Steps to Success – Step 10

Steps to Success – Step 10

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The saying goes that ‘Money can’t buy happiness’ ? I’m sure you have all heard this.

Well it has been proven to be kind of right and kind of wrong.

The studies around this have shown once you have a certain level of income (around $75,000 per annum), the returns of happiness decrease significantly for any additional income that you earn. Once you can pay your bills, not worry about money and use money to convert into experiences, then you are set, right? Well, why is ‘affluenza’ a thing?  

This is what we will be looking at today through the sources of happiness and some ways to boost your happiness.

There is a general consensus that there are three primary sources to happiness, as follows:

  • 50% baseline genetics – Since happiness is an emotional state dictated by specific neurons in the brain, it follows that happiness would be a heritable, genetically-regulated trait. This can be referred to as ‘the cortical lottery‘.
  • 10% Life circumstances ? How much money you make, social standing, where you live.
  • 40% Intentional activity: Thoughts and Actions ? What you think of yourself and the world and how you interact with it makes up the remaining 40%. If you think the world sucks along with your place in it, chances are you are less happy than others.

As 40% of happiness comes from your thoughts and action, we will be focusing on how to increase this area as this is the easiest to change!  

Being happy is important after all. Without being happy what is the point of getting up every day? Not only is being happy great, a number of studies show that it leads to being able to achieve more in life.

Actions you can take to increase your happiness:

The feeling of happiness is triggered inside your brain through four primary Neurotransmitters.

These are DopamineSerotoninOxytocin, and Endorphins, also referred to as the ‘quartet’ responsible for your happiness.

The following are some actions you can take to help hack some of these neurotransmitters:

Dopamine

Dopamine is the ‘feel-good’ hormone which is responsible for the reward-motivation feeling. Dopamine helps to provide motivation to take action toward your goals and gives you the good feeling when they are finished. Having lower levels of dopamine lead to increased procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm. This was discovered through studies on rats, where those with low levels of dopamine always opted for an easier option (i.e. less reward/food) compared to those with higher levels of dopamine.

To constantly get this release, break your big goals down into little pieces. This will allow your brain to celebrate on a more frequent occasion rather than once. Just remember to actually celebrate whenever you meet a small goal. You can also try to create new goals before achieving your current one. That ensures a consistent pattern for experiencing dopamine and craving this reward over time. This will help to build motivation along with being happier.

Serotonin

Serotonin is known as the ‘happy hormone’. It is the ‘happy hormone’ which regulates your body’s sleep-wake cycle and temperature along with providing the feeling of feeling satisfied. Serotonin flows when you do something that makes you feel significant or important. When serotonin levels are low, the feelings of loneliness and depression are more likely to be present. It has also been shown that being a part of a culture and ‘community’ facilitate serotonin release.

To help increase this, try to reflect on your past achievements more. This allows your brain to re-live the experience and get the feeling of importance. This is where reflecting on your ‘wins of the day’ will help to boost this as well. Even focusing on future achievements you haven’t met yet will help. Your brain has trouble telling the difference between what is real and what is imagined, so it produces serotonin in both cases. Gratitude practices are popular for this reason, they are reminders and mental pictures of all the good things you’ve experienced.

Another thing that you can do is to join a group that you are interested in to experience the community feeling. There are thousands of groups on MeetUp so try one out!

Oxytocin

Oxytocin is known as the ‘Love Hormone’. It plays a role in bonding and falling in love in both sexes.

This can easily be increased by just smiling at someone or giving them a hug. Maybe not a stranger or someone’s child but you get the point.

Endorphins

Endorphins are responsible for helping to reduce stress and provide the feeling of euphoria. They are released in response to pain and stress to help to alleviate anxiety. Similar to morphine, it acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing your perception of pain. Also, the euphoric “runners high” is all thanks to endorphins.

Exercise has been proven to be one of the most efficient ways of releasing this, especially high intensity cardio workouts. Try going for a run up a hill or do some sprints to help boost this. Along with exercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release. Even the anticipation and expectation of laughter increases levels of endorphins. Try to find a few things to laugh at during the day to help keep your endorphins flowing.

Before we get into the next section, I am not a psychologist. If you are feeling depression, go seek help. But if you just want to boost your happiness through thoughts then the following will really help!

The thoughts you have about yourself and the world can really effect your overall happiness.

This comes back to the episode on mindset, where having a positive view will help boost success and happiness. As your own ‘mental talk’ can either lift you up or bring your down, it is important to try to focus on the former.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy that many studies have shown is better at curing depression in the long term compared to medication. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behaviour that are behind people’s difficulties, helping change the way they feel. This is done partially by treating Cognitive distortions that everyone experiences in differing degrees.

Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions through telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.

The book Happiness Hypothesis by Johnathan Haidt talks about the 10 top Cognitive distortions which people suffer from:

  • All or nothing thinking ? Black or white thinking with no middle ground. Either things are great or awful. This is where the feeling of being a failure can come from. Better to try and realise that bad things will happen, but good can come out of it.
  • Overgeneralisation ? Words like ‘always’ and never’ can lead to a self-defeating pattern. Focusing on a single negative event as if will always occur can deter you from ever trying anything new. If something bad happens to you, then better to realise it is a one-off event and that you aren’t cursed and things will get better.
  • Mental filter ? This is where people place a filter on events and only dwell on negative things. Your brain can pick up a single bad event and fixate on this for days or weeks leading to feelings of inadequacy or depression. Try to focus on the good side of life and be grateful for what you have, not what you don’t.
  • Disqualifying the positive ? This is done through not counting good things that happen. Having a daily gratitude challenges, focusing on the good things in your life will help to remove this. So, be grateful for what you have and focusing on the positive.
  • Jumping to conclusions ? This can be broken down into two categories:
    • Mind reading ? Guessing what other people thinking. Most people don’t think about you at all, so why think about what they may be thinking of you?
    • Fortune teller – Thinking of the worse outcome possible for your situation. Predicting outcomes can lead to your brain just focusing on the worst possible scenario. This goes back to the episode on fear. It is silly to be afraid or focus on something that is only true to your imagination.
  • Magnification ? Exaggerating the importance of events that happen in our lives or blowing small things that happen to you out of portion. Just remember that life will go on!  
  • Emotional reasoning ? Assuming that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things are. This can lead to downward spirals in your life where your view of yourself can affect your view of the world.
  • Should statements ? ‘I should have finished this by now’. These sorts of statements can lead to guilt and delaying the task even further. It is simple to just stop saying this. When you tell yourself you should do something, it makes you feel bad for not doing it. Instead just say ‘I will’. Give yourself some slack and just say I Will do this!
  • Labelling ? Labelling yourself as something in life. An example of this would be to call yourself a total failure when a small set back occurs. This is the best way to put yourself down so keep track of this and talk back and correct yourself.
  • Personalisation ? Seeing yourself as cause of negative external events or that bad things in your life and around it only happens because of you.   

To help with all of these, start to make a journal to track if these pop into your thoughts.

Try to track these and pick yourself up on your daily use. If you aren’t actively looking for these they will go by without even noticing.

Out of these, focus on one each week and change your thought patterns to boost your happiness.

Check out this episode!

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