We all wanna feel good, right?
Well “emotions” are caused by brain/body chemicals that we’ve inherited from our mammalian ancestors, but we also can control them with neural pathways we build from things that happen to us in our lives.
Emotions are caused by brain/body chemicals. We’ve inherited these chemicals from our mammalian ancestors, but we control them with neural pathways we build from things that happen to us in our lives.
You were born with billions of neurons but very few connections between them. We build the connections by our life experiences and they channel the electricity that flows into your brain as the world bombards your senses with information. This is the basis for how habits are made. Habits are basically strong (well-established) neural pathways. Wanna form a new habit or break an old one? Here’s the key:
Electricity flows down your old paths….unless you build new ones.
The idea is to identify the current pathways you have and to consciously create new ones to promote more of the good feelings you want and less of the ones you don’t. It takes a little bit of effort at first but it works!
Now-a-days, it seems like everyone is talking about “happiness” and “being happy” and that sure is wonderful and super important, but I think we need to remember that our “happy chemicals” are not meant to flow all the time. They turn on and off in response to the opportunities and threats we see around us.
You define opportunities and threats with the neural pathways you have. An opportunity triggers a happy chemical that motivates you to go toward it. A threat triggers an unhappy chemical that motivates you to avoid it. Each spurt is soon metabolized, and you have to do more to get more. Opportunities and threats for your genes get your mammal brain’s attention whether you consciously think that way or not.
Here are the 5 Key Neurotransmitters that determine our Moods and Emotions
DOPAMINE spurts when you approach a reward. It releases your reserve tank of energy so you can do what it takes to meets your needs. New rewards are powerful because your brain adjusts to old rewards.
ENDORPHIN produces a euphoria that masks pain. Physical pain is what triggers it. We are designed to avoid pain, not to create it. Endorphin evolved for emergencies, not for a constant flow.
OXYTOCIN creates the good feeling of trust. You feel safe with those around you when it flows. Safety in numbers helps a mammal survive, but it’s not safe to trust every critter, so oxytocin goes on and off.
SEROTONIN creates confidence in your ability to assert yourself. A social animal has to assert itself to get the food and reproductive opportunity necessary to pass on its genes. Serotonin makes it feel good.
CORTISOL creates the bad feeling that your survival is threatened. It motivates you to do what it takes to make it stop. Bad feelings are information. They help us avoid paths that don’t meet our needs.
In my workshops we address details on how to build new brain neurochemical pathways and healthy habits so you can feel more of the good-feeling chemicals more of the time!
- Meet Your Happy Chemicals – Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD
- The Science of Positivity – Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD
- The Diet Cure – Julia Ross, M.A.