Happiness Upgrade Podcast

S1 E18: Get a spike in happiness by being surprised

October 05, 2022 Gabrielle Lichterman Season 1 Episode 18
Happiness Upgrade Podcast
S1 E18: Get a spike in happiness by being surprised
Show Notes Transcript

Sometimes, a boost in joy can come from the most surprising places. But, surprisingly enough, simply being surprised spurs a spike in happy emotions, too! Tune into this week’s episode to find out why researchers say that humans are naturally wired to feel good from an unexpected twist or pleasant shock. Then, find out my 7 suggestions for fitting a mood-boosting surprise into your life. 

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Sometimes, a boost in joy can come from the most surprising places. But, surprisingly enough, simply being surprised spurs a spike in happy emotions, too! Keep listening to find out why researchers say that humans are naturally wired to feel good from an unexpected twist or pleasant shock. Then, find out my 7 suggestions for fitting a mood-boosting surprise into your life.

Hello! Welcome to another episode of the Happiness Upgrade Podcast. I’m your host, Gabrielle Lichterman, health journalist and author of the book The Happiness Upgrade: One Small Step Up to a Happier Life. In each episode, I share one easy study-backed method to improve your mood. I also give you my 7 suggestions for ways to try the technique. Now for this episode’s Happiness Upgrade tip….

Have you ever been surprised by what kind of experience could put you in a good mood, for instance, the simple pleasure of a first sip of tea or realizing that a new season of your favorite TV show has just started? 

Well, it turns out the very act of being surprised can boost your mood, too. Of course, the surprise has to be harmless, for instance, being shocked by the loud, jarring booms at a firework display or getting startled by a friend who plays a playful prank on you by unexpectedly jumping out from behind a door. 

So, what makes the act of being surprised such a tried-and-true mood-booster? Researchers say it’s because of a certain chemical, dopamine, that’s released in the brain when we encounter something unexpected, but not harmful. This chemical delivers a rewarding sensation, and that’s the kind of feeling you get when someone gives you money or when you eat delicious food when you kiss someone that you find attractive. 

Knowing all this is helpful since it means you can harness the power of surprise to give yourself a surge of feel-good dopamine whenever you want. That’s because it doesn’t take big shocks to trigger a dopamine spike. Even small surprises will produce pleasure-inducing dopamine.

So, how can you find ways to surprise yourself to get a Happiness Upgrade this week? Here are my 7 suggestions: 

1. Watch a sports game or other competitive event. A 2021 study out of Princeton University found that sports are filled with dopamine-spurring surprises thanks to the unexpected plays, like a baseball player stealing home. Not into sports? Then watch a few minutes of a stand-up comedy routine on YouTube or read a book of jokes. The unexpected twists you didn’t see coming at the end of jokes can be enough of a surprise to produce a spurt of pleasure-inducing dopamine!

2. Sample a bunch of differently flavored jellybeans. But, pick each one without looking at them so you don’t know which flavor you’re eating. This way, you can get surprised by which one is in your mouth. Don’t eat sugar? Then try this hidden food trick with different foods, such as an assortment of cut up veggies or flavored rice cakes.

3. Pop a balloon. Whether you squeeze it till it pops or stick it with a sharp pin, the loud explosion will surely surprise you.

4. Read part of a thrilling novel. They usually have a surprising cliffhanger at the end of every chapter! 

5. Tune into Pandora or another streaming music service and select a radio station that they’ve curated, such as the Beatles or Rage Against the Machine. Because these services add their own songs that are like these artists, you could be surprised by what songs you end up hearing. 

6. Make a visible change in your home or workspace. For example, hang a festive wreath on your front door or post a smiley face on your bathroom mirror. Whenever you spot something new in your environment, the novelty of it gives you a quick spurt of dopamine. 

7. Seek out activities that are filled with scary surprises, such as visiting a haunted house or taking a ghost tour. Or watch a horror film where surprises lurk behind every door. Research shows that scary surprises are just as effective at producing mood-lifting dopamine as pleasant surprises. Which is probably why so many of us love a good fright!

Those were my 7 suggestions for finding ways to surprise yourself to boost happiness. I hope you find them helpful.

Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Happiness Upgrade Podcast. I hope the mood-boosting tips that you heard today help you give yourself a Happiness Upgrade. 

This podcast was inspired by my book, The Happiness Upgrade: One Small Step Up to a Happier Life. This book shows you how small, easy actions can halt an unwanted negative mood and lead to a rise in happiness. You can find my book, The Happiness Upgrade, at Amazon. 

If you enjoyed this episode of the Happiness Upgrade Podcast, please subscribe to it and share it with friends. I try to get this podcast out every week, but let’s say it’s every weekish or so. You can always find more easy happiness-boosting tips in my book, The Happiness Upgrade.

To learn more about the Happiness Upgrade Podcast, visit HappinessUpgrade.com. And follow me on TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by searching @happinessupgrade.

The Happiness Upgrade Podcast is written, edited and produced by me, Gabrielle Lichterman. If you like this show, please rate it. This helps other listeners find independently-created podcasts like mine. 

I would love to connect with you and know how you give yourself a Happiness Upgrade. So, send me an email at Gabrielle@HappinessUpgradePress.com. 

I hope your week is filled with happiness!