Happiness is an emotional state, but emotion is highly tied to biology. The different hormones and neurotransmitters in your brain and the state of your entire body and nervous system all play significant roles in how happy you feel.
By making small, scientifically proven changes in your life, you can influence these biological factors and guide yourself to happier living in NYC.
How to Easily Increase Your Happiness
The brain and the body are closely tied together. What you feel emotionally directly impacts what your body experiences physically, both at a conscious, noticeable level and at a molecular level. This connection also goes the other way in the sense that by changing what your body experiences physically, you will have a direct impact on your emotions.
Physical changes are often easier and faster to make in our lives since they do not require the willpower to push ourselves into a new emotional state or untangle complicated emotions and previous experiences. This can be one of the fastest ways to increase your day to day happiness, limit your risk of depression, and reduce symptoms of sadness and stress:
- Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing – This breathing technique relaxes the body by increasing oxygenation, lowering blood pressure, and releasing muscle tension. It will also boost your energy and make you feel warmer through improved blood circulation, all of which will put you in a better mood. For this technique, you will breathe into your stomach. Place a hand on your abdomen and inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, feeling your stomach expand. Hold your breath for 2 seconds, and then exhale for 6 seconds. Repeat the process until you feel the effects.
- Increase Blood Flow to the Brain – Many studies have shown that increased blood circulation in the brain raises the amount of oxygen in the brain. Oxygen is essential for producing serotonin and endorphins – two neurotransmitters tied to happiness. There are a few different tips you can use to increase the oxygenation of your brain by improving circulation, such as physical activity and limiting caffeinated and alcoholic drinks. These changes can have immediate effects on blood flow and making them routine will quickly begin to increase your overall happiness.
- Aligning Behavioral Circadian Rhythms – Your circadian rhythms are cycles within the body that control the release of chemicals like endorphins and cortisol, both of which directly impact mood, alertness, and feelings of well being. You can align your circadian rhythms by going to bed at approximately the same time every night and waking up at the same time the next morning, including on weekends. Misaligned circadian rhythms can result in uneven production of cortisol, which is shown to lead to increased rates of depression and anxiety and means that any setbacks you experience throughout your days will have a greater negative effect on happiness.
- Eating Foods High in Tryptophan – The body uses tryptophan, which is an amino acid, to produce serotonin, as well as red blood cells. We do not produce tryptophan on our own, so you will need to eat the right foods to make sure you are getting enough of it. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of foods that contain tryptophan, including meat, eggs, milk, fish, almonds, bananas, and peanuts. Many other high protein foods contain tryptophan as well so you can add more to whatever your diet may be.
- Alter Fixed Routines – Daily routines result in a fixed emotional state, and while this can be effective at preventing additional stress and feelings of sadness, it also limits you from taking in novel experiences, which will cause a release of serotonin and endorphins. Introducing small adjustments to your routine that are easy to implement will start to introduce a feeling of novelty and improve resilience to make you happier. This can begin by doing something different after work, purposely trying something new, picking up a hobby, or incorporating a different step into your morning routine.
These simple ways of using biology to improve your happiness can be extremely valuable for your overall well being or for a way to reduce depression symptoms, but they are unlikely to solve depression single-handedly. For this, reaching out for therapy in Brooklyn can give you more precise and personalized guidance in how to improve your happiness and go into greater depth on the aspects of your life that are holding you back.