TOOLS FOR GROWING THEIR BEST BRAINS

Four Things to Make You and Your Kids HAPPY

Are you happy? Happiness is something that people hope, search and strive for. People seek happiness through food, jobs, hobbies and relationships. They buy things, exercise and help others in an attempt to feel happy.

But what is happiness? Happiness is an emotional or mental state that is the result of chemicals and hormones that our brain and body produces. Happiness is not a person, place or a thing, it’s our RESPONSE to that person, place or thing.

Unfortunately, modern life makes it challenging for many people to feel happy EVERY DAY. There are many ways to spend our time, energy and money, but not all of them make us feel good. Your amazing brain, however, knows exactly what you need to feel good and it rewards you for doing these things! They are commonly referred to as ‘feel-good chemicals’ and they make a person feel happy in different ways. Brain Essentials, founded by Victoria Jenkins, wants more parents to know about these for their kids.

First we’ll start with the prosocial chemicals, oxytocin and serotonin, which reward us for social boding and developing deep relationships. Then we’ll cover the more self-centred chemicals, endorphins and dopamine, which reward us for personal achievement and exercising.

1) CONNECT WITH OTHERS

When we connect with people we love and trust, our brain produces oxytocin. Oxytocin is often referred to as the ‘love hormone’ because we produce it in response to physical touch from our family and close friends. This is why cuddles are so important for kids because it makes them feel safe and loved. Even big, awkward teens who avoid cuddles from their parents, still need and benefit from them.

Oxytocin makes us feel safe, loved and it creates a sense of belonging. Our brain produces this chemical so that we form and maintain close, social bonds because there is safety and power in numbers.

Without oxytocin a person may feel scared, disconnected and alone. If your child or teen is withdrawn or isolating themselves, know that connection is paramount for their happiness. So tell them about oxytocin and how it benefits them, give them a hug or pat on the arm at every opportunity, and support them to form social bonds and relationships.

If they are not connecting and are reluctant to do so, focus on ways to boost their serotonin levels. This will help them to feel at ease, more confident and able to connect with others.

2) APPRECIATE PEOPLE AND NATURE

When we appreciate, take care of and help others we produce serotonin. It’s known as the ‘happy hormone’ because it impacts on our mood and creates a feeling of happiness. Serotonin is also produced in response to spending time in nature, sleeping well and by lowering stress levels. Most serotonin is produced in the gut so eating whole foods foods that are easy for an individual to digest, is important.

Serotonin makes us feel at ease, content and valued and it gives people the confidence to take risks. Our brain and gut produce this chemical as a reward for team work, being responsible and taking care of ourselves and others with food and exercise.

If your young person is avoiding others, scared to attempt new things or to go places then focus on getting them to appreciate other people and nature. There is a clear link between low levels of serotonin and anxiety and depression. So get them moving, help them to eat less processed food and to start doing things for other people who they feel comfortable with. Help them to find a greater purpose beyond themselves.

3) MOVE YOUR BODY, REGULARLY

The human body has over 600 muscles so we are designed to move! Humans are mammals so like gorillas, dogs and big cats, we need to be strong and fit to be at our best. When we move and exercise, it’s hard work for our body, so our amazing brain releases endorphins. Endorphins are actually a form of pain-relief but they feel great and make us want to exercise more.

Endorphins help a person to feel positive and energised and the word ‘euphoric’ is often used in conjunction with these chemicals. So moving your body is a sure way of helping to create the state of happiness, because you’ll be rewarded with your efforts with endorphins. This is referred to as the ‘runners high.’

If your young person avoids active movement and their body is not strong and fit, then please, help them to change this. Not only are they missing out on chemicals that make them feel energisied and euphoric, their body can’t function as it’s designed to. Move WITH THEM so that you’ll both produce oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins together. Plus they’ll get a lovely dose of dopamine for getting the job done!

4) ACCOMPLISH AND ACHIEVE

Humans are driven towards accomplishments, goals and getting things down. When we complete something our brain rewards us with dopamine. Dopamine is the boost we get after we’ve crossed something off a to-do list or achieved a goal we’ve been working towards.

Dopamine enables us to keep going, even when we’re exhausted. It feels really good so our brain releases it to encourage us to repeat behaviours. However, dopamine is the most addictive of our feel-good chemicals and our brain produces it not only when we get things done but also in response to the usual suspects; sugar, social media, alcohol and drugs.

If your young person has an unhealthy addiction to things like food, social media or alcohol then help them to get dopamine in other ways. Write some goals or a to-do list, challenge them to a race or competition, and help them to see all the things they’ve accomplished each day.

The human brain is amazing and it rewards us for doing things that make us feel happy. Help your young person to live their best life by focusing on these four things that create various states of happiness.

1) Connect with others
2) Appreciate people and nature

3) Move your body, regularly
4) Accomplish and achieve

Modern life is SO BUSY for parents so My Amazing Brain was created, to help you integrate activities into your life that benefit you and your kids. It's an A4 softcover book, chocka full of activities about Connection, Movement, Nature, Aroma, Music and Creativity. 

Visit www.brainessentials.nz for more info or to order a copy for YOUR AMAZING CHILD, today.