We’ve been posting a lot on various health conditions. Today’s article will be on a lighter note. It focuses on how JOY and HAPPINESS affect your body.
What joy and happiness do to you
Well for starters, joy and happiness affect us positively. It may also affect us positively in an unusual way. Readers would surely have heard of the saying “tears of joy” or “tears of happiness”!
How does joy come about?
We have to delve into a bit of science here.
Our body has neurotransmitters. These are chemical “messenger” cells that send signals between your neurons, i.e., nerve cells, and other cells and the brain.
Our neurotransmitters are in charge of processes and feelings in our bodies. In other words, they transmit fear, joy, sadness, surprise, anger, etc. to us.
How happiness and joy flow throughout your body
*Through your brain
Whatever external sensation you feel (hot, cold, scared) is sent to your brain.
Dr Diana Samuel, a clinical psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center, says, “The brain does not have a single emotional center, but different emotions involve different structures.”
Dr Samuel goes further to explain, by breaking down sections of the brain.
The frontal lobe, also known as the control panel of the brain, observes your emotional state.
The thalamus which is deep inside the brain, controls your consciousness. It is also the part of the brain responsible for responses to external sensations.
When you feel good or pleasurable sensations, joy and happiness come about when two neurotransmitters in the brain are released. These transmitters are dopamine and serotonin. Both neurotransmitters are associated with joy and happiness (“feel good” transmitters).
Simple activities like hugging a loved one, going to the park for a walk, or patting your dog or cat, send happy sensations to the brain. When your brain receives this information, it releases these neurotransmitters, and you feel joy and happiness.
*Through your circulatory system
When you feel very happy, you will feel your heart racing and your face flushes.
Your circulatory system is affected by your emotions, not only joy but sadness, fear and shock. However, joy and happiness affect the circulatory system positively.
*Through your autonomic nervous system
This is the bodily system responsible for automatic responses such as digestion and breathing. It is affected by all types of feelings.
When you do something you like going for a bike ride, your breathing can increase. When you do yoga, your breathing can slow down.
Your smooth muscles (muscles in the stomach, intestines and bladder) are also affected by your emotions. Joy and happiness allow these muscles to work better.
Readers would have heard the saying of “having butterflies in the stomach” which relates to a person being nervous. This happens when there is a reduction of blood flow.
Another autonomic reaction is when the pupils in your eyes dilate when you are aroused. Your pupils constrict in response to being shocked by a bright light suddenly switched on.
Can you trick your body into feeling happiness and joy?
Yes you can, according to Dr Samuel.
Just by smiling to others can trick your brain to send out those joyful dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters. Your mood will be lifted, your heart rate will go down, and the best part is your stress level will also go down. Faking it works just as well as the real thing.
Dr Samuel says exercise “can help ease depression and anxiety by releasing feel good endorphins and other natural brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that enhance your sense of well-being.”
“Exercise can also take your mind off worries and negative thoughts that may feed depression and anxiety.”
In conclusion: We now know more on how our emotions are linked to our body. Just making small adjustments to our mood, or doing things we like, can lead to feeling more happiness and joy. We need more of these feelings, especially in these very challenging times!
21st October 2020 22:30
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