Posts for: March, 2016
This week we will be examining the third proven way to joy as outlined by Hana Matt. If you are just tuning in now, be sure to backtrack a little and check out the first two proven ways to joy.
Way #3: “Avoid rumination and social comparison. They prevent joy. When you become aware that you are ruminating, immediately stop and shift to some other activity. This will also create new neural pathways, and wither the old ones. Get up, do something physical or engaging. Re-direct your attention. Distract. Rumination produces cortisol, making you feel bad, and leads to a downward spiral.”
Before we move forward, it is important to define Hana Matt’s chosen word “rumination” and make it clear that the usage of this word is meant to be negative.
Rumination (noun) is a thought, meditation, or reflection.
There are few, if any, who can claim that they have never compared themselves to someone else. We compare physical attributes, weight and body types, relationships, careers and income, talents and natural abilities, and material possessions, among so many other things. In our minds, there is always someone who is better looking, more successful, happier, luckier, etc. This is a delusion. While on the outside, it may appear that someone is “better” than you are in any of the above ways, it is impossible to see internally what is going on in a person.
There is no perfect person. There is no person who has everything. What is on the outside isn’t necessarily what is on the inside. Possessions, wealth, and beauty don’t equal happiness. Happiness is an innately deeper emotion. One might experience a sense of happiness due to things that they have, such as a nice house, a sufficient income, or a relationship with someone who is trustworthy, respectful, faithful, and loving, but if those things were taken away, would you still be happy?
There is no point or good reason to compare one’s self to someone else. Ruminating on what someone else has only diverts us from the path of discovering our own joy. Everyone is different. What makes one person happy can be monumentally different from what makes another person happy. Social comparison is surface level and futile. However, I guarantee everyone is guilty of this on more than one occasion. It is almost human nature to make these ineffectual comparisons. This is why one of the proven ways to joy is to stop this behavior.
Easier said than done? Absolutely. This is basically the call to break a bad and deeply ingrained habit. However, all habits can be broken.
No great change takes place overnight. This is something that we all need to work on each day until the habit is broken and the positive mind shift takes place. As Hana Matt stated, when you become aware of this behavior, just shift your attention elsewhere. Consciously make the decision to divert those thoughts toward something positive. In time and with practice, this will become a naturally occurring behavior. When we stop focusing on what others have and realize what we have, the cultivation of joy can begin.
Be thankful for what you have. Be thankful for what you are capable of accomplishing. Be thankful that joy resides within you and it is completely in your power to cultivate and nourish it. Everyone deserves to be and is capable of being happy.
Thank you for sharing a smile with us.
As we continue this week on our journey to joy, we are ready to examine Hana Matt’s second proven way.
Way #2: “Transform your negative thoughts into more constructive and positive ones. Consciously changing your thoughts alters your brain biochemistry, releasing the joy biochemicals to produce happiness.”
Hana Matt turned to neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson and his studies on this matter for a more complete explanation of what exactly this idea of thought transformation means. Dr. Davidson found that, “thinking new and different thoughts creates new neural pathways. Changing your thoughts produces changes in your brain, and perhaps your DNA. When you change your thinking to support your happiness, the old negative neural pathways shrink, and the positive neural pathways widen. That makes it easier and more automatic to think positively, which releases joy biochemicals and creates joy. But it takes awareness and positive intentions to change thoughts.”
Seems easy enough, right?
This idea takes us back to the practice of mindfulness. When we are mindful of our emotions and reactions to various stimuli, we are opening up the opportunity within ourselves to take control over how those feelings will ultimately affect us and our overall wellness and happiness. There are infinite ways in which we may experience something negative in our lives. There are times when we will feel helpless, depressed, anxious, angry, confused, stressed, overwhelmed, betrayed, or even numb. These feelings mean that we are alive, even though they are most unpleasant to feel. But instead of dwelling and focusing on the negative, it is possible to shift your consciousness toward the positive. We all have that power.
This is not to be confused with wishful thinking or a simple declaration that today you will be happy. This is a practice that must be consciously ongoing. You have to decide to change the path of your thoughts. Like mediation or yoga, everyone can make this shift as long as they are willing to work at this practice, learn to be in the present, and obtain a mindful control over one’s thoughts. This is not something that will just magically happen over night, but is something that you will quickly feel changes occurring within you once you begin this practice.
Hana Matt explains that, “negative thoughts tend to be self-fulfilling and cause suffering due to the biochemicals which they release, such as cortisol, a stress hormone. Instead, see the full range of possibilities and pick your best option. We create a negative story based on our limited view of “the facts” as we see it. But those facts can change and there is also so much that we are not aware of. We can develop other aspects, skills, and qualities. We are not victims or helpless, unable to shape our life. Some form of change or improvement is always possible even if internally. You always have choices, even if only inwardly. The ability to consciously choose and infuse your mind with positive thoughts is essential to produce biochemicals.”
If you mindfully practice this shift of thoughts, eventually it will become second nature. Your mind will have recalibrated itself to naturally allow your thoughts to flow in a positive way. When your thoughts are more consistently positive, your joy biochemicals will be flowing steadily.
Thanks for sharing a smile with us this week.
For those of you who are just tuning in now, Parker Wellness is focusing on what Hana Matt, therapist and world religion teacher at Berkeley, has outlined as the 20 proven ways to joy. We will be breaking down these 20 ways over the course of the next two or three months. The goal is to learn the simple ways in which you can bring consistent joy into your life. You might be surprised to learn that there is actually a neuroscience and a wealth of scientific research dedicated to the broad emotion of happiness.
Way #1: Start moving!
According to Hana Matt’s introduction, “dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, enkephelines, endo-cannabinoids, and norepinephrine, are called the body’s own “joy chemicals,” and they are greatly elevated and released after exercise. A 90-minute walk raises serotonin levels by 100%.”
There are all sorts of different numbers out there that suggest the recommended amount of exercise one needs to do every week in order to be considered healthy. However, there are a lot of factors that go into what that real number should be for an individual. Remember everyone is different. To make it easy though and just to have a basic base, you should aim for around 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. You can of course do any numerical combination of the amount of moderate and vigorous exercise. It is important to abide by and make adjustments for your body’s own limitations and special needs.
Some examples of moderate exercise would be brisk walking, light bicycling, doubles tennis, yoga, and paddle boarding. Vigorous exercise would include activities like hiking, jogging, singles tennis, and circuit weight training. When deciding what you want to do for exercise, you can be as creative or conventional as you would like. Don’t forget that common household activities like mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, and gardening are also forms of physical activity.
While exercise is good for your physical health, it is also a vital component in your emotional and mental health, as well. If you are not an active person, you may have not yet felt the euphoria that often comes from a good sweat, a competitive game, an adrenaline pumping activity, or a mindful yoga type flow. There is no time like the present! Doing daily activities that release those “joy chemicals” in our brains inevitably are necessary for improving and helping to obtain consistent daily happiness.
The first step is finding an activity or activities that you actually enjoy doing. If you are not someone who likes to go to the gym, don’t choose a form of exercise that requires your presence there. If you love the ocean, then try out the many amazing ocean related activities, such as swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, or kayaking. If you find peace in a forest, then take up hiking, rock climbing, or mountain biking. If you are looking to quiet your mind, then try a yoga class. And don’t forget to mix it up and keep it interesting. You are more likely to stick to an exercise plan if you actually enjoy the plan. There is no right or wrong. This is a personal decision to get moving in whatever way suites you best. All movement is good movement!
Below is also a little reminder of some of the other amazing benefits of exercise.
Thanks for sharing a smile with us! Stay tuned for more on Friday.
What is happiness? It is merely an inward emotion or an outward expression of our internal feelings? Is it something we are born with or that we must actively seek out? Does everyone have the potential to feel happiness or are some of us innately incapable? It happiness tangible? Can happiness be made tangible? Is happiness more closely related to spirituality or science, or both?
Happiness is a broad term emotion that is felt and experienced differently by every individual. Happiness might be caused by simple pleasures like feeling the ocean on your skin or breathing in the intoxicating fragrance of a pine forest. Happiness might also come from participating in an activity that you enjoy or surrounding yourself with people that you love. Happiness might be long lasting or felt in short lived spurts. It is a feeling that can be felt as a consequence of an infinite amount of causes.
Did you know though, that there is actually a complex science behind why we experience happiness, and that you can actually cultivate consistent happiness by understanding how is it produced chemically within our bodies? If asked the question, “what makes you happy,” most of us would be able to state at least one thing that causes us to feel happy. In the absence of that thing or those things, how do you feel overall? Are you existing in a state of mundane contentment? Are you living out your days feeling mediocre or without a noticeable emotion? Are you waiting for the next time you have the time to do what brings you joy?
Hana Matt (firstname.lastname@example.org ), a therapist and teacher of world religions, compiled a list of 20 proven ways to find joy based on modern neuroscience and recent scientific research. This is your path to daily happiness. Over the next few months, join Parker Wellness as we examine these 20 ways and the scientific research that proves the legitimacy of these methods. Before we begin this happy journey, it is important to get a little of the science out of the way. Let’s take a look at some of the biochemicals that our bodies naturally produce and that are responsible in different ways for our various feelings of and reactions to happiness.
- Dopamine is considered the reward molecule and is responsible for reward-driven and pleasure seeking behavior.
- Oxytocin is considered the bonding molecule and is linked to human bonding and feelings of trust, loyalty, connection, and love.
- Norepinephrine is the chemical linked to the body’s natural fight or flight response.
- Serotonin is considered the confidence building molecule. Higher levels are linked to feelings of self-worth, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment.
- Endorphins are considered the pain killing molecule and are essentially our brain’s version of opium.
- Enkephelins are linked to mood, perception, behavior, and pain.
- Endo-cannabinoids is considered the bliss molecule.
*# 1, 2, 4, and 5 sourced from www.psychologytoday.com
These seven biochemicals all play crucial roles as neurotransmitters. We will examine the different ways to naturally activate and release these biochemicals, in order to increase our levels of happiness on a daily basis. You will be surprised how easy it is to increase your level of happiness! To answer some of the above questions now: everyone is capable of experiencing happiness; happiness is both tangible and intangible; happiness is equally spiritual as it is scientific; happiness is innately in us, but also can be sought out through simple practices; and happiness is both an inward feeling and outward expression. Every single living creature on this earth deserves to be happy. As easy as it might sound, sometimes it feels almost impossible with everything that we have to deal with in our lives each day. Sometimes it’s not that we are unhappy, but rather that everything else seems to take precedence. In the same way that we must take care of our physical bodies, we must learn to take care of our emotional bodies. Join us on this happy journey to find and maintain happiness from within.
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” Henry David Thoreau
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Henry David Thoreau
Thank you for sharing a smile with us this week.