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No success is too small. Do not undermine your good feeling by apologizing to yourself for the triviality of the accomplishment. Just enjoy the split second of triumph and move on. It’s just a spark, but if you ignite it every day, you will be your own best spark plug. Remember, learning how to feel happy and good is a practice.

The abundance of choices will help you find a path you can believe in. Then you can wire it into your brain by repeating it for forty-five days without fail. Once you’ve built a new habit based on ways to feel happier, you will be so pleased with your power over your brain that you will want to build another.

New Dopamine Habits

Here’s how to feel happier by increasing dopamine. Implementing the following habits are small ways to feel good on a short-term and long-term basis when practiced regularly.

You have some success every day, so commit to finding it and say, “I did it!” You will not conduct a symphony at Carnegie Hall every day. You will not lead starving hordes into the Promised Land every day. To feel good regularly, adjust your expectations so you can be pleased with something you actually do. This doesn’t mean you are lowering your expectations, or “full of yourself,” or losing touch with reality. It means you are lingering on your gains the way you already linger on your losses (which I’m sure you can imagine is not a key for how to feel better).

Celebrating small steps triggers more dopamine than saving it up for one big achievement. Big accomplishments don’t make you feel happy forever, so if you always tie happiness to a far-off goal, you may end up frustrated. Instead, learn to be happy with your progress. You will not be celebrating with champagne and caviar each day. You will be giving yourself permission to have a feeling of accomplishment. This feeling is better than external rewards. It’s free, it has no calories, and it doesn’t impair your driving. You have a small victory every day. Why not enjoy it and feel good in the process?

At first, it might feel silly to look for reasons to pat yourself on the back, and the reasons you come up with might make you uncomfortable. Still, commit to doing this whether or not it feels good. You can decide to be worthy of your own applause and enjoy the feeling, even if just for a split second. If it feels fake or forced, that’s normal, because the circuits that berate your accomplishments feel strong and true.

Celebrating small accomplishments is a valuable skill, not only because it’s one of the ways to feel happier, but also because big things come from many small steps. You won’t take those steps if you are just running on the fumes of the last big thing. Finally, your daily triumph will feel better if it doesn’t depend on one-upping someone. If you have to win in ways that make someone lose, you limit yourself and end up with side effects. You can celebrate what you are creating instead of just who you are defeating.

It doesn’t take much time or money to step toward a goal. Just commit ten minutes a day and you will feel momentum instead of feeling stuck. Ten minutes is not enough to move mountains, but it’s enough to approach the mountain and see it accurately. Instead of dreaming about your goal from afar, you can gather the information you need to plan realistically. Your goals might change as your information grows. You might even learn that your fantasy goal would not make you feel happy. Those ten-minute investments can free you from unnecessary regret and help you find a hill you can actually climb and feel good in the process. Your ten-minute efforts can define manageable steps so you’re not just waiting for huge leaps that never come.

If you think you can’t spare ten minutes a day, consider the time you already spend dreaming of what you’d rather be doing. You can use that time to research the necessary steps. You will get a dopamine feeling each day as those steps come into view. You will start to expect that dopamine feeling and look forward to it. You will learn to feel that it’s possible to transform a dream into reality with steady effort. When your ten minutes are over, go back to living in the present, which is another hack for how to feel good and happy. Do not make a habit of focusing constantly on the future.

Take action, don’t just daydream. Spend your time on concrete action. Don’t spend it fantasizing about quitting your day job or pressuring others to help you. It’s not their goal. Dig into practical realities instead. Do this faithfully for forty-five days and you will begin to feel better and have the habit of moving forward.

3. Divide an Unpleasant Task into Small Parts

Everyone has a dreaded task they’d rather forget about. It might be the mess inside your closets or the mess inside an important relationship. One method for how to feel happier is to commit to spending ten minutes a day on your dreaded task. You don’t need to have the solution when you start, only the willingness to keep stepping.

You may think it’s impossible to clean out closets or renegotiate relationships in ten-minute chunks. But if you wait for grand solutions, you will languish for quite a long time. Instead, go to that closet, pull out one chunk of mess, and sort it out for ten minutes. Go to that yucky relationship riddled with disappointment and plant goodwill for ten minutes. You might not feel happier right away, but don’t let a day go by without tackling another chunk. Keep it up for forty-five days and you will be comfortable tackling the annoyances that stand in the way of making your life feel better.

Of course, you can’t control other people the way you can control the contents of your closet. But you will replace a bad feeling with a good feeling if you keep trying. And you will keep trying because your positive expectations trigger dopamine, which is one of the neurochemical ways to feel good.

Your dreaded task may miraculously resolve itself in less than forty-five days! If so, don’t stop. Find another painful mess so you keep going for forty-five more days. That’s what builds the habit of facing tough challenges in small increments instead of being intimidated by them. Remember to feel good about what you’ve done each day. Soon, you’ll have the habit of tackling obstacles and feeling rewarded by them, which is a great way to feel happy.

4. Keep Adjusting the Bar

Good feelings flow when the level of challenge you face is “just right.” If a basketball hoop is too low, you get no pleasure from scoring points. If it’s too high, you have no reason to try. The effort is fun when you expect a reward for your effort but it’s not certain. You can adjust the hoops in your life as one of the ways to feel happy and make things fun.

Here’s another hack for how to feel good in your life. For forty-five days, experiment with lowering the bar in areas where you have set yourself impossible goals and raising the bar in places where you’ve set it so low that you feel no reward. If you feel you have no choice between frozen dinners and gourmet banquets, define a moderate cooking goal and start your forty-five days now. If you feel you have no choice between sitting on the couch and walking the red carpet, try going out in a middle-of-the-road way, and then try another way.
 

Summary: How to Feel Happier by Increasing Dopamine

+ Celebrate small victories

+ Take steps toward a new goal

+ Divide an unpleasant task into small parts

+ Keep adjusting the bar

New Endorphin Habits

Here’s how to feel better by increasing endorphin. Committing to the following habits are additional ways to feel good that will carry over into the long term.

5. Laugh

Laughing stimulates endorphin as it spontaneously convulses your innards. Find out what makes you laugh, and make time for it. This is one of the best and easiest ways to feel happy. A big ha-ha laugh is necessary to trigger endorphin—sneering at people you disdain doesn’t do it. Nor does laughing on the outside, although that might prime the pump. It can be hard to find what triggers your laughs, but you can commit to keeping sampling comedy until you get your daily laugh.

The slow movement is an essential variation on this theme. Tai chi and Qi Gong are so slow that you may think they’re not real exercise. But the super-slow movement is more of a workout than it seems. It forces you to use muscles evenly, activating the weaker muscles instead of letting the dominant ones take over. Both are great exercise methods for how to feel good in your body and mind. Commit to doing something that doesn’t look like “real exercise” for forty-five days, and you will feel the difference.

Building New Oxytocin Circuits

Here’s how to feel happier by increasing oxytocin circuits, which are activated when we bond with others, fall in love, and experience pleasure.

Laughter is not just a way to feel good, it’s a release of fear. Imagine laughing with relief after a close call with a snake. Social risks are more common than predator risks in modern life, and we often fear expressing a socially unacceptable emotion. Social shunning is a real survival threat in the state of nature, so we are wired to take these things seriously. Comedians often express socially risky feelings. When they survive, the part of you that fears shunning laughs with relief. You can think of laughing as creating safety instead of thinking it’s frivolous.

You can enjoy more relief if you put it at the top of your priority list for forty-five days. Don’t give up if it takes a bit of trial and error. I often think jokes are “not funny,” but I have found a local improv troop that always seems hilarious to me. So I make time for it, a lot—what a better way to feel happy than that!

Varying your exercise routine is a good hack for how to feel good and trigger endorphin. It takes strain to trigger endorphin, and if you keep straining the same place, you risk injury. If you work new places with a new exercise, moderate exertion can stimulate endorphin.

Your body has three layers of muscles. When you vary your exercise, you give the neglected, constricted layers more attention. Since they’re weak, they have to work harder, so you stimulate development where it’s needed instead of going overboard on the parts you overuse. Chasing an endorphin high is not worth the risk of wearing out a part and needing a parts replacement. Variety is a great alternative and one of the best ways to feel better.

If you’re a person who doesn’t exercise at all, everything you do will be something different and it will all feel good. If you’re already athletic, you may hate the uncoordinated feeling you get when you try something new. You may see it as a setback when it’s actually strengthening your weakest link. Free yourself from performance anxiety for forty-five days. You may like it so much that you want to try another variation for another forty-five days and can keep switching things up, finding new ways to be happy.

Endorphin is also stimulated when you stretch. Everyone can add stretching to their daily routine, because you can do it while you’re watching TV, waiting in line, or talking on the phone. Mild stretching brings circulation into constricted areas. Stop before you feel pain. Just because a little is good doesn’t mean a lot is better, nor is it needed to start feeling happier. If you stretch every day for forty-five days, you will not only feel good but also come to enjoy it so much that you will look forward to doing it every day.

Stretching is not just about arms and legs. Sample classes that introduce deeper stretches without hurting yourself. The point is not to push harder on the usual spots but to stretch spots you didn’t know you had, such as the muscles between your ribs. Don’t forget to stretch your toes, fingers, and even ears—you’ll be surprised by the ways this can feel good.

Building trust is another key for how to feel happy and good, as it stimulates oxytocin. Maybe there’s someone you want to trust, but you can’t bridge the divide. It’s good to know you can build trust with a long series of very small interactions that help you feel better along the way. Individuals or groups with an unfortunate history cannot always wipe the slate clean all at once. Intermediate steps build trust gradually. The stepping stones can be placed so close together that neither party risks a big betrayal. Each step needs only create positive expectations about the next step rather than resolve the whole problem. Each small experience of trust stimulates the good feeling of oxytocin, which connects neurons that help trigger more.

Divorce lawyers use this strategy to help a couple reach an agreement. You might try it with that person who is “ruining your life.” Initiate a very small interaction, and if that proceeds without disaster, do it again. The goal is not to trust blindly and get disappointed. The goal is to build positive expectations.

Coexisting without trust is bad, but getting burned again is worse. So instead of taking a leap of faith with that crazy neighbor or the coworker who stabbed you in the back, you can find steps that are comfortable. For forty-five days, craft reciprocal exchanges that build stepping stones toward trust with difficult people. You can’t predict the results since you can’t control others. But you will expand your sense of control over the trust bonds in your life. This is hard work, and it may not feel good in the short run. But in the long run, it builds confidence that you can do something about those thorns in your side learn how to feel happy in spite of them.

You might start by just making eye contact with that person who’s making your life difficult. The next day, you could comment on the weather, and add a smile the day after that. It could take

a week to build up to a shared chuckle about traffic, and even that may stir up bad feelings that are curiously strong. But you will continue making neutral contact—neither venting anger nor rushing to please. In forty-five days, you will have built a new shared foundation upon which you both feel happier and better. You may always need to limit your trust in this person, but you will be able to relax in his presence the way gazelles relax in a world full of lions.

Oxytocin works both ways. When other people trust you, it feels good whether or not you trust them. You can enjoy more oxytocin by creating opportunities for people to trust you. Handle this strategy with care—you do not want to be the rescuer of everyone you know forty-five days from now. Your goal is simply to feel the pleasure of another person’s trust for a moment each day as a way to feel happier in your daily life. Of course, you can’t force other people to trust you, and it may take more than a moment to extend yourself in ways that build trust. Do not spend a lot of time seeking approval. Simply honor your commitments, and then pause to enjoy being a person who honors her commitments. It may sound self-important, but the circuit it builds is the foundation of future trust. So plan to honor your commitments scrupulously for forty-five days. This is how to feel good simply by increasing trust with yourself and others.
 

Continue Reading on the Blog

Recipe By Britt Berlin from Banana Diaries
Makes: 16 large Twix bars or 32 mini Twix bars
Prep: 20 minutes, plus chilling
Bake: 20 minutes


Ingredients:

Shortbread:

Vegan caramel:

  • 250 grams creamy and smooth cashew butter

  • 200 grams coconut oil or vegan butter, melted and cooled

  • 100 grams maple syrup

Chocolate coating:

Directions:

  1. Read through all instructions before beginning.

  2. Prep: Preheat the oven to 350F, and grease and line an 8×8 baking pan with cooking oil and parchment paper. Measure out all ingredients before beginning.

  3. Make the Twix bar shortbread: In a large bowl, whisk together the oat flour and vanilla powder. Use a fork or pastry cutter and cut the coconut oil into the oat flour until your mixture resembles a grainy sand texture. Add in the maple syrup, and mix until you achieve a sticky and consistent dough. Press the dough into the baking pan, smoothing it over with either a flat bottom from a cup or a rubber spatula. Poke several holes into the dough to allow for the dough to not bubble up while baking. Place the baking pan into the oven to bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden and set. Remove from the oven and allow the shortbread to cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then place the pan into the fridge to chill while you make the caramel.

  4. Make the cashew caramel sauce: while the Twix shortbread is cooling, make the caramel sauce. In a food processor, blend the cashew butter, melted coconut oil/vegan butter, and maple syrup until smooth. If either the caramel sauce is warm or the Twix shortbread is warm, wait to pour the caramel over the shortbread.

  5. Pour the caramel onto the Twix shortbread: once the Twix shortbread is cool, you can pour the caramel sauce right onto the shortbread, which should still be in the baking pan. Place the baking pan into the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours, or until the caramel has set. 

  6. Slice the caramel bars: once the caramel has been completely set, you can remove the Twix shortbread from the baking pan using parchment paper. Slice the bars into 24 long bars, or 32 shorter bars, then place them onto a cooling rack lined with parchment paper and into the freezer. While the Twix bars are freezing, you’ll melt the chocolate. This makes sure that the caramel doesn’t melt when dipped into the chocolate.

  7. Melt the chocolate: In a microwave-safe bowl or over a double boiler, melt the chocolate until smooth. Stir in the vegan butter or coconut oil and the Happiness powder, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, or until it’s closer to room temperature. Make sure the chocolate is in a large enough bowl to fit the size of a Twix bar to be dipped and coated in the chocolate.

  8. Dip the Twix bars in the chocolate: Remove the Twix bars from the freezer. Place a baking sheet or parchment paper down underneath the cooling rack. Use a fork to dip one Twix bar into the chocolate, coating it evenly. Transfer the bar back to the cooling rack lined with parchment paper and repeat for all bars. 

  9. Chill the Twix bars: Place the cooling rack into the fridge to set the chocolate for 10-20 minutes. 

  10. Enjoy! Serve the Twix bars at room temperature and enjoy! When not eating, store the Twix bars in an airtight container and in the fridge or freezer. They’ll last for up to 5 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.

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