jump to navigation

The Science of Happiness June 20, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Gratitude, Happiness, Health & Wellness, Mindfulness.

Eeyore-SittingIn  Zen and the Art of Happiness, Chris Prentiss explains why gloomy thoughts create a body that, at the cellular level, is more able to feel gloominess than joyfulness:

Each cell in our body communicates with our brain via receptor molecules located on its surface.

Cells are defined by which receptors are on its surface and whether those receptors are occupied by ligands or not.

Receptors and ligands are “information molecules” used to communicate across systems such as the endocrine, neurological, gastrointestinal, and even the immune system.  Ligands come in 3 types (neurotransmitters, steroids, and peptides).  Up to 95% of ligands may be peptides, which govern emotions.

The peptides produced in the hypothalamus gland in the brain duplicate emotions we experience ~> anger, hate, sadness, frustration, enthusiasm, happiness, and joy.

These peptides are channeled to the pituitary gland and the bloodstream, where they visit all 20-30 trillion cells in the body.

After cruising around the bloodstream, peptides dock on the millions of receptors on a cell’s surface.  There, they influence our behavior, activity levels, and mood.

That’s right . . . these teeny tiny molecular bits affect our mood.  With that kind of clout, it’s no wonder that peptides have their very own science journal.

We rely on cell division for growth, repair, and replacement of worn out cells.  An estimated 300,000,000 cell divisions occur every minute of every day.

New cells are created according to what you think and feel.  Cells created when someone is “depressed” will have more receptors for depression and fewer receptors to receive feel-good peptides.

As a result of this mechanism, we are either spiraling upwards into greater and greater happiness or downwards into greater and greater sadness, anger, fear, depression, frustration, etc.

Scruffy-CatIf we feel depressed for an hour, we produce eighteen billion new cells that have receptors calling out for depressed type peptides.

It’s as if the trillions and trillions of receptors are all cupping little hands around megaphones while shouting, “Send us more depression!”

That’s why thinking gloomy thoughts creates a body that is more able to feel gloominess than joyfulness.

The more we engage in any type of emotion or behavior, the greater our desire for it becomes ~> that’s true for depression, anger, and happiness.

We create ourselves by what we think and feel.  Once we start to manage our thoughts, our personal belief system changes and we begin to create a body that is more able to feel happiness.

Tigger-PogoWe can use our emotions and thoughts to create a body that’s more receptive to feel-good states, with a better functioning immune system.

By staying in the present moment, and choosing happiness right now, we increase our level of happiness tomorrow.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related post:  Researchers Find Link Between Peptide and Happiness  (Psych Central) * Become Susceptible to Happiness (Hindu Business Line)


1. Jill Weatherholt - June 20, 2014

I wish more people understood this concept, Nancy. The mind is such a powerful tool. I love that I’m able to decide if I’m going to have a great day or a bad one. Have a great weekend!

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

Let’s spread the word ~> “Being happy today makes it easier to be happy tomorrow.”

Here’s to creating upward spirals . . . Up Up and Away!

2. Don - June 20, 2014

Our biology is so beautiful and complex and the fact that we can work together with this biology and continually create ourselves is for me a glorious mystery. We are not victims of our biology but partners to it. Great post. Nancy.

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

I’m not convinced this summary is 100% accurate, but I am persuaded that the mind-body connection has a BIG impact on how we feel. Being unhappy puts added S~T~R~E~S~S on our immune systems.

Lightening up pays dividends. Today AND tomorrow. 😎

3. ericjbaker - June 20, 2014

This is a fascinating piece, and almost makes me want to subscribe to Peptide Science. Or at least Better Peptides and Gardens.

Although I’m pretty sure Ligands are a race of creatures in the Lord of the Rings universe.

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

Ligands remind me of:

“It was a dark and stormy night and the brigands were gathered round the fire, and the leader said, ‘It was a dark and stormy night and the brigands were gathered round the fire, and the leader said …’ ”

Peptides are wee cheerleaders with megaphones: Our internal pep squad. GO TEAM!

4. suzicate - June 20, 2014

The mind is far more powerful than most of us imagine. I’m telling these little headache thingys stomping in my head to do the happy dance…

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

Headaches stomping grapes in our heads = not fun. Hope you get them to do a happy dance soon.

5. NancyTex - June 20, 2014

Fascinating, but not unexpected. We attract what we put out there. Whether that’s a vicious cycle of negative, or a beautiful ring of joy. Thanks for sharing the science behind it.

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

Yes! Master your thoughts ~> master your life!

6. Val Boyko - June 20, 2014

Thanks for sharing the research here that supports what the sages have always known 🙂
Let’s face it – its a lot easier to listen to scientific words and data than to be told by a swami that your mind has caused illness and depression!
When science and the spirit come together it becomes so powerful.
Val x

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

Yes! Even when I “know” something to be true, I enjoy seeing a bit of the HOW and the WHY.

7. valleygrail - June 20, 2014

And that’s the truth. Here happy little peptides! Come right this way!!

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

Hope your peptides are happy campers today, VG.

valleygrail - June 20, 2014

Thanks! And yours

8. colonialist - June 20, 2014

Now, that’s what I call a real pep-(tide)-talk! 🙂

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

Peptides are like having a private pep squad on the payroll.

Go Team!

colonialist - June 20, 2014

*enter pom-pom girls*

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

This is getting better and better . . . Look! They’re doing cartwheels and flips.


9. valleygrail - June 20, 2014

WordPress, I was not done, and you sent my comment off! That’s no way to keep my peptides happy! I was saying, I hope your peptides are happy campers, too!

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

Thanks, VG! WordPress can be a bit slap happy at times. 😎

10. diannegray - June 20, 2014

This is so true it’s scary, Nancy. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard of, or known friends who become very ill after a traumatic experience or a long period of depression. We must learn to make our future brighter through understanding what happiness can give us. I know it can be really difficult when life throws bombs at us, but (as my mother always says) – it’s not what happens to you that is important, it’s how you deal with it.

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

Negative emotions (depression, anger, guilt, fear, worry) create S~T~R~E~S~S which compromises our immune system. Your mom is right ~ how we relate to the issue IS the issue.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

11. In the Stillness of Willow Hill - June 20, 2014

Once I learned that my failing health was all my own doing, things changed mightily! If someone had told me what I know now ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed them. Truth came to me in just the right doses at just the right times.

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

While I’m not convinced that all illness stems from the thoughts we think (e.g., babies who get cancer), our thoughts do impact our recovery.

For example, the Miracle Man:

Glad that you’re experiencing changes for the better!

12. livelytwist - June 20, 2014

“The more we engage in any type of emotion or behavior, the greater our desire for it becomes” Don’t like the photo of the gloomy cat. I’m reaching out for happy thoughts now! 😀

nrhatch - June 20, 2014

I figure we’re either going to live or we’re going to die. If we’re going to live, we might as well enjoy the ride. If we’re going to die, all the more reason to enjoy today.

Here’s to happy thoughts today . . . and tomorrow.

13. bluebee - June 21, 2014

Quite fascinating – perhaps these processes are the basis of gene switching.

nrhatch - June 21, 2014

Or general evolution and survival of the fittest. Change begins in the cells.

14. Behind the Story - June 21, 2014

We can’t be reminded too often about the power of our thoughts–also the power of the thoughts of people we spend time with and the things we put in our heads from reading, watching TV and movies. Thanks for the reminder. What a crazy kitten picture!

nrhatch - June 22, 2014

Exactly. Even if this explanation is not 100% accurate, it enabled me to see how being happy today might make it easier to be happy tomorrow. And I’ve often felt that we are either on an upward spiral or a downward spiral.

I agree with your about reading and movies. I try to avoid images of extreme violence and torture because I do NOT want that $%#^ in my head.

I think that cat just had a bath and didn’t appreciate being WET.

15. Pix Under the Oaks - June 22, 2014

Absolutely fascinating. This post is a great motivation to think HAPPY! That is crazy good info about peptides! Later today I am going to do some reading about those “teeny tiny molecular bits”.. 😀

nrhatch - June 22, 2014

If you find any more happy news about peptides . . . give us a pep talk.

16. jannatwrites - June 23, 2014

I’ll take more happy cells, please 🙂

nrhatch - June 23, 2014

Supersize it!

17. Three Well Beings - June 26, 2014

The statement “we create ourselves by what we think and feel” is incredibly powerful, isn’t it? Wow! It’s a greatly motivating comment, too. Get thee behind me negativity! 🙂

nrhatch - June 26, 2014

Yup! The best reason to let go of funky clunky chunky junk today is that it will be easier to let go of funky clunky chunky junk tomorrow.

What Say YOU?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: