Thursday, November 2, 2017

30. What neuroscience says about being happy

I like reading articles with lists of suggestions. I read them specifically to determine where I fit on whatever spectrum the article is exploring. So when my friend Dan sent me thisarticle, as referenced in my massage post, I was delighted to see that according to neuroscience, I’m doing pretty well in the happiness department.

According to neuroscience, happiness is better achieved by participation in the following:

  • Asking what am I grateful for? (I do this as a general practice.) Off the top of my head:
    • My daughter
    • My tribe
    • Travel memories
    • Getting handwritten letters in the mail
    • Belly laughs
    • Marisa de los Santos’ books
    • Watching Top Gear and America’s Funniest Videos with my daughter
    • Autumn
    • Writing
  • Labeling negative feelings. Dan calls this embracing my discomfort. It’s also become a general practice. Calliope and I work together to name whatever I’m feeling—disappointment, fear, anxiety, worry, shame, exhaustion—and then we sit there feeling that emotion for awhile. Naming it helps every time.
  • Make that Decision. I have become vastly more decisive in the past three years. This week alone I have been presented with two technology-based problems: a phone that no longer charged and a ‘service engine soon’ light on my car. In the old days, I would have stewed and freaked out thus making the problems worse. But on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning (everything seems to strike at once!), I faced the challenges head on. Tuesday evening I walked out of the Sprint store with a new phone without too much damage to my budget. Wednesday evening I discovered that the engine light was for something that needs to be replaced to pass the emissions test, but isn’t going to keep me from being safe on the road. Knowing this is so much better than avoiding the answer and chancing it. Decisions made=happiness.
  • Touch people. I am one lucky mama to have such a snuggly, huggy child. She lives for hugs like I do. And as I discussed on day 3, in the absence of more regular adult hugs, I substitute this need with monthly massages. The benefits far surpass my need for hugs. The massages work out the kinks of too much desk sitting and the stresses of long commutes behind-the-wheel five days a week.
This article helped me evaluate my happiness in scientific terms—not something I would naturally do on my own. The four measurements are in fact self-care tactics, so no wonder my happiness levels feel higher than they have been in a long, long time. It’s good to be happy. It’s also good to know how one can influence it on days when happiness feels inaccessible.

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