Tricking Your Way to Happiness!
Self Help

Tricking Your Way to Happiness!


While at first glance the topic might seem counterintuitive to a lot of us and we might question if we would even be able to feel happy if we knew we were tricking our Brains! Well, in reality, if we understand the neuroscience behind happiness, it is possible to for us come up with hacks which are dependable and based on scientific principles and most of all, do not depend upon medication! Let us first explore the neurotransmitter/ neuromodulator behind “Pleasure seeking” or “Reward Seeking” behaviour which is the very famous “Dopamine” in our brain. It is the very reason we go to work for, engage in relationships, and pursue success or our goals and dreams. The current neuroscientific developments provide us with a far greater understanding of how dopamine works and travels inside our brain using different pathways.

One of the dopamine pathways, known as the “Mesolimbic” pathway is essentially involved in our emotional behaviours especially those of happiness and pleasure. Happiness that we speak of in this write up is the happiness connected with pleasure and achievement (however, it is not the only way to define happiness!)

While some people may appear to be always more energetic and enthusiastic than others because of genetic influences, many studies have pointed out that it is possible for us to work on our dopamine levels.

One such way is through “Exercise” which may modulate Dopamine levels in brain and influence neuronal networks in diseases such as Parkinson’s (Petzinger, G.M. et al., 2015). These exercises may include but not be limited to gymming. Chocolates and Coffee have been linked to brief, momentary increases in dopamine levels as well.

Also, it is beneficial to keep changing the mode of exercise in order to have desirable innovations in one’s Goals. Goal innovations, with intermittent rewards (not very predictable or following a set pattern), ensure desirable levels of dopamine. In Gaming addiction, Alcohol addiction, Gambling addiction etc, there are sudden high spikes in dopamine levels, making the person get a sense of excitement and achievement, but it may also lead to low levels in the long run which, and may also lead to development of “Tolerance” and “Downregulation” of dopamine receptors and the person might present with “Depression” like symptoms. Similar could happen if we try to feel happy by engaging in multiple activities at the same time.

Designing a plan to actively influence happiness levels, may be summarized in following way:

  1. Including physical activity and exercise in daily routine.
  2. Engaging in desirable behaviours/ hobbies for a set duration daily.
  3. Having and chasing short achievable Goals that have moderate difficulty levels.
  4. Focusing on one Activity at a time rather than multiple. (e.g., walking and listening to music may be separately enjoyed!)
  5. Shifting activities or goals after some time to avoid repetition or monotony.
  6. Rewarding yourself after completing goals, with treats or experiences etc.
  7. Seeking intermittent rewards by sometimes focusing on the time you spend on desirable activities or sometimes by the amount of work done.
  8. “Mindfulness” and “Engagement” with activities greatly help.
  9. Talking about and sharing your work with friends and family may also help.
  10. Reflecting upon your activities, changing them as required, and celebrating success are all important!
  1. Petzinger, G.M. et al. ‘The Effects of Exercise on Dopamine Neurotransmission in Parkinson’s Disease: Targeting Neuroplasticity to Modulate Basal Ganglia Circuitry’. 1 Jan. 2015 : 29 – 39.
  2. Gordon Parker, Isabella Parker, Heather Brotchie, Mood state effects of chocolate, Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 92, Issues 2–3, 2006, Pages 149-159, ISSN 0165-0327.
  3. Meeusen, R., De Meirleir, K. Exercise and Brain Neurotransmission. Sports Med 20, 160–188 (1995).
  4. Kyle Flack, Christopher Pankey, Kelsey Ufholz, LuAnn Johnson, James N. Roemmich, Genetic variations in the dopamine reward system influence exercise reinforcement and tolerance for exercise intensity, Behavioural Brain Research, Volume 375, 2019, 112148, ISSN 0166-4328,
  5. Ko IG, Kim CJ, Kim H. Treadmill exercise improves memory by up-regulating dopamine and down-regulating D2 dopamine receptor in traumatic brain injury rats. J Exerc Rehabil. 2019 Aug 28;15(4):504-511.

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