I find most people on the water are pretty happy. But even after the choicest curl or the sweetest paddle, old man nasty can rear his ugly head and try to ruin your sought after bliss. So beyond the psychobabble, neuroscientists have correlated what actually works to make you feel better. And the fact they can demonstrate it scientifically, have developed some insights to improve your happiness. Especially if you temporarily lose it.
Gratefulness. If you’re feeling down, for whatever reason, it’s OK to feel guilty or shameful. This activates the brain’s reward center. As does finding something to be sincerely grateful about. Your brain, meaning you, will start to feel better because you’re doing something about the problem. In fact, gratefulness boosts the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Just like antidepressants and anti anxiety medications. Even after a serious bummer, it’s merely the search for gratitude that triggers the brain to work its way out of the funk. It just feels good to be grateful.
Label. Feel crappy? Not happy? Down? Label your feeling. Are you “angry, sad, p+##*d off.” By putting a label on the feeling, it reduces the impact on the brain. And helps you identify what’s really going on.
Decision. One of the best ways to reduce stress is decision making. It not only gives you a plan to climb back up the happiness ladder, it also changes your neurochemistry to reduce worry and anxiety by boosting your dopamine levels. Increased dopamine = increased overall pleasure. However, don’t shoot for the “perfect” answer. As perfection recreates those original stressors. Let you decision be ‘good enough” for you. Or, choose what you like, and like what you choose.
Touch. We need love and acceptance from others. We all know how painful rejection or emotional loss can be. Your brain actually reads this the same way it reads physical pain. You know what to do. Give or get a hug and make it a good one. Hold hands. Go arm and arm. Even get a massage. Physical touch reduces your stress hormones and increases the “feel good” centers in your brain.
Hug and be hugged. We’ll smile more and all feel better than before.