Dopamine and Words — The Intimate Connection to Happiness

Karthik Rajan
5 min readJan 9, 2018

What is your measure for happiness?

“Let us make up our own game,” I shared with my 7-year-old. She was equally animated.

The tiles on the floor gave me an idea. The game was simple (see picture above) — speak aloud a positive word and jump forward.

And the words trickled — good, excellent, fabulous, delighted and more. As we crossed each other, we turned 180 degrees and continued by jumping backwards facing each other. We played the game, back and forth, for a couple of rounds.

Soon, positive words were in short supply and so, we switched to “something that makes you happy.” Personally, I was glad we improvised. As parents, we all have prisms on what small things make our children happy and my daughter surprised me [more about this later].

As I reflect back, what amazed me the most was how we had to pause and think for positive words — they did not pour out at a pace I had taken for granted.

When I shared this with a friend of mine, a teacher, she was sympathetic. When she gathered her kindergarteners in a circle, she had asked them to say something positive to the kid on their left. Almost all of them paused and pondered. The best line she had heard from her most articulate kid who looked up and down at the neighbor and said, “your hair looks good today.”

Puzzled, I researched. Per Tony Robbins, who used the Roget’s Thesaurus as a guide.

In other words, only 1/3 rd of the emotive words are positive! When I saw that, my respect for Abraham Lincoln grew manifold. Here is why.

Emotions sway us both ways — that is ingrained in our human construct. The more you position to speak only the good — it is great on paper and closer to a crash diet in the short run. I believe Abraham Lincoln found the perfect balance that made him one of the wisest man to walk this earth. The story below exemplifies it best.

He wrote a letter to a General, George Meade, after the Battle of Gettysburg. He did not sign it. He poured his words on paper reflecting and respecting the natural emotions he was endowed with. The letter was part of his unsent collection. Truly a measure of success for this great man — what he chose to…



Karthik Rajan

Stories to fuel your mind. Theme: life’s hidden treasures in plain sight. Goal: Warm tone, solid content, crisp stories. About me: one google search away.