Day 18 of The Alcohol Experiment: tolerance-busting and happiness-boosting.
Annie starts this lesson with a quick note on tolerance, followed up with a long video on science-based happiness boosters. I’ll follow suit!
I used to wear my high tolerance for alcohol as a badge of honor, earned after years spent endeavoring to keep up with my guy friends at college parties, NYC bars, and weddings. Eventually I began to resent my high tolerance, annoyed that I had to drink so much to get the sort of pleasant buzz I wanted. And after that, the buzz started feeling less pleasant and more just… necessary. Ugh.
What I didn’t realize, and what Annie teaches us here, is that when your brain releases dynorphin to counter the effects of alcohol, the dynorphin doesn’t dial down just the pleasure you get from alcohol, but from everything else too! And who wants that?!
One thing I’ve noticed since taking these breaks from alcohol recently is how much more I am enjoying my kids. They still push my buttons every day of course, but the sweet moments are so much sweeter now. I would love to hear what other participants have noticed since taking this break!
Switching gears to happiness boosters:
Annie starts with a discussion on growth mindset vs. fixed mindset. I have learned a lot about this from my kids’ wonderful nursery school, where growth mindset is ingrained in the philosophy and mission. I never realized that I grew up with a fixed mindset until my first nursery school parent meeting where this idea was discussed. Such an epiphany for me, and I have been trying to overcome my fixed mindset and encourage a growth mindset in my kids ever since!
I grew up basically pigeon-holing myself. If I wasn’t good at something right away, then I believed I would never be good at it and I moved on to something else. Luckily I was good at enough things to have a happy childhood and adolescence. But looking back, I feel like I missed out on so much because I didn’t have the confidence to try things I might have really enjoyed. That is a fixed mindset.
Then we have my daughter. Last year, at age five, she decided she wanted to try mixed martial arts. She joined a class of kids, mostly boys, aged 5-7. She had NO CLUE what she was doing, but she just went for it – jumping jacks, push-ups, punches, even flying kicks! She was the only new student in the class, and some of the kids were considerably more advanced and older than she was. But she LOVED it, and she’s been going ever since. Now she is one of the top-ranked kids in the class. That is a growth mindset.
A growth mindset, as Annie Grace defines it, means you believe you can enhance certain areas of your life through focus and effort. You believe you can change your abilities – and that is more important to you than believing in your natural abilities. This extends to happiness. With a fixed mindset, you believe you are stuck at your current level of happiness. With a growth mindset, you believe you can increase your level of happiness with conscious effort.
What are some ways to do this? Annie lays them out for us, of course! These are scientifically-proven ways to boost happiness:
Exercise – hello, endorphins!
Meditation – chillax and ye shall receive.
Gratitude – you can condition your mind to appreciate the good stuff, which leads you to expect good stuff, which leads to more good stuff comin’ atcha!
Active leisure activities – practicing a hobby, game, or sport challenges your brain and increases your energy.
Social bonds – finding and nurturing relationships with people or groups in ways that do not involve alcohol (how about some active leisure activities?) is deeply rewarding.
Helping others – the most potent way to increase the joy in your own life! Lending a helping hand to those in need releases oxytocin, which helps us become more empathetic, courageous, and confident. Being part of a cause that is bigger than ourselves gives us a huge boost.
I can attest to the power of helping others, as I’m sure many of you can. My stepdad passed away from colon cancer in 2004. Since then I have logged thousands of volunteer hours in various capacities for a handful of colon cancer awareness organizations. I have made wonderful friends and colleagues, worked with an incredible community of survivors and fellow caregivers, and felt like I have made a difference in the fight against a disease that took someone I loved way too soon. When I am in the midst of a project or attending an event for colon cancer awareness, I feel like I am my best self. I am buzzing, vibrant, confident, and truly happy.
So once again, Annie Grace: nail on the head.
[The Alcohol Experiment is a free, interactive 30-day program designed by Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind. For more information: www.alcoholexperiment.com.]