Whether you’re happy, sad, angry, creative, stressed or something else entirely, it all ultimately comes down to your neuroscience. The wiring and chemistry of our brains is what defines our every experience and our every behavior and as such, the best way to unravel and understand any aspect of the human experience is to look inwards towards the brain.
This is particularly useful if you’re trying to improve your mood and be consistently happier. What is going on inside the brain when you feel truly content and at peace. And what can you do to try and get your stubborn brain to be like that more often?
Ultimately our mood comes down to chemistry – specifically it comes down to neurochemicals or ‘neurotransmitters’ which are produced in the brain in response to certain other activities in the brain. When you think of something or experience something that is happy, sad, scary or stressful, the brain responds in kind by producing the relevant neurotransmitter. These transmitters include serotonin, cortisol, norepinephrine, dopamine, oxytocin, adenosine and many others.
When it comes to happiness, we want to increase the number of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters which include serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. These are chemicals that make us feel alert, happy, content and even loved. On the other hand, we want to reduce ones like cortisol (which makes us stressed).
How to Control Neurochemistry
At this point, you might be wondering how you can control your neurochemistry. One way of course is with drugs and that’s where recreational drugs and antidepressants come in. Antidepressants often work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain or increasing GABA which makes us tired but also reduces cortisol.
The problem with changing brain chemistry directly though is that the brain is all about adaptation. If you add a certain amount of particular chemicals to your brain then it will often respond by producing less of those chemicals naturally. This can then lead to tolerance, dependence and withdrawal symptoms – worsening depression and triggering addiction.
You can also alter your neurochemistry through lifestyle changes. Diet impacts on which neurotransmitters our brain can create, while things like sleep, exercise and social interactions can all also boost our mood.
Ultimately though, the very best way to control your mood is to change what you focus on and the way you react to what you focus on. Remember, your neurotransmitters are released in reaction to your subjective experiences. Change your experience by changing your beliefs and you can improve that neurochemistry.