Recently, an old friend of mine came to visit me and it seemed like he just popped out of nowhere, on a rainy day, in a motorcycle, in another city, on a day that I was fasting. Still, I decided to meet him, and we had one of our best days. We had a small night ride, some story sharing, and a great dinner. He said he was so happy and excited riding hundreds of miles leaving behind his depressing past. I didn’t know why, but I was so happy and excited for the small time we spent together and just a ten-mile ride. After that, I went on a learning quest to know what made me so happy that day, so I can create such a day again. Also, I wanted to know why he was so happy about his motorcycle ride, and I know many people who went on such rides and all of them say it was a great experience and in some way made them happy, including a woman from India by the name of Sana Iqbal, who rides hundreds of miles across India and Nepal. She increases suicide and depression awareness and promotes happiness.
I thought this research would be good information for everyone, especially for those who are having depressing and hopeless times.
I think the first and foremost reason why we were happy, was because we were old time buddies. In the past, we did a lot of fun things together, went through a lot of trouble together, and these things create a bond in people. So that was the first reason for me being so excited to meet him, even though it was quite hard for me. When you meet an old friend of yours, it’s said the neurochemical for relationships are released, called oxytocin. It causes a release of serotonin, which is basically a feel good chemical which makes you feel satisfied. Also, it can cause the part of the brain responsible for ‘fear’ to relax. This is the reason why you feel so calm and relaxed and protected when your best friend or your loved one is beside you when you are facing a difficult situation. The same reason why people in love get that strong feeling that ‘no matter what happens I will stay beside you!’
Since we talked about love, let’s step out of my friend’s story and complete some more facts related to love. The other side of love is sex and generally, sex releases the happy neurochemical called dopamine, which gives you pleasure in doing certain things. A lack of dopamine is what can make you depressed. There are these opinions going on whether dopamine gives you pleasure or dopamine is something that seeks out, because we may get pleasure from seeking, from anticipation than doing the actual thing. Whatever that may be, we know sex can make you happy, for the orgasm part of it, and because it involves touch, and touching and massaging can also release happiness neurochemicals, so can love. So maybe getting married and exploring a lot of possibilities with your partner can create happiness.
Coming back to the story, the next factor that could have made both of us happy, would be the riding part. But what about riding? See, it’s in the exploration part. He was not from that city, and I mostly hang out in that city, but still he took me to this remote area which I had never seen before. Exploring new places can release dopamine. So that explains one reason why he felt so happy riding hundreds of miles exploring new places.
Talking about exploration, we get the same feeling when we learn something new, or when you randomly check out some new things online. So if you are a gadgets person, going through the latest mobile phones can give you that feeling, or it could be the latest jewelry, or the latest cars or anything that might be that interests you. I not only like the exploration part in online shopping, I actually get things for myself. Sounds weird and messed up, but I buy myself gifts, and I prefer buying things online, firstly for this exploration fun, secondly getting gifts can make you happy, so you can increase the frequency of the gifts you are getting by giving yourself gifts, and the fact that it takes time for the goods to arrive in your home, you probably forgot about the thing you bought and you get the surprise and the feeling you have when looking at a packed gift, I am sure you won’t get it when you just buy it from the store.
Getting back to our main story, I don’t think it’s just the exploration part which gives you that happy feeling. When you are riding, you are in control. Many of us are depressed because we feel like we lost control in our lives, we lose that confidence we had because nothing we do works and we feel like a loser. When you ride, you are in total control of the motorcycle. It feels good to be in control. I know this, because driving is one of my favorite things, especially when I am down. I am basically an introvert and I don’t do much talking, but whenever I drive and there are others in the car, I take control of the conversation, I feel much more excited and confident. Why? Because I feel I am in charge, and I have the control to myself.
The next factor which adds to the pleasure is the miles we travel, we are not taking a test ride here, we are traveling distances with a machine that is under our control. We are accomplishing things. Something which I learned from cycling is that the smaller the targets the better. Say you decide to go on a hundred miles ride, if that’s your target and you cannot do it then you can get upset. But at the same time, if we take each ten miles as targets, we are happy on completion of each target, and this further gives you energy and confidence to do more. That is the reason why experts suggest to fragment your targets into smaller milestones. But don’t make it too easy either, it’s comparable to games, we get bored of games that are so hard and impossible to finish and the games that are too easy. Have you considered all these addicting games? They are simple games, with targets, that can be reached by almost anyone, we just have to put our effort, and we would do that because that gives us dopamine and we get going! Mixing this point to the previous one to make a small tip, you can make small milestones and reward yourself when you reach them. This works especially when you study, get your favorite snack when you reach a target and when you get into bigger targets go out or buy yourself something.
Another thing that we did that day was having some great food like beef, chicken, egg etc. Now these foods, contain an amino acid called tyrosine, which promote dopamine activity. So we already understood the reason why we woo women with gifts, and now we understand what’s the wisdom behind sharing chocolate with your loved one.
Then we have the adversities and fun that you share with anyone when you are together. In our short ride, we had rain and some uncertainty in the air because of our tight schedule. But people who go for rides in groups for long distances face many issues and they deal with it staying together. So we see these movies about some sort of disaster, and this boy and girl find time to fall in love between all of that. That’s very natural!
Connecting with nature is also an important factor that promotes well-being. When you ride, you are much more connected to the road, and the weather conditions. It’s said sunlight promotes dopamine activity too. So go out and enjoy nature more.
But the most important factor, that made both of us happy, was the fact that we were old time friends, who spent years together. There is this beautiful thing about memories. Your old best friend, your childhood love, these people can have a stronger impact on the way you feel. We could use memories to be upset like we could have used this small time we had, to complain how less we contacted each other. You could cry thinking about the relationships you have lost, but the beautiful thing is, if you just focus on the good aspects, the good memories, you feel great happiness and motivation. We all have some memories, some relations that had a profound effect on us. These people still may have profound effects on you if you just bring them to your memory. Cherish the good sides of it, the effect is maximized, think of the bad sides, the effect is again maximized. So we have a choice to make it to the good side or the bad side.
Even if your friends are far away and unreachable, social media gives you the same feeling. You feel connected, you appreciate the small silly things we do there socially, you like it when you are ‘liked’, commented on, you even like it when you show some activity on your friend’s profiles. It gives you a good feeling to feel a part of the community, even to ‘share’ some good things and benefitting others. Mostly everything you do on social media gives you high dopamine activity. Now you know why some people get addicted to it.
Since we talked about motorcycle rides, and I hinted about cycling, I think we should also discuss something, one of the best things to create dopamine naturally and to be happy. Exercise. Exercise motivates you, as it promotes dopamine activity too. I found exercise highly impactful in my mood and my motivation and even in my sleep. For that part of it, I found cycling more helpful for me than going to the gym and taking weights.
But going to the gym and lifting weights and building my body did have an effect on how I felt about myself. Make yourself look good, enjoy yourself in the mirror, see the change, I found all of these motivating. Also, you should try to get the best clothing for you that suits you in the best way, and find yourself being more confident and happy.
When you say you are depressed, some people say happiness is something you create. It’s true for some personality types, they could just create that mood, they can be great actors. But for me, I have always found it impossible to simply act. But when I was young, I wanted to be an actor, and I found out a method which works for me. If I wanted to act out crying, I couldn’t just do it like some actors can, but I need some time, and I focus on something, some memory which upset me, and I could cry. So if you are the type who find it hard to create happiness, maybe you should just focus on some good memory, or talk to a good old friend, or anyone who can inspire you and motivate you.
There are two such hacks which people suggest, which is based on a past experience and you reliving it. One is to take a straw and drink a glass of water with it. One feels good because it simulates what you did as a baby, therefore naturally releasing dopamine. Another such example is to go to a beach or seashore. It’s said you feel good because when you were in the womb of your mother, you heard a similar sound that is similar to the sea waves. This is why it relaxes you.
Another thing which promotes dopamine activity is meditation. Connecting to our soul, connecting to our purpose. This is why it’s important not just to do things and get results, but also keep doing something which is of a higher purpose. Even for people who think they have no friends, they can feel good if they just do something that benefits the society. And sometimes you are too depressed that you don’t want any kind of social interaction, trust me, it can be hard, but the try is worth it.
Before I conclude, let me remind you that these are natural ways to promote happiness activities in your brain. But still, there are chances you get addicted to any of these. The only point I want to make is that it’s possible to create happiness by actively trying to involve in any of these things mentioned. Always live your life in a happy way, don’t worry about others, there are people who told my friend that he is crazy because he was going on these rides. You want to do things that make you happy but people would ask you what’s the benefit of it, etc. Whatever it is that makes you happy, do it, as long as you don’t hurt anyone by it. Live your life to the fullest, add value, add meaning.
So, like I said, do the things for that higher purpose, benefit the society, like and share this, and help propagate this message that I believe is good, make others happy by it, make me happy by it, and I am sure you would be happy with it too, because you tried to make everyone happy.
Make this place a better happy place. Be happy 🙂