I recently saw a documentary on Netflix regarding happiness. What I liked about it was that they really approach it from a scientific and practical point of view. What the researchers discovered was that happiness was closely related to your body’s ability to both produce dopamine and your ability to actually uptake dopamine through the number of active receptor sites. These sites tend to decrease with age in the average individual due to the “use it or lose it principle.”
Regarding humans, the research denoted that people are born with a certain happiness set-point, which is genetic and accounts for 50% of your happiness. I have noticed that my first son, Max, is pensive and serious a lot more of the time than some of his siblings. My second son, Eric, and my daughter, Vianca Patricia, seem to be happy and smiling most if not all of the time. So I can definitely see that people come with different happiness set-points.
The next factor they looked at is environment, which surprisingly only accounts for 10% of a person’s happiness. Once your survival needs are met, the research states that more houses, more cars, and more money, will not guarantee happiness. In fact, they mentioned that Japan which has become the poster child of economic growth after World War II has one of the most unhappiest populations in the world. This is due to their emphasis on work and economic growth. In a society where work becomes the primary reason of existence people die young due to stress. This new man-made stress induced disease is called Koroshi and it is real. Look it up and see for yourself.
The third factor, which accounts for a whopping 40% of happiness, has to do with how a person lives this or her life. Here is where the connection to dopamine and how your lifestyle either nurtures or hinders it becomes the greatest determinant to happiness. The good news is that you are in control of that 40%.
There are four takeaways to keep your dopamine levels high throughout life. The awesome part is that by doing so you also keep your happiness level high all the time. In this article I will discuss the first one and how you can apply it to your life.
1. Move in novel ways.
One of the keys to keeping your dopamine pumping and even more importantly, your dopamine receptors active, is to move. Even better is to move in new and novel ways.
In the documentary they show a “gorilla race” where runners dressed up in gorilla suits run down the street chasing other runners dressed as bananas. This had everyone smiling and laughing and was clearly boosting dopamine levels as evidenced by the laughs and jovial attitudes of everyone interviewed.
So the first step is actually to be able to move your body. The fastest and easiest way to regain full use of your body is through joint mobility. If you are movement compromised you will not be even be able to move in novel ways and you will start to shut down dopamine receptors. There are plenty of good joint mobility programs out there, of course I recommend you try mine which you can get here to start your work on preserving your dopamine receptors:
Regardless of which program you use, get a mobility program and do it daily. Once you have regained full use of your body then you can increase the amount of movement you do throughout the day.
Our “modern” lifestyle has people sitting down for 16-20 hours a day. How? Well, you wake up and sit down to have breakfast, drive to work sitting down, then you sit at your desk for 8 hours, then you drive home sitting down. When you get home you have dinner sitting down and to relax after work most people sit down and watch TV sitting down.
After decades of doing this most people end up both movement compromised and highly inactive. The result of this is losing dopamine receptors and decreased happiness.
The simplest and most powerful thing people can do regarding movement and health is to regain full use of their body through joint mobility and walk 10,000 steps a day. If you do this you will slow down the rate at which dopamine receptors shut down.
However, to boost your dopamine and keep the receptors active for the longest time possible you need to move in novel ways. That’s why learning new disciplines and including a lot of variation into whatever routines you already do is vital to maintaining dopamine dominance and keeping your happiness levels high.
For example, if you only work out with a single kettlebell, then learn the double kettlebell drills. Pick up a new discipline or add a swimming workout every now and then for variety. If you only work with barbells and dumbbells try learning some challenging bodyweight movements. If you have never learned the proper way to squat and deadlift then do so. If you have never learned how to break a fall then pick up a judo, jiu-jitsu, or Aikido class to learn this skill. Once you do so you can choose to leave, or if you like it, stay and learn how to defend yourself.
If you have not worked out in a long time and would like an effective blueprint to take you from untrained civilian to combat ready shape, then you can try out my Extreme Military Fitness Basic course which only uses bodyweight exercises and a single kettlebell to build a solid foundation and keep your dopamine levels high and humming.
If you are an intermediate to advanced level trainee then you can try out Extreme Military Fitness Elite which adds plenty of novelty through double kettlebell drills, explosive MMA drills, medicine balls, bungee cord drills, bodyweight exercises, and mental toughness training to become strong, conditioned and virtually keep those dopamine receptors active and alive for a long time.
If you are already involved in a fitness program or engaged in a discipline then look at novel ways in which to express yourself through movement. If it brings a smile to your face and increases laughter and enjoyment then you are doing it right.
In Summary, to boost your dopamine and increase your happiness:
1. Regain full use of your body through joint mobility.
2. Have a daily movement goal of 10,000 steps.
3. Have a physical movement regimen that makes you move in different ways than you are normally used to.
In my next article I will talk about the second thing you can do to boost your dopamine levels though lifestyle and keep your happiness levels soaring.
If you are involved in any way in the art of training people then please use any or all of the information in this article to help you articulate the importance and connection between movement, dopamine, and happiness.