Do you want to live a happier and healthier life? Sure, we all do. Naturally, we need to eat right, exercise, and laugh often. But here’s a happy/healthy practice you may never have considered:
Yes, plan: plan your next vacation; your next time out for dinner; or the day you’ll finally purchase that new iPad. There is something exciting and stimulating about spontaneity, but if you want to be healthier and happier, plan out your life.
How can planning produce more happiness and better health? The answer to that question came from a rather unlikely scientific study. A number of years ago. a study was conducted of cocaine users (yes, cocaine!). The study focused on how cocaine affected the brain. The researchers knew that using cocaine boosted a chemical (neurotransmitter) in the brain called Dopamine (more on that in a second). But what they found was that not only did cocaine usage increase dopamine levels, but the anticipation of cocaine usage (just thinking about using the drug in the future), boosted dopamine levels.
Here is what dopamine does for the body and the mind.
Dopamine generates pleasurable experiences, stimulates positive thoughts, increases your sense of well-being, and increases focus. It has a stimulating effect on the heart, the circulation, the rate of metabolism, and is able to mobilize many of the body’s energy reserves. (http://www.stress-report.com/dopamine.html)
No, I am not saying to go out and find your local coke dealer. The answer is not found in the cocaine. It is found in the dopamine. Dopamine is labeled as the “expectation neurotransmitter.” Here is where the “planning” enters the picture. Every time you plan something, you build expectation toward that future event. The closer you get to the event, the more expectation you generate – and the more dopamine you release in your brain. As crazy as it sounds, anticipation makes you happier and healthier. Ironically, once you take the trip, finish the meal, or snatch up the iPad, the dopamine levels subside. In other words, once you finally get what you anticipate – the expectation is gone – and most of that positive benefit goes away. In this case, health and happiness is found in what you don’t have yet.
Construct your life around a series of expectations. Always have something new in the planning stage. The more expectation, the greater opportunity for dopamine levels to increase. Your planned life will literally increase your wellbeing. Practice this unusual key and observe the difference it makes in your life. Then see if those around you recognize a happier and healthier you.