The Science of Happiness-Nuture Your Hippocampus
Where does your happiness lie?
In stuff? According to studies, the more stuff you buy, the more unhappy you’ll feel.
In constructing the “perfect” life? No, only 10 percent of our ongoing contentment is influenced by our circumstances.
So what is the key to happiness?
Well, let’s start internally. Specifically, inside your head.
Neuroscience indicates that your brain registers memories, happiness, and positive feelings in a region called the hippocampus. The wonderful thing about this area of your brain is that it may be trained, fed, and nurtured for improved mood and happiness…even when life is tough or trying.
Boost your happiness with brain training? Yes. You can change the way you feel. Here’s how to begin:
Refine your thinking and behavior
- Rid yourself of the idea that you’re helpless or powerless. You now know better. Science says there is something you can do to feel better.
- Release your grip on your credit cards. Retail therapy, optimism supported by online shopping, and purchasing pleasure are short lived. You really can’t buy happiness. Consumerism is an ongoing cycle of void-filling that continues to fuel sadness. Focus instead on generosity and altruism, which happiness researchers say is a common thread among happy people.
Rethink your diet
- Treat yourself to turkey. Why? Because turkey naturally contains serotonin, a chemical found in most anti-depressants. Serotonin is an excellent mood booster. It assists sleep regulation, increases cognitive function, improves appetite, and heightens sexual function. All beneficial to building a healthier, happier foundation for your life.
- Omega-3s are amazing. And they can help you feel amazing too. Study after study revealed that a depletion of this essential fatty acid (a “good” fat) deprives you of something essential to your brain and body. Omega-3 should remain highly concentrated in your brain. It’s the substance that secures the structure of your nerve cell membranes. Attempting to operate with insufficient omega-3 inevitably leads to significant problems with memory retention, mood changes, and depression. Research shows that the hippocampus is served well by a daily gram of omega-3, a quality multivitamin and B complex, and a Mediterranean-type diet.
- Get out. All you need is 20 to 30 minutes outside. Get near an open window, if all else fails. Your brain loves nature. The hippocampus seems to pull up happy thoughts and memories with the influx of fresh air. Sunshine feels good inside and out.
- Get moving. Exercise. Just do it. If you’re putting it off, your putting off your happiness. Sweaty, heart-pumping happiness. It’s not about weight loss, or body image, though improvements in those areas are happy byproducts of exercise. Simply allowing the blood to pump through your veins again is a rush. You need that safe, happy high. When you get a healthy dose of movement and oxygen, your hippocampus is awash with endorphins and feel-good chemicals that you’ll soon look forward to every day.
- Get involved. People need people. And so does your shrunken hippocampus. The memories and positive feelings a few key relationships can afford you will shore up your hippocampus considerably. Supporting others, feeling loved or appreciated, and belonging to a community that works and plays together is vital. The value that comes from human contact cannot be understated. The hippocampus can does its best work with the memories created by interaction. Don’t deny yourself.
Most people want to be happy. The science shows it’s our basic hardwiring. Some people can get to a happy place easier than others. Do what you can to increase your chances and maybe, just maybe, you’ll start to feel good and enjoy the journey there.
Call a Crossroads therapist at 623-680-3486 to learn more about how counseling and/or life coaching can help you to nurture your hippocampus.