BOOST YOUR BRAIN

It’s not about ful­fill­ing your wildest dreams – there are goals you can aim for ev­ery day to raise your brain’s level of con­tent­ment

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

Find out what you can do to in­crease your lev­els of chem­i­cals as­so­ci­ated with hap­pi­ness

You can’t be happy all the time – and that’s not pes­simism, but science. ‘Un­happy brain chem­i­cals helped our an­ces­tors sur­vive by alert­ing them to dan­ger,’ says Dr Loretta Graziano Bre­un­ing, au­thor of Meet Your Happy Chem­i­cals. ‘Once some­thing causes you pain, your brain keeps try­ing to avoid it to pro­tect you.’ Plus, of course, you need a con­trast be­tween good times and bad times – oth­er­wise, how would you re­ally be able to quan­tify what a good time was?

But that’s not to say you can’t be hap­pier. If you’re any­thing like the rest of West­ern so­ci­ety, the chances are that your brain chem­i­cals have been knocked un­pleas­antly out of line by mod­ern living. Your brain ‘learns’ to chase things that feel good – which is fine, un­less they’re ter­ri­ble for you. Get your chem­i­cals func­tion­ing prop­erly, though, and you’ll be able to forge good habits while kick­ing un­pleas­ant or harm­ful ones to the kerb. Here’s how it’s done.

DOPAMINE

Of­ten mis­tak­enly called the ‘plea­sure chem­i­cal’, dopamine ac­tu­ally reg­u­lates ev­ery­thing from move­ment to at­ten­tion span – as well as pro­mot­ing surges of hap­pi­ness when you in­gest cup­cakes (or co­caine). It kicks in when you score points in videogames and when you move to­wards goals. Han­dle with care.

DO…

Work to­wards your goals with pos­i­tive ex­pec­ta­tions. ‘You can’t get pro­moted ev­ery day, but work­ing to­wards that goal – or even learn­ing to play a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment – will pro­mote dopamine re­lease,’ says Bre­un­ing.

Set a rou­tine. Un­der or over-sleep­ing can dis­rupt your body’s sup­ply of neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, ac­cord­ing to a 2002 study in Neu­ropsy­chophar­ma­col­ogy. Aim for a regular seven or eight hours at the same time ev­ery day.

DON’T…

Keep re­fresh­ing Twit­ter. ‘So­cial me­dia pro­motes “seek­ing” be­hav­iour, and dopamine can keep you ad­dicted to seek­ing in­for­ma­tion in an end­less loop,’ says be­havioural psy­chol­o­gist Dr Su­san Wein­schenk. In­stall an app such as Chrome’s Nanny to help you keep your retweet­ing to an ac­cept­able level.

Be too re­sult-ori­ented. ‘They’re never guar­an­teed,’ says au­thor and en­tre­pre­neur James Clear. ‘In­stead, fo­cus on your work­ing pro­cesses – they’re within your con­trol.’

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