BLP A-Z of Learning English: «H» for «HAPPINESS»

BLP A-Z of Learning English: «H» for «HAPPINESS»

Karen Thorley

H is for happiness – while learning English!!

There are many definitions of happiness, but I like this one:

Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good and you can’t help but smile. It’s the opposite of sadness. Happiness is a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment. When people are successful, or safe, or lucky, they feel happiness.


The science of happiness – Our brain chemicals were inherited from earlier animals that we evolved from – and these chemicals flow when stimulated. Basically, they are stimulated by one of two human reactions to any situation:

? Reward (positive outcome) = survival   
☹ Threat (negative outcome) = threat to survival

So basically, as long as we avoid danger and threats, unpleasant, negative things, we survive, and happiness is the result. So, happiness isn’t about being happy all the time.… the “happiness” chemicals come in short spurts, so we need to make an effort to find a way to trigger them. And as the brain likes these happy chemicals, it wants to get more, so this motivates us to replicate the situations that provoke them again and again.

What is the feeling of happiness exactly?

The brain registers happiness through four different chemicals:

Dopamine – is released in the process of achieving reward and releases energy in order to get it. Then it drops again once you get it your reward, until the next time. The brain remembers this and stores the information about the experience till the next time, then it starts working in anticipation, even before the next reward is achieved .

Endorphins – produce the feeling of “europhia”, which masks pain and injury, so that we can push on; in fact, they are triggered by pain, they evolved to protect us in emergencies, but we also get endorphins from physical exercise (ie running away from a bear for survival and now running a marathon for satisfaction) Endorphins are released as the brain considers that we are “promoting” survival and so rewards us. In modern life, however, the concept of “survival” can be ambiguous or confusing and therefore causes more stress than necessary.

Oxytocin – the bonding or “love” hormone, makes you feel safe, so you can relax and enjoy yourself. It is stimulated by trust, touch, love and sex and it is selective – we can’t trust and have sex with everyone. Oxytocin needs continuous stimulation, otherwise it disappears (it is metabolised back into the body), so we need make sure we are near people who are good for us.

Serotonin – is the chemical released at the pleasure of social dominance. This is not aggressiveness, just a sense of “getting what you want or need” and under safe conditions. Like Oxytoxin, it is metabolised quickly, so requires a lot of stimulus.

The electricity in our brain sends these chemicals on their way as soon as it receives the trigger, the stimulus, which it will quickly associate with past positive memories. Up to the age of 8, we produce it easily, but after 8 we need a lot of repetition to recognise the signs, especially if something is a new activity and we don’t know whether to run away or enjoy it, like learning English.!!

When learning something new, we need to build new neural circuits… slowly but surely… with little, reachable goals to celebrate and enjoy. It requires determination, consistency and patience:

Imagine an overgrown jungle, where it is difficult to walk, or even see where you are going properly. But slowly, and with great effort, and the right tools, you manage to chop and trample a new path, little by little, to get to a beautiful hidden lake … a new place for your happiness hormones to flow

Remember: These steps must be small and repeated, for the brain to recognise the habits of a happy brain

YOUR GOALS – try the following:

Set yourself very specific and reachable, short term goals, so instead of “I’m going to make a path all the way through the jungle to the hidden lake”, you say “I’m going to chop the two trees ahead of me, so I can move forward better”…..

so with English you can say “I need to improve my English” which is a big job, and doesn’t have very clear steps, just an overall not very clear direction, or you can say “I’m going to work on incorporating 5 new expressions into my conversation in the next week”

Or “I’m going to focus on negative conditional sentences for two weeks”

Or “I’m going to listen to three pod casts in English a week for a month…

Small, realistic goals which will bring you satisfaction…When you reach these goals, you’ll get the different chemicals going and will feel good, happy again and again.

Synonyms for happy

12 Vocabulary/Expressions

  1. My son looked very pleased with himself with his excellent school marks: He looked like the cat that’s swallowed the canary.
  2. I feel like I’m walking on air, with this new promotion, the company car and flat, it doesn’t seem real.
  3. He was as pleased as punch with his new kitchen.
  4. She was on cloud 9 after he asked her to marry him.
  5. I was on top of the world, I had money, love, health and happiness…what more could I want?
  6. She was over the moon when the doctor told her she was pregnant!!
  7. I was tickled pink with the attention I got from the boss about my project. I didn’t expect it.
  8. Hello, you’re looking happy – full of the joys of spring.
  9. Thanks for the flowers, they made my day.
  10. They’re in love, they’re in seventh heaven.
  11. I was thrilled to bits for my sister and the news of her promotion.
  12. We were jumping for joy when the bank gave us our £20,000 prize!!

When is the last time you jumped for joy ?????

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