When I was just a little child (little child)
Happiness was there awhile (there awhile)
And from me it… it slipped one day
Happiness come back I say
Cause if you don’t come
I’ve got to go looking
The level of dopamine found in humans, (a chemical found in your body that can be attributed to emotion), begins to decrease beginning at around age 20. Lowered levels of dopamine are found to be links to causes of Parkinson’s, ADHD, and schizophrenia. It has been attributed to the addiction of sugars and cigarettes. It can be blamed for lust or craving. It has had numerous fingers pointing at it declaring it to be the responsible party for lack of motivation and attention. Dopamine regulates mood and metabolism. In fact, scientists have found that rats with obesity have dramatically lower levels of dopamine. It is probably the most well-known chemical in our brains, it has even been referred to as “the Kim Kardashian of molecules”. It can be attributed to so many mental illnesses, the studies really are only just beginning.
Sometimes I wonder if this beautiful feeling has to be so fleeting? I see my boys react with such unabashed joy to the simplest things; laundry basket boats, flower petals, jumping, splashing, monster trucks, sitting in the car, breakfast, cake, oh cake, “fast” sneakers, grasshoppers, trees, bubbles, the list goes on and on- and when I see this I can’t help but think, “I want that too.”. It seems unfair that these everyday occurences mean so much to new eyes, and become mundane and normal just two decades later. I have heard that 50% of your “happiness” can be attributed to your genetics. 10% is related directly to money (though interestingly enough, once your basic needs can be met, money does virtually nothing to the level of ones happiness), and the other 40% is up to the human being themselves. It is their choice. It is our choice.
There are specific things that people can do to increase happiness, build close friendships, stay in contact with family and community, exercise, have a varying schedule, pursue something you are passionate about, get in the “zone” or in a “groove” with something where your mind is taken by the subject, breathe fresh air… but these are things we know already. And sometimes, even still, it is difficult to slap on a smile, or find the joy in the not much.
As a mom, sometimes as a very tired mom both mentally and physically, it is overwhelmingly difficult to muster up the energy to make this choice. But I swear I try. And the trying often turns into pretending, and pretend long enough and you just are. It works. It really does.
Sometimes just by proximity a bit of that wonder occasionally spills over onto me. And when it does, I feel free.
It’s easy to trudge through motherhood changing diapers, making meals, cleaning up after them, mopping milk, changing more diapers, breaking up fights, planning, more cooking, more breaking up fights, more everything, and never seeing the light. A conscious effort is necessary at times. But it can be done.
Because honestly, there is so much to smile at.