I’m going to reference a study from Dec of 2005 that I recently ran across. The study involved people with chronic depression and looked at the effect of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy conducted over a 3-month timeframe (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16005439?report=abstract&format=text).
VNS involves “applying mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. These pulses are supplied by a device something like a pacemaker,” (http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy/devices/vagus-nerve-stimulation-vns).
They measured hormones to determine effects of the VNS therapy. They found that “some measures of cortisol response were elevated before treatment and were reduced to normal over the study period.” In addition, they found “significant reductions in depression scores over the study period.”
While a reduction in depression scores doesn’t automatically result in happiness, one could imagine that living with a lighter sense of being opens up the possibility to experience more happiness in daily life.
How does Somatics fit into this? The way we do our Somatics involves specific breathing and muscle movement that stimulates the vagus nerve. If you are doing your movements and you experience a sense of calmness, digestive sounds from your stomach, longer exhales than inhales, calmer heart beat, you are most likely entering the parasympathetic side of your autonomic nervous system. This is not so much a happy state, although it is the rest, recovery side of the nervous system and can help improve your immune response, digestive issues, reproductive issues, etc. It’s really nice to let your body operate in that mode for some time each day, as a sort of self-healing process. The minute you go into the stress response (sympathetic activation), you turn on all the chemical and physical responses that go along with that state, which are the reverse of the parasympathetic activation. I’d also like to mention that helping your body go into the parasympathetic state can be achieved by doing Somatic movements, without requiring the VNS electrical impulse therapy mentioned above (thereby also reducing your carbon footprint as there is no electricity required, haha). I cannot promise that doing your Somatics will improve your happiness quotient, but let’s just imagine that the cells within your body may feel at least a little bit happier 🙂