Happiness can have a different meaning for any of us. We can find dictionary meaning for happiness like-“the state of being happy”, “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment”, but it is true that each of us has a different way to be happy. In fact, people who are happy don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything. Rightly said that it is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that ensures happiness. Not to forget that “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its sheen if it were not balanced by sadness ”(Carl Jung).
It’s always debated whether we can control our happiness on not. There is a body of literature which states that we cannot create happiness. We can create small pieces of happiness but when it comes for longer duration of happiness; it is illusive. Hence goes the saying that “Happiness is temporary”. Despite all this philosophy, everybody in the world is searching for long term happiness. Whatever our acts or objectives are, be it money, power or love; In the end all we want is happiness from them. A person will be foolish to aspire for a goal or destination which does not generate happiness in the end. A bigger question raises that do we have to search for happiness outside or we can create it from our actions? Recent studies in Neuroscience have come up with theories which clearly reveal that our happiness is in our acts. It’s our habits and acts which can generate both long term and short term happiness in us. It’s not only temporary rush of Adrenaline which we generate during parties or thrill adventures but its long term happiness which we can generate in ourselves for a long time.
Contrary to current popular fad that happiness comes from just thinking positive; Neuroscience takes a different view on happiness. Our habits dictate our happiness and Wellbeing. Happiness is not just about our perception but our acts.
Neuroscience has identified four hormones as happy hormones. These happy hormones generate positive Emotions in us. These are Dopamine (The Reward Hormone), Endorphin – (The Calm Hormone), Oxytocin – (The Love Hormone) and Serotonin (The Sharing Hormone). All these four hormones bring different types of positivity in us. Together combined they give us greater sense of happiness and satisfaction. Dopamine comes with achievement. It is secreted when we achieve our goals. The quantum of goal is not very important. What is important is that we complete our goals. Even if we set a very small target of brushing teeth before bed daily or finish reading a book; we release Dopamine. It boosts our happiness levels. This gives us a sense of satisfaction and confidence. Endorphins are pain killers. They are secreted in our body when we exert ourselves physically. These hormones don’t give us happiness directly buy they act as pain suppressor. Exercise gives us endorphins which in turn act as a natural pain killer for us. Again quantum of exercise is not that important. Frequency is important. Daily ten minutes of exercise on consistent basis can give us enough level of endorphins to tackle pain. An exercise or physical activity where sweat is generated releases best quantity of Endorphins. Oxytocin is known as love Hormone. Whenever we feel love this hormone is secreted. It gives us a feeling of pleasure. Relationships like family, friends or Romantic Relationships all gives us Oxytocin. This hormone is very powerful and biggest victim of it are youngsters. People who have been through the spell of Oxytocin never want to get out of it. This is why love is regarded is the most powerful drug. People fall in love, break heart, fall in love again and keep doing it till eternity. Basically it is Oxytocin they get high on.
Acts of love, creating good relationships, hugging friends, touching loved ones keeps our Oxytocin level normal and regular. This is the reason that extroverts are happier when compared to introverts. They are involved in more relationships hence have more instances of involved in bonding, being loved and release of Oxytocin continuously. Serotonin, The Share Hormone is released when we do things for others. It is the feeling of gratitude. When we give and engage ourselves in acts of giving-sharing then serotonin is released. It is released when we thank others or thank almighty. Serotonin is found to have most long lasting impact among all the four hormones. Serotonin is released in large amount during pregnancy. In fact successful childbirth releases all four hormones of Dopamine, Endorphins, Oxytocin and Serotonin in large levels. A woman feels a sense of achievement, love and gratitude all at the same time. Hence child birth is the happiest moment in a Woman’s life despite all the hardships she has to face.
There is no rocket science involved rather if one wishes to be happy in life, we need to develop habits to maintain our happy hormones level. Habits and acts are required by virtue of which we can maintain a healthy balance of these hormones. We should enrich our life with activities which can release these four happy hormones on continuous level.
We should set some small tasks which gives us a sense of achievement. Daily achievement like diary writing, reaching office at time can give us our daily dose of Dopamine. For endorphins we should exercise daily. Ten minutes is enough to keep it up with endorphins. For Oxytocin we should spend time with friends and family. Hug and cuddle our loved ones, spending time with pets also releases Oxytocin. And lastly we should engage in act of giving. Self-less service is the best way to release Serotonin. We should develop a character of yielding easily and helping other. Engaging in charity is one of the easiest ways for the release of Serotonin. Happiness requires happy hormones and these hormones require activation. We keep these four hormones in check they will keep our happiness in check.
(The Authors are Assistant Professors at ITM University Gwalior Madhya Pradesh. Email at: [email protected])