Neuroscience finally finds the answers to what makes us happy, or let’s say in a more scientific way, what makes our ‘brain’ happy. A researcher who has done his doctorate in neuroscience and the writer of The Upward Spiral, Alex Korb, has a wonderful recommendation for simple things you can do every day to feel happier.
1. Listen to the music you listen to in the happiest moments of your life.
Music influences the brain in an interesting way; it can remind you of the times you’ve listened to that music before. Was it the university you were most happy with? Listen to your favorite music then, you will be happier and carry out your pleasure.
“One of the strong effects of music comes from its ability to remind us of previous environments in which we were listening to that music. That’s really mediated by this one limbic structure called the hippocampus which is really important in a thing called “context dependent memory.” Let’s say college was the happiest time of your life. If you start listening to the music that you were listening to at that time, it can help you feel more connected to that happier time in your life and makes it more present.”
If you feel happy, it makes you smile. But this could be as well; when you smile, your brain perceives it and says “I am smiling then I am happy”.So happiness makes you smile, a smile can bring happiness. You feel bad? Smile anyway. Smile as much as you can until you really smile. In fact, research shows smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2000 bars of chocolate, or $25,000.
3. Thinking about your goals will change how you see the world.
Researchers flashed a bunch of circles on a screen in front of study subjects. One of the circles was always slightly different than the others. It was brighter or smaller, etc.
But when they told people to prepare to point at or try to grab the circles something crazy happened…
If they thought about pointing at the circles, they became better at noticing the brighter circle.
If they were told to think about grabbing a circle, it was easier for them to identify the smaller circle.
What’s that mean? Having a goal literally changed how they saw the world.
So when you’re feeling stressed or challenged, think about your long-term goals. It gives your brain a sense of control and can release dopamine which will make you feel better and more motivated.
4. Get your sleep well.
We all know how depression affects people’s sleep. What is interesting is actually this is in two directions; bad sleep also causes depression. Alex says:
They took all these people with insomnia and followed them for a few years and it turned out that the people with chronic insomnia were much more likely to develop depression. Depression causes sleep problems but sleep problems are also more likely to lead to depression.
So how do you improve your sleep? Alex has a number of suggestions: