Instant Gratification

I long believed that happiness was a long term goal, something to strive for, something you achieve after studying hard, landing a good job, starting a family and settling down in your own home. The American Dream, if you will.

But that’s all nonsense! What it really boils down to is brain chemistry. There are a bunch of neurotransmitters in the brain that trigger feelings of happiness, such as serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins.

Animal Brain

I don’t know much about those myself, but I do know that happiness is something you can trigger, almost at will, by tapping into your animal brain. That’s the side of us that craves a hit of satisfaction. It could be a cake, a cigarette, a video game, an impulse purchase, a sexual release, a brush with danger… yeah mostly things that are considered bad for you.

What if you could get small doses of these happiness shots, and even better, turn them into rewards for doing something productive? Would it not make you a happier and more productive person?

The “Makes Me Happy” List

It would be an interesting exercise to make a lists of 10 things that make you happy. Now you can’t put something like “Disneyland” on the list because it’s not Disneyland itself that makes you happy. You’d have to drill down to specific things – is it the music? The smell of caramel popcorn? The rush of a roller coaster?

Next, think about how you could wrap them up into small rewards? Are there (healthier, easier) alternatives that trigger the same feeling? When you finish a task, treat yourself to those happy feelings!

I’ve made my list, and now that I’ve been productive by writing this blog post, I’m going to reward myself with a coffee, a chocolate, some good music, and a social media binge. I couldn’t be happier! 😀

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

4 thoughts on “Instant Gratification

  1. Once again, another great post! Here’s my list!

    Spending time walking and exploring outside with my family. (We have season passes to the Calgary Zoo and that’s always fun to check out.)
    Riding my bicycle when the weather is nice.
    Eating from a restaurant, (Vietnamese, Japanese(sushi), something I wouldn’t normally make at home.)
    Going to a rock concert
    Watching Austin Weber’s self intro video on YouTube and his cover of Mamma-mia
    Playing ice hockey
    Spending time with extended family and my Mommy. 😉
    Traveling(could be to the next town, or to the other side of the world.)
    Laughing or attemtping to make people laugh

    1. Nice list, Mike. A lot of those take some time and effort and aren’t easily available as small shots of happiness every hour or so (except perhaps Austin Weber’s Mamma-Mia!), but they’re definitely things to look forward to and motivate you!

  2. Not sure if Caramel Popcorn smell makes me happy but my bathroom smells of it at the moment which reminds me of Disney which makes me happy because it reminds me of the time I spent there with my kids.

    Much like you Nick, hard run then coffee and chocolate followed by some relaxing reading or gaming with as much quiet as possible to make up for my noisy week teaching 🙂

    1. I can just imagine how much you’d appreciate some peace and quiet at the weekends. One of my favorite things to do is just sit on my yoga mat in child’s pose for a few minutes to let all the stress melt away.

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