We all want to be happy, right? I wrote a post on happiness before, but I thought I would take another dive into it after reading an interesting article by Eric Barker titled, New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy, most of it taken from research done by Alex Korb, PhD. Barker distilled it quite a bit, and I will distill it even more, plus add a few thoughts.
These are the 4 rituals Barker listed:
- Gratitude, or practicing gratefulness. Worry, pride, guilt, and shame activate the brain’s reward center, but these emotions are not recommended as they are not helpful in the long run. However, it is probably why we keep doing these things. Interesting! But there is something recommended. According to Korb, the drug Prozac elevates serotonin, which is a feel good hormone and neurotransmitter. Another drug, Wellbutrin, boosts dopamine, also an important brain chemical; one that helps regulate mood along with other important brain functions. However, gratitude increases both serotonin and dopamine!!! Korb goes on to explain that even trying to think of something to be grateful for is helpful; it increases serotonin, and the more one practices gratitude, the easier it becomes.
- Identify Negative Feelings. Gleaning again from Korb, Barker advises that when you are experiencing anger, sadness, shame, boredom, anxiety, etc., do not try to suppress those feelings. Instead, use a few words to describe them. This helps reduce the emotion. I have long noticed that writing down fears, anger, and other negative thoughts have helped me. Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist, started calling negative thoughts ANT’s, for Automatic Negative Thoughts. I like that. You will want to learn more about ANT’s. Very good stuff. One idea I am stealing from Dr. Amen is to get a toy anteater to remind oneself to destroy the ANT’s.
- Be decisive. It not only helps you solve problems, but also reduces anxiety and worry, per Dr. Korb. He advises to be intentional, plan, and make goals. Making decisions can be stressful , so aim to make “good enough” decisions. Do not try to make perfect decisions. Eric Barker quoted Barry Schwartz that, “Good enough is almost always good enough”. I like that too! In addition, Korb found that making decisions increases feelings of pleasure and helps you feel in control. As an RN I can attest to that. One of my nursing instructors in nursing school taught me to give a patient choices whenever you can because it helps them feel in control in situations where they typically feel like they have no control. For instance, I have witnessed that even something small like, “Mr. Smith, which arm do you want to me give your injection?” or “Would you like to have a bed bath now or in 30 minutes?” goes a long way.
- Physical Contact & Relationships. Hugs, massages, holding hands are some examples. Interestingly, it was found that telephone calls and personal contact was found to increase brain chemicals that promote happiness, whereas texting did not. According to Korb, massages reduce cortisol levels, and increase serotonin and dopamine; long hugs release oxytocin; and hand holding can reduce pain and worrying.
Now I tried to think of a cute acronym for those 4 “rituals”, but the words Gratitude, ANT’s, Decide, and Touch would not cooperate with me. I ended up with GADT. Maybe it is so lame it will go viral.
Anyway…wishing you much happiness. I hope you enjoy practicing GADT.
Here I am with my granddaughter Maya, happy to be spending time together.