We all want to be happy. Fortunately, our brains produce natural chemicals that can boost our pleasure, motivation, contentment, and joy.
Better still, we can take specific steps in our daily lives to increase these natural brain chemicals. Let’s get started today with 10 healthful steps for a happier brain.
- Set Challenging, yet Attainable Goals. The best goals stretch our abilities a little bit but don’t overwhelm us. Such goals require a little more focus and effort than something that comes very easily. However, the brain thrives on attainable challenges and the happiness payoff is great when we begin to master the new skills involved.
- Break Your Goals into Small Steps. Reduce your long-term goals into small, daily steps that give you a sense of continuous progress. Write down your goals for the day or week on a checklist and mark them off as you complete each task. Each small attainment gives your brain a happiness boost.
- Discover Something New. The brain loves to learn new things. Study a new subject you know nothing about, read a new author, take an exciting class, try a new recipe. Sit down with someone you think you know well and listen as if you just met him or her. Your stimulated brain will reward you with fresh insights.
- Take Time for Reflection and Gratitude. Allow quiet time in your day for contemplation. Focus on your body and breath for a few minutes, or watch your thoughts come and go quietly with no attachment to them. Studies confirm that people who meditate, pray, practice gratitude and reflect on positive memories and achievements have better mental function and happiness throughout life.
- Exercise Regularly. Rhythmic, aerobic exercise such as walking, dancing and running release endorphins, brain chemicals that reduce pain and create a natural euphoric state. Exercise done in the sun or with friends produces even greater endorphin effects.
- Maintain Intimacy and Social Connections. Touch, hug, cuddle, make love. Laugh with friends and loved ones. Reach out to someone in need. Healthy relationships reduce stress, fight depression, improve immunity, and create joyful bonds that can last a lifetime.
- Create a Daily Routine. Although the mind enjoys novelty, it also requires the foundation of a stable routine to enjoy an overall sense of well-being. Practice a consistent schedule of regular meals, sleep, exercise, and self-care to increase serotonin in the brain, a chemical largely responsible for feelings of contentment.
- Enjoy Your Favorite Music. Anticipation of a favorite song releases dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for immediate pleasure and reward. Music we love opens the joyful playground of our minds. Explore different types of music. Vocal music tells a compelling story, while instrumental works evoke subtle feelings beyond words.
- Stimulate Your Senses. Enjoy dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more), eat spicy foods, savor the smell of vanilla or lavender. These simple pleasures increase brain endorphins and reduce stress. Dark chocolate in moderation also improves heart health and reduces cravings for unhealthy foods.
- Live Focused in the Moment. While your long-term goals give your forward momentum, remember that life is actually lived in the here and now. Enjoy the beauty around you. Enjoy each step of the journey. Strive for a balance between immediate reward and future attainment, between novelty and stability, and your happy brain will serve you well.