical affection.

How to get it: Spend time with someone you care for. Play with your dogs. Personally, this is one of my secrets to happiness.

Play with a baby — the joy one feels is immeasurable when being around a cutie.

Hold hands and cuddle with your partner. Be quick to give compliments.

• Serotonin: The mood stabilizer. Both a hormone and a neurotransmitter, Serotonin in the brain regulates happiness, anxiety and mood. Low levels of the chemical have been associated with depression. We should avoid that.

How to get it: Listen to the music you like. Music is a mood maker.

Meditate. I have been meditating since the lockdown and have found myself calmer and less prone to my usual hysteria.

Running is a good stress buster. Me? I run away from stressful people! Walk in nature.

• Endorphins: The painkiller. The body releases endorphins when it encounters stress or discomfort. The hormone is secreted within the brain and nervous system. It brings about an analgesic effect and can produce a feeling of euphoria. Furthermore, its structure is similar to morphine. So let’s just say that endorphins give you a natural high.

How to get it: Do continuous exercise, not short bursts of activity.

Laughter, they say, is the best medicine. Can we laugh COVID away, please?

Eat dark chocolate. It stimulates the production of endorphins and creates feelings of pleasure.

Essential oils can lead to endorphin release as well. Some studies claim that this is true, specifically for aromas such as lavender, rosemary, bergamot and citrus.

Disclaimer: Though these “happy hormones” may give you a positive feeling and even mild, joyous moments, they will never give you the true happiness you seek. That is all up to you.

HAPPINESS
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