Most of us measure happiness as a product of various material factors like health, wealth and success. So this means that if we are healthy and successful we must be happy. Then why do we suffer from discontentment and meaninglessness despite being successful in our career and endeavours? Psychologists and biologists now believe our biochemistry has a greater level in determining how happy we are and how happy we can ever be. As Yuval Noah Harari in his book “Sapiens” said that the lasting happiness comes only from Serotonin, Dopamine and oxytocin.
Women on average are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men. Their emotions and memory centers are stronger and bigger than that of men. If they understand how their brain reacts to external stimuli, they can get a hold of their emotions and feelings before responding unreasonably. Being aware of how your brain centres work can help you be mindful of what’s going on in your head and think rationally without letting emotions get in your way. In the following points we explain the biochemical factors that are lined with female unhappiness.
It is the brain center for fear and emotions. A woman’s amygdala is more easily activated by emotional nuance. Her amygdala responds strongly to a stressful situation or a pleasant one. This amygdala response triggers her hippo-campus which is the brain centre for memory storage, to tag the details of that particular situation thus letting her remember that particular situation for a fairly long period of time.
2. Emotional mirroring
Women can feel greater body sensations than men. This means the physical pain or the emotions they feel are more intense. These body sensations help them to track and feel painful emotions. Just by observing someone in an emotional state, similar brain patterns are activated in a woman’s brain letting her stress over situation which is not even hers. This is called Emotional mirroring.
3. Estrogen and Progesterone
Estrogen is the feel good brain chemical and progesterone is the ‘relaxed and lazy’ hormone. Women whose ovaries make the most estrogen and progesterone are more resistant to stress because their brain secret more serotonin- a chemical that makes you feel relaxed and at ease. Serotonin changes in the body can cause frequent mood swings. Women tend to produce lower quantities of serotonin than men. Serotonin deficiency can cause mental health issues most notable depression and anxiety.
4. Gut feelings
Insula a region of brain that processes gut feelings is larger in women. As a woman’s brain can track body sensations easily, her gut sensations are also intense. She gives a lot of attention to her gut feelings, ponders over it for a fairly longer period of time than a man would, on an average.
5. Sexual orgasm
Female orgasm creates feelings of intimacy and trust towards partners. It boosts electrochemical activities in the body and release feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, endorphin and oxytocin. The nerves in the clitoris communicate directly with the pleasure centers of a woman’s brain. If those nerves are stimulated, they trigger a burst of feel good chemicals but if her clitoral nerves are not sensitive enough or if fear or guilt interfere at the time of stimulation there will be no orgasm. A female brain has to be turned off to turn on sexually. If she is stressed out or angry or her amygdala is on high, she would have hard time reaching orgasm.
6. High cortisol levels
Cortisol, the stress hormone, helps control blood sugar levels and regulate metabolism. But high cortisol levels can bring changes in menstrual cycle and cause anxiety and depression. Mood swings and changes to skin are also linked with it. Cortisol is made in the adrenal glands and tumor in adrenal glands can increase cortisol levels in the body.
There are also some other psychological factors that are linked with unhappiness.
• Less maternal care- children who do not get enough maternal care are more likely to be easily stressed and fearful as adults. They are more prone to anxiety disorders than those who get more maternal care.
• Communication- a female has larger communication centers in brain than men. Oral communication is quiet important for a woman for connection. Connecting through communicating activates the pleasure centers in a female brain, boosting release of dopamine (the feel good chemical).
• Conflicts- conflicts trigger negative chemical reaction in a woman’s brain. It creates stress and fear. That is why women avoid conflict at all cost. The psychological stress of a conflict is quiet intense for a woman.
• Postpartum depression- 1 out of 10 women will become stressed after giving birth within an year.it can be due to lack of emotional support, conflicts at home or previous depression.
Our biochemical system determines our happiness levels. It has evolved in a way to keep our happiness constant, neither too sad nor too happy. We might feel momentary pleasure but it quickly subsides and we are back to being the way we were before. But we all have different biochemical system. People born with cheerful biochemical system are blessed with high happiness levels. They might lose everything and everyone, go through a lot of miseries but they will remain happy. People born with gloomy biochemistry will find it hard to remain happy even if their life is perfect. It’s hard for us to break free of our biologically determined limits. If we can alter our biochemical system, we can alter our levels of happiness.