The Key to Longterm Happiness

Connection.

Each year I set myself an intention, a goal to work towards, instead of resolutions that I’ll never stick to. I like the intention to be something fulfilling that helps me grow as a person.

Last year, my intention was ‘Connection’. Connecting with my family, friends and self. I wanted to better understand those around me and myself. I wanted to make sure I asked questions and actually listened to the answers.

As a first time Mum, I downloaded The Happy Child App out of curiosity and reassurance! But was completely blown away by the application to all human relationships.

The Human Improvement project share science-based research to help you raise “a happy and well-adjusted child”. If you don’t have children, don’t stop reading here – everything learnt via the app applies to all relationships.

Labelling feelings + building deep bonds = long-term happiness

Label your feelings – it sounds simple but is actually pretty tough, especially when you’re overwhelmed by an emotion in the moment. But labelling your feelings and sharing them helps you, and those around you, understand and process your feelings.

The App recommends “naming it, to tame it”. Labelling what you’re feeling helps to put the ‘primitive’ brain in check, allowing the ‘logical’ brain to take over. Removing the primitive brain from the equation allows you to come to a resolution rationally.

It can be hard to label feelings and open up about them. Happy Child recommends you try to label 3 of your feelings at any one time, labels such as ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ are too broad. Below are the list of emotions via the app:

Building deep bonds – this part of the equation is fascinating. Building bonds or ‘good relationships’ with people seems obvious. If I’m friends with more people, if I get on with everybody, I’m happier right? But the key here is the “deep”.

Deep bonds aren’t built in the “fun” moments, not during the one-on-one time or by taking the kids to the park. They’re built in times of crisis. It’s how we respond and help each other through these moments that matters.

Isn’t it reassuring to know that relationships don’t have to be perfect. That those downs (as well as ups) make us stronger together? I think so.

Which chemicals contribute to long-term happiness?

This is the neuroscience bit!

Dopamine

You’ve likely heard of dopamine, it’s often mentioned in relation to improving your mood. But this chemical is only key to short term happiness. Released when we eat our favourite food, someone likes a photo we’ve shared, we buy something new, we win at a game. Each time we do one of these things a little bit of dopamine is released and we feel good.

But the dopamine high doesn’t last, it’s a short-term reward system. Studies show social media use, money, gambling and material possessions may provide a short-term boost. But it doesn’t create lasting happiness.

Oxytocin

The Happy Child App shares that Oxytocin is the key to our long-term happiness. Oxytocin is released when you give birth, are breastfeeding, or are touched/in contact with another person. It has the greatest impact on our long-term well being and according to the app, this dates back to our tribal past.

Being able to build deep bonds and trust with our tribe ensured our survival. Building deep bonds is also the best way to increase your levels of oxytocin. Not only important for early childhood, the impact of deep bonds are seen throughout our life. Contributing to better performance in school, increased concentration, living longer and generally living a happier life.

Cortisol

Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone. It’s created by your adrenal glands and contributes towards the running of some important  functions. It regulates blood pressure, sleep/wake cycles, manages your processing of foods, keeps inflammation down etc.

If your body starts to release too much cortisol it causes havoc to your body and your mental state. Studies show raised levels of cortisol in children don’t always show symptoms immediately, but can contribute towards issues in later life. Including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, cognitive delays and generally leading less happier lives.

Activities that can lead to raised levels of cortisol in children (and adults) include sarcasm and teasing. What’s more, you don’t need to continuously carry out these actions, the apprehension or fear of them is enough to raise the levels!

The Round Up

Although it can feel like that outfit, the new car, one more bet will make us happy it will be short lived. Long-term happiness is achieved by:

  • Labelling your feelings – or “name it, to tame it”. By labelling your feelings, or helping those around you label there’s, it is the start to building deep bonds
  • Build deep bonds – this happens by ‘just being there’ for your friends, family or partner when they need you. You don’t need to solve their problems for them or be fun all of the time, just be there

Two steps, easy right? It doesn’t have to be perfect but it does take practise.

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**The article shares information from The Happy Child App. Where I have researched around the topic I have included the relevant sources. You can download the app here: https://hipapp.page.link/ddwHqr4Bvr1WHQa16**

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-neurochemical-self/201107/nature-gave-us-four-kinds-happiness

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/hacking-into-your-happy-c_b_6007660

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/medication/what-is-the-difference-between-serotonin-and-dopamine/

Photo by Jordan Cormack on Unsplash

2 responses to “The Key to Longterm Happiness”

  1. […] make joy a priority! This gets harder as you get older, have children, take care of your family – but you cannot […]

  2. […] Makes it easier for the brain to process past events and thus reduces the intensity of the trauma – Another study by UCLA, conducted by measuring the brain’s activity, discovered that journaling about an event can make it ‘less traumatic and intense.‘ Labelling our emotions supports us in the processing of them (we talk about this in the key to long-term happiness blog) […]

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