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Natural Awakenings Austin

Increasing the Habit of Happiness

Jun 22, 2016 10:16AM

Years of research in the field of neuroscience have shown that habits are created through repetition. All that is needed for us to repeat an action or a thought pattern is a reward, which causes the release of a “feel good” chemical in the form of neurotransmitters— the chemical messengers that coordinate transmission of signals from one nerve cell to the next. Neurotransmitters interact with receptors located throughout the brain and body to regulate a wide variety of processes including emotions, fear, pleasure, joy and anger.

Depleted supplies of neurotransmitters can make it difficult to feel upbeat or motivated and instead feel the opposite: decreased energy and interest; feelings of worthlessness; and a pervasive sense of helplessness to control the course of life.

There are ways to create more “feel good” neurotransmitters. The oxytocin hormone is excreted when we feel trust and a sense of belonging. Research published in the November/December 2012 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine show that unconditional, loving touch and massage can build trust and a feeling of connection to others while reducing stress, helping one feel calm and happy.

Endorphin is excreted in response to pain. To increase endorphin activity without hurting oneself is most easily done by laughing or engaging in exercise. Participating in a fun physical activity allows for both laughter and exercise.

Psychology Today defines dopamine as a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. To create more dopamine to be more productive and spur motivation, congratulate oneself on every little achievement. Break down large projects into small victories and celebrate a sense of accomplishment to keep the dopamine coming.

Adequate amounts of the neurotransmitter serotonin are needed for maintaining mood balance, and a deficit of serotonin often leads to depression. Research reported in April 2015 by the California Institute of Technology reveals that up to 90 percent of serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Reducing stress, eating a healthy, low sugar diet and working on removing negative emotions can boost serotonin.

Resource: Stacey Lemire Martin.

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