Can You Biohack Your Happiness?
Though happiness can often feel like it is out of your control you have much more influence over your mood than you realize. The average person reports feeling “adequately happy,” but there are things you can do that can help boost your mood and make happiness easier to achieve.
Let’s look at a few simple things that don’t involve a lot of time, money, or energy that can bring more happiness into your life.
Types Of Happiness
There are two major subtypes of happiness. The first is hedonia, also known as pleasure. This is a quick spike of enjoyment that can come from things like good conversation, good sex, good food, and even a good impulse buy. The second is eudaimonia which is derived from finding purpose and meaning. This is heavily associated with life goals, self-acceptance, personal growth, and deep friendships.
Hedonia and eudaimonia work in tandem with one another and add up to your overall happiness. You need a balance of both. While hedonia is easy to achieve it is also short-lived which can lead to addictions if you are chasing too much of it. Eudaimonia often requires a lot of work, time, and energy, and if you chase it for too long without a break it can cause burnout. By balancing pleasure and purpose we can achieve sustainable happiness.
Here are a few ways to get more of both in your life.
Spend Time With Loved Ones And Be Affectionate & Buy More Experiences And Less Material Things
Humans are hardwired to be social. So much so that social connectedness has been proven to decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even dementia. Oxycotin, a hormone that increases kindness, gratitude, trust, empathy, and other wonderful emotions that contribute to happiness, is activated in the brain when you meet someone and hit it off. Oxycontin also lights up reward pathways in your brain to make you feel good when you’re with that person.
Human touch in particular releases loads of oxycontin. So the next time you see your loved ones, if consensual, make it a point to touch, hug, and show physical affection. Even a simple nudge arm or high-five can provide a boost in happiness. You can also look into getting a dog. Pet owners on average are happier. A study done in 2012 showed that puppy kisses also release oxycontin in the brain.
Though material possessions can give you a spike of hedonia, the pleasure you experience won’t last. At least not the same way as it will if you create a memory from investing in experiences. Every time you look back on happy moments you recreate that feeling in your body. So partake in more experiences that bring you joy. Book a trip, invite a friend out to dinner, join a class, or take on a new hobby. You’ll get more out of the money you spend if you use it to fuel your happy experiences.
Exercise is known to improve mood. Moderate aerobic exercise releases endorphins and serotonin in the brain which give you a boost in mood along with improving your cognition and concentration. This can lead to more creativity and fun. The effects strength training has on the brain are less clear but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to assume it will also lift your spirits. Even just 10 days of power walking can help reduce symptoms of depression.
Express Your Emotions
Steer clear of toxic positivity because getting in touch with emotions such as anger, sadness, and other “negative” feelings can have a positive effect on your overall happiness in the long run. A study conducted with over 37,000 participants found that the greater the variety of emotions expressed directly correlated with greater overall happiness. So the next time you’re sad cry it out. If you’re angry talk about it. And on the flip side, if you’re feeling gratitude and love share it. The more in touch you are with your emotions the happier you will be.
Be Generous & Practice Gratitude
Spreading wealth seems to be universally satisfying. Studies conducted in both Uganda and the United States— two very different cultures— found that in both cases people felt more satisfied from spending money on their friends than when they spent it on themselves. A 2007 brain-imaging study also found that gift-giving lights up the reward center of your brain.
If you want to be more generous try setting aside a small portion of your paycheck— about 5% is a good place to start— to spend on other people.
Gratitude is heavily correlated with happiness. A study done in 2003 had participants write down things that they were most grateful for at the end of each day. They had other participants write down things that annoyed them and the last group wrote down things they felt neutral about. After just two weeks those who wrote down what they were grateful for were happier, more emotionally open, more positive, more socially courageous, and more likely to help other. They even noted that they slept better.
Take some time at the end of every day to write down 5 things you are grateful for. They can be big things like experiences or people or small things like your morning coffee and sunshine. Relive those positive moments to experience a boost in happiness.
Have More Fun
This one may seem obvious but is often overlooked. With crazy work schedules and other obligations taking up most of our time it is easy to forget to take a step back and enjoy ourselves. Resting, relaxing, and playing are just as important as work. We need a balance of both to live a sustainably healthy life. Make sure to set time aside each day to do the things you love. Whether that’s cooking, reading, running, or drawing, making time for your favorite activities can boost your overall mood.