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
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.
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.
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.
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.’