We could all use a little more happiness in our lives, right?
I mean, I have two dogs that surround me with love every day, and I still find myself complaining about how "shitty" my life is.
The truth is, my life is great, and things are good.
But, my ego has a mind of its own, and when things are going good in my life, it gets really bored and starts creating problems for itself to solve.
Human beings, however, have found ways to re-wire their brains so their egos can't ruin everything quite so easily, and thanks to science, those methods have real results.
Here are a few of the simple ways science has proven you can rewire your brain to be happier:
1. Practice gratitude.
Just like with a musical instrument, you can improve your attitude by practicing.
Thinking of what you're grateful for throughout the day actually increases the level of dopamine in your brain, according to UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb, author of "The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time."
These higher levels of dopamine can act as a kind of universal currency. Dopamine not only enables the brain to see rewards, but it also inspires the body to take action toward reaping those rewards as well.
Pretty DOPE, am I right? (Sorry, I had to.)
2. Get more sleep.
Obviously, there are mountains of research out there to support that people who get more sleep are happier overall.
But, Princeton researchers Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger found in their study on life satisfaction that sleep quality was the one of the most influential factors in rating not just overall life satisfaction, but also daily mood.
So, whether you need an app, a fancy pillow or a new noise machine, try to get higher quality sleep every time you snooze.
3. Think about your accomplishments.
Our brains have been hardwired to focus on the negative, so it's technically up to us to put a stop to that cycle.
Alan Korb notes that thinking about our accomplishments (or about anything we enjoy really) can release serotonin in the brain.
What's extra cool about this is, by purposefully closing your eyes and thinking about one thing that makes you happy, you can effectively train your brain to be more positive.
4. Make a decision.
Taking action toward a specific goal, even if you aren't sure if it's the exact right one, feels good.
Not only is it more efficient than procrastinating out of fear or perfectionism, but it's also actually good for your brain.
Making a choice activates the prefrontal cortex of your brain, and according to Alex Korb's book, "The Upward Spiral,"
Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals — all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety. Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world — finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.
In other words, just making a choice and following through with it will simultaneously calm you down and empower you at once.
5. Give a hug or get a massage.
Physical touch can be hard for some of us, but for those who are open to it, it's been proven by recent empirical research that physical touch from a loved one or from a massage therapist increases levels of oxytocin in the brain.
Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, eases stress, solidifies relationships and boosts sexual arousal.
Basically, it's natural ecstasy, and everyone should try it.
So, get hugs, give hugs, get sleep, make choices and be grateful.
Seems simple enough, right? Now, go get happy.