The BEST HOLIDAYS YET! Contagiousness of Celebration (Part 5) Contagiousness of Celebration lets you get the most out of your celebrations. This is Part 5 of a six part series, exploring how to have the BEST HOLIDAYS YET:Curb those Grinches touched upon why emotional conversations happen and how to curb those arguments. Herculean Willpower—or Not,showed you how to keep your willpower and waistline intact over the holidays. These last entries help you grasp the true spirit of the holidays.
What do It’s a Wonderful Life, Charlie Brown’s Christmas and A Christmas Carol all have in common? These movies all share a common secret to truing enjoying the holiday season.
The secret starts with something that is invisible. No it’s not the Christmas spirit; it is a neurotransmitter called, dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical produced in the brain that is widely associated with our reward system causing motivation and enjoyment. When you do eat or see something that your body likes (e.g. food, walking, sex, etc.), your brain releases dopamine. A little dopamine is stored in your memories so when you experience that same trigger (seeing your kids, tasting peanut butter cookies, etc.) your brain starts releasing dopamine before you actually experience the reward of the experience. (Taste those peanut butter cookies?) Under the sway of dopamine, you begin to want, desire and crave something before you actually have it!
The dopamine is a dual edged sword since it causes the initial sensation of enjoyment/happinessand the promise of a reward. This way you are motivated to act to get the actual reward. Your rider is not consciously aware of it, but your elephant is driven by this cycle. In short, this is the basic elements of habit formation and why habits are so powerful.
But habit formation is for another entry, this entry is explaining how to get more enjoyment for your holidays, which we discuss in the final article in this series.