February 3, 2023

We always look forward to celebrating Christmas and the coming of the New Year with our loved ones and friends.
Did you ever wonder if happy social activities like reunions prolong life?
In our body there are more than 60 neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, dopamine, glutamate, insulin, oxytocin, serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphins. These are important in normal body functions because they carry signals or chemical messages from one cell to another cell like to a muscle cell or to a gland which in turn produces hormones. Neurotransmitters play a role not only in our physical health and mental health but also in our outlook in life, the way we feel, the way we react.
Pleasurable activities like happy social events, food, and rewarding situations stimulate the release in the brain of neurotransmitters like dopamine which is also called the “pleasure chemical and “happy hormone” because it is associated with happiness and joy.
Dopamine is also involved with motivation, attention, and reward processing.
While it is said that happiness is of this world where we currently live and joy is associated with a higher level and a Higher Being, oftentimes these terms are used interchangeably. Joy is something we feel not only in times of triumph and achievements but even in the midst of difficulties and challenges in our earthly life.
Proponents of Positive Psychology say that attainment of joy is aided by having an attitude of gratitude, by having a thankful heart.
Gratitude and joy in turn have been linked to longer life. These promote better health because they: Help us have a strong immune system; Relieve stress, anxiety, and depression; Reduce the sensation of pain; Help us attain a relaxed state; and Promote positivity and optimism.
In the field of Medicine, doctors find it hard to help in the healing and recovery of a person who lacks the optimism will to survive.
Reunions and bonding with loved ones and friends indeed promote joy and could translate to better health and longer life. Aside from social bonding, activities that promote the release of happy transmitters include outdoor activities, like planting a tree or nurturing your plants, exercise, cuddling a pet or a baby.
Levels of serotonin, called the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, is also increased by exercise, outdoor activities, and a good night’s sleep. Oxytocin, the love hormone has an important role in bonding and attachment.
Endorphins are neurotransmitters that minimize discomfort and maximize pleasure.
While studies say happiness and joy are in part determined by heredity (“the happy gene runs in families”), by external or environmental conditions, they can also be attained by choice.
We can choose to be grateful and to have activities to release those happy transmitters and hormones. Happiness and joy can be a matter of choice.