How many times you got caught up in a difficult situation having to decide between being happy and making other people happy? Are you the “people pleasing” type of person willing to belong and be accepted by the entire world?
Recently I started to reread a book I bought a few months ago called Habits of a Happy Brain. In this book the author – Loretta Graziano – describes what happens in our brain when the happy chemicals hit our system. If you thought about partying or eating a delicious ice cream, you are totally right about that, it happens that in time by overloading your brain with fake chemicals like sugar, drugs, alcohol and pills, one day it stops producing the natural substances that would trigger the feeling of joy for another substance that we all fear of having called Cortisol (the hormone of stress and pain).
It takes a waiting for an expected phone call, a last minute change of plans, a negative response to our expectations to our brains to start releasing all types of crazy chemicals that might affect our thinking, our decisions, our attitudes and BAM! once you realize you’re paralyzed and upset just because of a single thought. But these considered “bad chemicals” only exist to protect us from potential threats. They likely teach us a new lesson every time they strike our brain, and then you have the choice to follow through your emotions or be in charge of them.
Happy moments in your past connected neurons that are there, ready to spark more happy chemicals the next time you’re in similar circumstances. Unhappy moments in your past connected neurons that are telling you what to avoid.
But without even knowing what’s going on in your brain it’s almost impossible to break the cycle and choose better. So here’s the deal: the trick is to recognizing the situations that make you feel good and normally these situations involve releasing 4 hormones and they are: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin and Serotonin. According to the book:
Dopamine: produces the joy of finding things that meet your needs – the “Eureka! I got it!” feeling.
Endorphin: produces oblivion that masks pain – often called euphoria.
Oxytocin: produces the feeling of being safe with others – now called bonding.
Serotonin: produces the feeling of being respected by others – pride.
To be able to produce happy chemicals more often the trick is renewing your brain (building new neurotransmitters or pathways) by feeding your brain with new experiences. That’s why coaches love to challenge their clients to push their limits, asking them to try something new and fun more often. I personally love doing that to myself also. Try going to a place you’ve always wanted to go but never had the courage to or even start small and try a new workout. Have you ever had a band? You can do anything that seems crazy, sexy, cool and I promise that at least you’ll feel the dopamine flowing through your neurons, and it’s such a feeling! The more you do what you like, the more you enlarge your capabilities, you expand your potentialities and therefore you create new opportunities. Isn’t it amazing? We have all we need inside of us already and it’s for free!
Focus on your own pathways
It’s easy to see vicious cycles in others. That’s why we’re tempted to take charge of other people’s happiness. But you cannot reach into someone else’s brain and make new connections for them, nor they can do that for you. If you focus on other people’s brains, you may fail to make them happy and fail to make yourself happy. Each person must manage his or her own brain.
Just in case you don’t know where to start, the recipe is very easy: exercise more often, call an old friend, meet new people, socialize, join a book club, volunteer, pumper yourself, start a healthy diet, declutter your place and your car, start a new hobby, paint, decorate, sing, practice a sport, a martial art, learn how to cook… do something new everyday! The idea is dusting off your brain and put it to work on your favor. Remember: When you blame the world around you, you become powerless, but when you put yourself in charge of your own choices, you become powerful and motivated to thrive. Choose for yourself, for your health, for your life, YOUR prosperity and YOUR success.