The Bus of Happiness - or how finding your DOSE of happiness puts you in the driver's seat of your life.

At the request of several clients, this month we're reproducing our most popular post from October 2018.....

For the past 12 months I’ve been head down in study, research and running workshops and  haven’t shared a lot of newsletters.  My IT guy, the wonderful Bob, assures me that the world is moving more towards the blog, but until we (he) gets that sorted – happy reading…….

 ‘If happiness is good medicine, how do you get your dose?’ and ‘If life is a journey, who’s driving your bus?’ These were the 2 questions that were the theme of a national staff training program I was recently involved in.  The goal of my programs in to help participants  discover their own answers, and in what was a true atmosphere of co-operation, here’s what we came up with.

DOSE, as it relates to happiness, stands for Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins, the neurotransmitters and hormones that create that happy feeling.  They, of course, lead right into the bus question.  You can either sit in the passenger’s seat and just let life happen, or step up and ensure you get a daily DOSE of happiness to keep you in the driver’s seat.   

Dopamine is a motivator.  It’s released when you’re doing something you find pleasurable, and your brain loves it, it wants more.  As wonderful as it is to celebrate reaching one of our goals, we should also celebrate the journey, I create what I call sub-goals, the parts that create the whole.  Sub-goals act as sign posts for our progress and celebrating each one sets us up for repeated hits of dopamine, which not only makes us feel good but motivates us to keep going.  It even works with the seemingly un-fun stuff.  If you think you’re running a little low on motivation, all you need to do is to find just a tiny bit of fun in whatever you’re doing and celebrate that you’re doing it to boost your dopamine levels.  Use dopamine to your advantage, more celebration = more dopamine = more motivation = more to celebrate = (you get the picture). 

In our workshops we decided that dopamine provides the motivation that is the fuel that keeps both us and the bus of life moving. 

Oxytocin is often referred to and the hugging hormone.  It’s released when we feel connected to others, and it creates and strengthens the bonds of relationships.  A smile, a kind word, or simply taking time to really be with someone, all cause the release of oxytocin, but as the catchy phrase suggests, the best way to raise your oxytocin levels is to share a hug.  Not sure if hugging is appropriate – contact us to find out about the ‘permission to hug rug’!  Like dopamine, use oxytocin to your advantage – feel connected = oxytocin release =  more connection through smiles and even hugs = oxytocin release =  more connections through smiles and even hugs  =  on and on……

Oxytocin, we decided, is the hormone that makes sure we aren’t always travelling alone.

Serotonin flows when we feel significant or important, when we feel grateful, and through the absorption of a few (not to many) UV rays.  Yes, that’s (a part of) the reason getting out into the sunshine makes us feel good.  The key word here is feel, and we can create the feeling of significance or importance just by thinking about things we’ve done well, and we can create feelings of gratitude just by being thankful.  Serotonin production is one of the key reasons why so many people continue to keep gratitude diaries and many people I know also keep achievement diaries.  Writing down the things we are grateful for, or recording our accomplishments not only makes us feel good, reading back over the entries causes a serotonin release that can boost our happiness.

So….  serotonin helps remind us to practice gratitude and recognise our achievements on our journey.

Last but not least are Endorphins, which are released as a response to pain and stress, and help to alleviate anxiety.  Endorphins diminish the perception of pain.  Most of us know that feeling of getting our ‘second wind’, some people call it the ‘runners high’.  That’s the endorphins kicking in.  Endorphins are produced by exercise, why not quadruple up for a real DOSE of happiness: exercise (endorphins); in the sunshine (serotonin); connecting with people you pass (oxytocin); and congratulating yourself on your progress (dopamine).  Or, you could just laugh!  One of the easiest ways to induce an endorphin release is to laugh, or to simply think about laughing.  Yes, the mere expectation of laughter also causes the release of endorphins.  And yes, that’s what my research, my work, my workshops and my life, are all about, discovering and sharing strategies for finding the laughter, the joy, the hints of happiness in every day.  Many people call me the laugher lady, the group decided to call me the endorphinator.  That made me smile. 

Endorphins, we decided, make for a happy journey.

So there we have it.  Both questions answered.  We can get our DOSE of happiness by practicing a few simple techniques, and they really are simple: Celebration to create dopamine to fuel the bus of life; connections to create oxytocin to ensure we aren’t always travelling alone; gratitude and focus on our achievements to create serotonin and ensure  journey filled with gratitude and achievement; and laughter to boost our endorphins to ensure our journey is a happy one.  Used in combination as a daily DOSE of happiness they serve to keep us firmly in the driver’s seat in our bus of life.    

As a final note, as a group we also reminded ourselves that not every moment will be happy, sometimes life will give us flat tire, or a broken window or a million other things that can go wrong with the bus of life, we might need to get the bus serviced (chat with a professional), or clean the bus (take a holiday), but if we take our DOSE of happiness on a regular basis, we might stay in the driver’s seat and enjoy most, if not all of the journey.  


Keep smiling and happy journeys.

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About Let’s Laugh

Creators of inspirational workshops and presentations

that explore emotional and physical wellbeing 

through the neuroscience of Laughter, Mindfulness,

Breath Work, Mindful Movement and

Awesome Aging programs.




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          Blackburn North
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