How many days per year do you wake up feeling happy? 91? 182? 274?
Many of us walk around feeling unhappy without realising that we can significantly influence how happy we feel. We have control of our happiness because we can manage the levels of certain chemicals in our brains and bodies.
Physical Intelligence is the ability to actively manage the levels of certain key chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) racing through our bloodstream and nervous system) so that we can stress less, achieve more and live more happily. We can do this using our Physical Intelligence, by:
Understanding the neurochemistry
Using our body in specific ways
Changing the quality of our thoughts
Transforming our emotions
Serotonin, Oxytocin and Dopamine are the top three chemicals for happiness.
Serotonin influences our levels of happiness, status and feelings of satisfaction and well-being. With enough serotonin, we believe that we are enough, have enough. We feel naturally balanced, empowered and can take responsibility for our role in society.
Serotonin is released by independent neurons in the gut as well as in the brain.
With high serotonin levels we can live without anxiety, feeling content and balanced.
The signature feeling of serotonin is happiness.
Boost serotonin by:
Smiling at ourselves in the mirror and others
Twisting and stretching the torso and abdominal area of the body daily
Soaking up sunshine
Getting good quality sleep
Eating bananas and high quality chocolate
Thinking positive thoughts
Practicing tai chi or any activity where you move in a fluid way
Jumping up and down and/or shaking out your limbs and body
Getting a good night’s sleep – regularly
Taking a holiday
Knowing your own value and self-worth
Using open, expansive posture
Being fully present
Learning about what undermines or triggers you and working therapeutically to overcome negative beliefs
Oxytocin is our social bonding and trust chemical. It comes from feeling part of a group – our “tribe,” feeling loved, respected and cared for, and giving the same to others.
Oxytocin is released by independent neurons in the heart as well as in the brain. With high oxytocin levels we feel supported by others, safe and with a sense of belonging. Too little, and we may feel isolated; we might not build professional relationships or know how to use our networks for support. We need to be able to boost our own levels of oxytocin. The signature feeling of oxytocin is belonging.
Boost oxytocin by:
Sending a thank you email or text
Having a heart to heart conversation
Empathising with others
Bringing the team together to celebrate or commiserate
Holding hands or hugging
Committing acts of kindness
Talking to strangers (e.g. at a networking event)
Bringing people together for a party
Using open arm and hand gestures
Maintaining stable, non-threatening eye contact with people
Keeping your promises
Doing stretches that open the chest and heart area
Opening your arms wide
Using warm vocal resonance
Speaking words of encouragement
Stroking a dog
Getting a massage
Telling someone you love them
Spending time with loves ones
Reaching out when someone is grieving
Supporting a cause important to you or joining a club
Dancing in the same rhythm as someone
Dopamine has many functions.
The three that relate specifically to happiness are feelings of intense pleasure or reward from enjoyable activities or pursuits that have value for you, being awarded or appreciated by society with a mark of achievement, and the ability to focus on and commit to achieving our goals. With a healthy dopaminergic system we can sustain effort through arduous periods of delayed gratification and can work hard and think creatively to realise our dreams. The signature feelings of dopamine are pleasure and need.
Boost dopamine by:
Taking pleasure in the simple things
Walking in the countryside
Looking at a wonderful view
Visualising a positive future
Tasting good food and drink rather than gulping it down
Being playful, laughing
Being flexible and creative
Seeing something you want and being determined to achieve it
Cooking and serving a delicious meal
Deciding on a goal and the steps you need to take to achieve it
Enjoying the simple things (e.g., the feeling of getting into a warm bed at night)
Enjoying the exhilaration that follows a good workout
Gardening and growing things
Arranging flowers in a vase
Looking at art
Dancing at a night club
Rewarding yourself after completing your work (e.g., with an episode of your favourite series or chapter in a book)
Listening to music
Watching a good movie,
Solving a difficult problem
Finishing the cross word puzzle
Reaching the next level of your favourite computer game
Passing your exams
When we are happy, we can ‘bank’ those happiness chemicals by augmenting the feeling, allowing ourselves to feel that emotion without reserve, creating a powerful memory of feeling good by increasing the intensity of this positive emotion. When we are sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, etc, we can use these techniques to process negative emotions efficiently and changing the quality of our thoughts. Try this for the coming year…Make a habit of marking an ‘H’ in your diary on every happy day over the next year, and on New Year’s Eve count them up and celebrate!