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How to Feel Happy

How to Feel Happy
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How to feel happy… Twenty-Plus Endorphins should do the trick. The most famous of the neuropeptides are types of enkephalins (analgesic, or “natural  opiate”) called endorphins. At least 20 different endorphins are naturally produced and distributed throughout the brain – providing motivation, filtering perceptions and pain, and producing great pleasure and happiness. By rewarding us with boosts of pleasure, endorphins provide the drive and confidence that sets our sights and gets things done. By subconsciously knowing that an endorphin Happy Hour awaits us after a job well done, we learn delayed gratification.

Endorphins are also released during a task, in anticipation, and to keep the drive alive. Specific types of endorphins that promote feelings of accomplishment encourage us to persist with strenuous effort for long periods. A natural surge of motivating endorphins can be stimulated by exercise, excitement, massage, pain, stress, meditation, and orgasm. Physical trauma can also stimulate the release of endorphins that then promotes healing.  Endorphins not only downplay our aches and pains but produce feelings of satisfaction, even euphoria. With straightforward conditioning, we reward ourselves with a rush of endorphins after exercise, sex, or a goal achieved and look forward to repeating the process. Pleasurable drugs and behaviors hijack our natural endorphin receptors and become highly addictive.

  • Neuropeptide: In small doses the neuropeptide pituitary hormone ACTH, a main HOW_TO_FEEL_HAPPY_ALWAYScomponent of the stress reaction, acts to stimulate learning and retention. Levels of excitation or duress stimulate the release of pituitary ACTH to make acutely stressful events more memorable. As the fight-or-flight stress reaction opens pituitary floodgates ACTH secretions spill over into the brain. Shorter peptide versions of ACTH are found throughout the brain and directly enhance the growth of new dendrites responsible for long-term memory. Importantly, the mental and physical effort that produces ACTH-peptides has also been shown to improve both production and maturation of new stem cells in the hippocampus. ACTH and neurohormones but diet can drastically affect what goes on in the mind.
  • Diet: As the diet can produce changes in neurochemistry, altered neurochemistry can change thinking and behavior and affect changes in the body, too.
  • Neuromodulators: While neurotransmitters take just a few milliseconds to exert their effects, neuromodulators take their time, hundreds of milliseconds to produce long-lasting and diverse effects. Like neurotransmitters, neuromodulators can be both enhancing and inhibitory. Neuromodulators can exert their effects over entire pathways of neurons, producing long-term potentiation (LTP) or strengthening of electrical connections along an entire pathway. Pathways that show LTP show an immediate sprouting of new dendrites, the anatomical basis of long-term memory.
  • As, DNAs, and PNAs:  Lately, more than twenty classes of small but potent molecules, short strands of “non-coding” RNAs, micro-RNAs, tRNAs, snRNAs, and DNAs, and PNAs (peptide nucleic acids) – hundreds of RNAs and DNAs of various sizes that are coming and going, buzzing about our chromosomes, adding, moving and deleting genetic information, and modifying gene expression. This vast array of gene modifiers can act like neuroenhancers, or rental agents, leasing out sections of DNA, activating (or enhancing) some tenants while inhibiting others. This swarm of micro-managers, RNAs, DNAs, and PNAs, controls the expression of both the genome (DNA) and the epigenome (those histone proteins intricately entwined with our DNA). 

The course of true love never did run smooth.


William Shakespeare

Categories:   Brain Chemicals, Brain Health, Happiness, Stress

Published by

Burt Glenn

Burt Glenn

Burton Glenn is a former Biology and Chemistry Professor and world traveler. He studies and writes about the effects of aging on the body and mind, as well as his personal experiences transitioning into retirement.