hey guys, ash here. without a long cheese + whiiine story, i want to tell you that recently, i’ve been really unhappy. and honestly, it’s been exhausting. i want to talk to you about this in case you’re unhappy, too.
for months, i’ve been internally blaming my genetic make up + the difficult circumstances that have been happening in my life, for this sad cloud that’s been looming overhead. and i’ve been waiting around for happiness to happen to me. and surprise surprise, nothing has happened.
research shows that our levels of happiness // depression come from three factors:
1. 50% nature: our inherited genetic set point. good + bad things will continue to happen to us bringing us to a high or a low, but we will always return to our given happiness set point.
2. 10% circumstances: what our world looks like, our income, social status, what we have, where we live.
3. 40% intentional activity: mindful awareness + the self controlled act of releasing dopamine.
so let’s talk about dopamine. when we are in a state of happiness, simply dopamine is being released in our brains. but as we get older, we naturally lose dopamine and further, dopamine is a ‘use it or lose it’ neuron. so basically, the absolute best thing we can do for ourselves – our present selves and our future selves – is to focus our energy into the constant practice of releasing dopamine.
this notion that i am in much greater control of my happiness than my life circumstances are, has been very empowering for me. and through various sources (friends + mentors, documentaries, books, a possible alien), i’ve been collecting and playing with a variety of activities that fire dopamine.
these are some daily intentional dopamine-releasing goodies i thought i’d share..
- change. you know the saying that variety is the spice of life. well, throw on the paprika cos change really is vital to your happiness. this doesn’t mean that you consistently need to start your life over, but varying how you do every day tasks like taking a different route on your drive to work + exploring a new trail will have those dopamine neurons firing.
- move your body. you already know that natural high you feel when you sweat it out real good. and extra dopamine bonus points if you do this in a new + novel way like.. dodgeball. hey, if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.
- be in the zone. whether that zone is painting a master piece or like me, singing + dancing horribly along to your favourite 90’s music.. the point is to give yourself permission to get lost in a moment and to forget everything else.
- act with kindness. have you seen that episode of friends where joey tries to prove to phoebe that all selfless acts are actually selfish? he’s bang on (but, let’s say ‘self-fulfilling’ rather than selfish ). truly, small things like shoveling snow off a neighbour’s driveway, offering a meal to a hungry man, cuddling a homeless kitty, even just smiling + saying hello to a stranger, are all sure fire ways of turning up your own happiness vibrations.
- cooperate. our society reinforces the idea of survival of the fittest, but charles darwin actually theorized that cooperation // love is more essential to survival. i’d like to do a full blog post talking about this but for now, it’s important to note that working together elicits dopamine levels.
- smile. did you know that even when you’re faking it, when you smile, the muscles in your face tell your brain that you are happy? and laughter is even better. so if you need to trigger some dopamine, here ya go.
- canoodle. touch fires dopamine like it’s going out of style (especially certain kinds of touch.. *cough*). even if you don’t have a special someone, there need be no shortage of touch in your life.. get out there + give your grandma a hug, cuddle a fur baby, get//give a massage.
- be a part of the wild. multiple studies have shown that patients who receive consistent sensory stimulation from the natural world (ie. viewing the forest, breathing fresh air, walking barefoot on grass) heal faster than those who do not. so. get. out. there.
- explore your imagination. our minds are like engines that never stop running, and in this modern, technology-based world, we are constantly being fed with information every millisecond. this is another topic i really want to explore further, but for now the point: allow yourself to pause in this busy, shared reality to wander in your own imaginative reality.
- perspective. truly, we always, always, have a choice. a choice of how we see our circumstances, how we see other beings and how we see ourselves. and we certainly always have a choice of how we react to our circumstances, to other beings and to ourselves. honestly for me, being a self aware driver of my perspective is a constant rollercoaster of grand failures + grand successes.
- harness a gratitude attitude. this goes along with perspective.. when life throws you a shit sandwich, you need to assess if it really is that much of shit sandwich and you can do that by checking your blessings. i guarantee you have so much more good in your life than bad.
basically, happiness is a skill just like playing piano. you may not be born with the natural talent but i’m learning that you certainly can practice it every day + become a pro. :)
and because i want to document + remember the every day joy in our lives, here are some photographs of trav + i doing what we love most.. exploring.
a of t+a