Happiness is individualised. We each have an entirely unique experience of what happiness is and how we gather such happiness into our lives.

What makes one person happy or feel joyful will be different to another. Scientifically speaking, happiness is a term that we give to our subjective personal wellbeing – a place where we experience a high level of positive emotion, limited negative emotion, and have a sense of overall life satisfaction.

The cultivation of happiness is one of the most ground-breaking and life-changing skills we can create for ourselves. When we understand how simple this can be, and appreciate the power to water and nourish these wholesome seeds that are readily available, life can become so much more fruitful, opportunities more abundant, and our experiences more meaningful.

The hardest thing about trying to manifest greater happiness in our lives is that our brain is wired for survival – it has an evolutional negativity bias, meaning it will hunt out and hold onto any negative experiences, whilst positive experiences go whizzing by. This hard-wired mechanism means we are naturally more likely to experience stress, overwhelm, worry, irritation, and feeling lonely than we are to experience joy, ease, calm, and a sense of flow.

Advertisement

The great news is that in our daily lives we encounter many simple and frequent events which we can manipulate and secure as happiness tokens – the smile from a loved one, completing a project before a deadline, enjoying a cup of coffee, visiting a good friend or our favourite place – all allowing our bodies to produce happiness hormones.

Oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins are your happiness allies. They are the four chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) our bodies produce and they all enable certain feelings of happiness or joy to be experienced.

You want to make them your friend. And when you realise how easy it is to do things in your day that'll boost the production of these little happy critters, your life will change.

Oxytocin is what they call the love hormone. It's the hormone of trust and connection and is produced during interactions with those you love, care for, and enjoy the company of.

The biggest known peak of oxytocin for a women occurs during childbirth, but there are many other ways we can produce greater levels of oxytocin in our lives too.

Actions that include some form of welcomed physical contact will almost always produce oxytocin. This includes hugs, sex, patting your dog, giving someone a high five, and receiving a massage. Eye contact and a smile can also stimulate oxytocin, as can the pure enjoyment of the company of those you love and appreciate most. By bringing more of these things into our lives we can produce more oxytocin – and more oxytocin equals more happiness!

Our brain is wired for survival and to see out the negative Photo / Getty Images
Our brain is wired for survival and to see out the negative Photo / Getty Images

Dopamine is the hormone that promotes feelings of pleasure, and also helps to regulate how we perceive or experience pleasure.

It is generally associated with achievement and reward, and is stimulated when we are striving toward a goal – it, in fact, is what motivates us to take action toward achieving a goal so that we can experience the pleasure that is associated with the reward of achieving the goal.

Advertisement

Setting a big, hairy, audacious goal and then breaking this down into little mini goals along the way is a certain way of having a regular dopamine boost. If you exercise with a purpose or objective to achieve a set time, distance, or conquer a challenge you set yourself, this is a sure fire way to get the buzz of dopamine circulating in your system. Ticking things off a list, making deadlines, a sense of productivity, and celebrating any and all wins across business are all things that dopamine thrives off.

Serotonin is a happiness neurotransmitter that allows us to feel calm, satisfied and fulfilled. It boosts our mood and makes us feel more sociable and agreeable. Too little of it can make us feel irritable and depressive.

There are many ways we can enhance our serotonin production in our bodies to naturally be happier individuals. The exposure to sunlight while in the outdoors helps out bodies produce vitamin D which is a precursor to serotonin – and this partially explains why many of us feel so much happier and calmer after some outdoor time. By being grateful and showing gratitude, and by re-living happy, positive experiences in the past, our bodies will naturally produce more serotonin.

And slow, steady-state exercise is another way we can boost the production of serotonin in our bodies, and it'll linger for a while beyond the cessation of the exercise too.

And then finally, our fourth amazing little chemical that helps us boost happiness is the remarkable endorphin. One of the main roles of endorphin is to block pain – and this can be in both a physical and psychological sense.

Historically, endorphin was produced by the body so that we could keep running on our pursuit to escape the 'tiger' – endorphins allow us to push on despite the muscular fatigue or lack of energy we may feel. It can also be why sometimes we don't feel blisters until the end of the race.

To boost our production of endorphins we can participate in exercise, any movement we find joyful, challenges or experiences we find novel or fun, or eat spicy food. All of which put us into the present moment enabling us to forget about our pains and frustrations, and help us to feel great!

Happiness is your responsibility and is within your control – just check out all the little gems above to realise how many of those you can implement daily to be able to feel greater levels of happiness.

When we can tie our happiness to experiences or moments that we have created, we feel in more control – we're in the directors chair. Decide to be happy – create happy environments, rewire the brain. Dedicate some time every day to boosting your happy habits, and life will be more rosy in 2019.

Corinne AustinCorinne Austin is a health coach and movement motivator (corinne@fitfixnz.co.nz )