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Happy brain chemicals: Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin and Endorphin

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Here's a simple introduction to the brain chemicals that make us happy. You can rewire yourself to turn them on in new ways. This simple look at our neurochemistry what turns them on in the state of nature, and why they inevitably droop. Ups and downs are natural, but you can build new circuits to enjoy more ups.

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Happy brain chemicals: Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin and Endorphin

  1. 1. Happy Brain Chemicals Loretta G. Breuning, PhD Inner Mammal Institute Re-wire Yourself to Turn Them on in New Ways dopamine endorphin oxytocinserotonin
  2. 2. Good feelings come from 4 special brain chemicals dopamine endorphin oxytocinserotonin
  3. 3. We’ve inherited these chemicals from earlier mammals
  4. 4. Your happy chemicals are not meant to be on all the time. They spurt when you see a way to promote your survival.
  5. 5. But our brain defines survival in a quirky way: 1. it cares about the survival of your genes 2. it relies on neural pathways built in youth
  6. 6. When a happy chemical flows, neurons connect That wires you to repeat things that feel good
  7. 7. This is how our ancestors wired themselves to survive before there were schools, or even words dopamine endorphin oxytocin serotonin
  8. 8. Bad feelings are caused by cortisol. It’s released when a mammal sees a threat to its survival.
  9. 9. Disappointment triggers cortisol, which leaves you feeling threatened even if you don’t consciously think that
  10. 10. Neurons connect when cortisol flows, which wires you to turn on the alarm when you see things related to past pain
  11. 11. We are always seeking rewards and avoiding pain using circuits built by past experience
  12. 12. The circuits built in youth become the superhighways of your brain
  13. 13. The electricity in your brain flows like water in a storm, finding the paths of least resistance
  14. 14. Old patterns tend to repeat unless we build new circuits
  15. 15. That’s hard to do for 3 reasons:
  16. 16. 1. Blazing a new trail through a jungle of neurons is much harder than flowing down a well-paved highway
  17. 17. 2. You feel unsafe when you leave your old highways because they’re what you know about rewards and pain
  18. 18. 3. The brain loses its highway-paving substance (myelin) after puberty
  19. 19. You can still build a new pathway, but it takes a lot of repetition just to build a small one
  20. 20. Repeat a new thought or behavior for 45 days without fail and a new trail gets established
  21. 21. It’s not a superhighway, but it frees you from an old pattern
  22. 22. You can wire yourself to feel good when you do things that are good for you
  23. 23. You can give your electricity a new place to flow
  24. 24. It helps to know what turns on each happy chemical in the state of nature
  25. 25. Then you can choose new thoughts and behaviors to stimulate them in new ways
  26. 26. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute © 2015 Dopamine is the great feeling
 that a reward is at hand
  27. 27. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute © 2015 Dopamine releases energy for the chase
  28. 28. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute Oxytocin is often called the “love chemical”
  29. 29. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute Oxytocin is stimulated by trust &
 touch, which go together in nature
  30. 30. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute © 2015 Serotonin is the pleasure of social dominance
  31. 31. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute © 2015 Serotonin is not aggression but a calm sense that “ I will get the banana ”
  32. 32. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute © 2015 Endorphin masks pain so you can do what
 it takes to survive
  33. 33. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute © 2015 Endorphin is
 “endogenous morphine” it’s meant for emergencies, not partying
  34. 34. Your happy chemicals turn on in short spurts. Then they droop, and you have to do more to get more.
  35. 35. Ups and downs are natural because each happy chemical droops
  36. 36. Dopamine droops once you get the reward until
 you set your sights on another reward
  37. 37. Oxytocin droops when you’re separated from the herd and it feels like your survival is threatened
  38. 38. Serotonin is reabsorbed quickly, which motivates people to seek another social advantage to stimulate more
  39. 39. Endorphin is
 “endogenous morphine” It droops 20 min. after an injury because pain is vital survival info
  40. 40. A droop is nature’s reset button You return to neutral so you’re ready for the next opportunity to meet your needs
  41. 41. But you may feel frustrated
  42. 42. Dopamine Frustration Dopamine stops once a need is met, so you have to keep finding new rewards to enjoy it
  43. 43. Oxytocin Frustration Following the herd is annoying but leaving the herd for greener pasture feels unsafe
  44. 44. Serotonin Frustration Your mammal brain cares about your status as if your life depended on it, so a status threat feels like a survival threat.
  45. 45. Endorphin Frustration Inflicting pain on yourself to enjoy endorphin is a very bad survival strategy
  46. 46. It helps to know that monkeys had similar frustrations 50 million years ago
  47. 47. Dopamine Serotonin Oxytocin Endorphin What new circuits will you build?
  48. 48. Dopamine suggestion: Always have • a short-term goal • a long-term goal & • a medium-term goal
 so you can always step toward meeting a need right now
  49. 49. Oxytocin suggestion: Build trust in many small steps Trusting everyone all the time
 is not a good
 survival strategy. Our brain is designed to build trust gradually.
  50. 50. Serotonin suggestion: Enjoy the strengths you have instead of worrying about the strengths of others Insisting on the one-up position is harmful,
 but taking the one-down position automatically hurts you too. It’s not easy to make peace with your mammal brain.
  51. 51. Endorphin suggestion: Laugh Find what makes you laugh and make time for it, often. Don’t rush it, fake it,
 or expect yourself to laugh when others do.
  52. 52. It helps to know that your ups and downs are part of nature’s operating system
  53. 53. This operating system motivated our ancestors to do what it takes to survive
  54. 54. It helps to know that frustrating trade-offs are part of every mammal’s life •When you step toward
 greener pasture (dopamine),
 you move away from the safety
 of social bonds (oxytocin). •When you step toward
 social importance (serotonin) 
 you may get disappointment (cortisol)
 or a strain on social bonds (oxytocin).
  55. 55. It helps to know that making tough choices is the job our brain is designed to do
  56. 56. It helps to know that you can re-wire yourself to turn on your happy chemicals in new ways
  57. 57. It’s not easy. It’s the challenge that comes with the gift of life.
  58. 58. The Inner Mammal Institute has free resources to help videos podcasts blogs infographics training certification slide shows (incl this) 5-day Happy-Chemical Jumpstart www.InnerMammalInstitute.org
  59. 59. Habits of a Happy Brain Retrain your brain to boost your serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin a fun step-by-step guide by Dr. Loretta Breuning $10.23 paper, $9.99 e-book
  60. 60. and remember
  61. 61. Don’t compare yourself to others
  62. 62. Don’t compare yourself to others
  63. 63. Don’t compare yourself to others
  64. 64. Don’t compare yourself to others
  65. 65. Don’t compare yourself to others
  66. 66. Don’t compare yourself to others
  67. 67. Don’t compare yourself to others
  68. 68. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute © 2015 Dopamine Dopamine makes you jump for joy when you reach a goal or get a toy. Innature,ithelpsfindfoodwhenyouneedit. “Eureka, I got it!” A memory gets created. Dopamine causes expectations. Correct predictions bring good sensations. Dopamine feels great so you try to get more. It rewarded our ancestors trudging through gore. Cocaine triggers dopamine. Caution to all: Joy without goal-seeking leads to a fall. Dopamine flows when you feel like “I’ve done it.” Whenothersdoitforyou,yourdopaminewillshunit.
  69. 69. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute © 2015 Endorphin Endorphin helps you mask the pain Of injuries that you sustain. Yourancestorsescapedfrompredatorattack ‘Causeendorphinfelt goodwhile theyranback. Endorphin feels great when it eases your pains. But only real pain makes it flow in your veins. Exercise triggers it, experts alert you. But first you must do it ‘til body parts hurt you. Endorphin receptors let opium in. So you feel like you’re safe without lifting a shin. Laughing and crying can trigger it too. But just for a moment– then the job’s through.
  70. 70. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute © 2015 Oxytocin Oxytocin makes you trust your mates. We love the bonds that it creates. Oxytocinflowswhenyoustickwiththeherd. “Notme!” youmaysay,“I’mnobovine orbird.” But without social bonds, your brain feels alarm. This protected our ancestors from all kinds of harm. Thoughtheherdwillannoyyou,thepackhurt you so. When you run with a pack, oxytocin will flow. “My pack is great and the other is nuts.” This thinking prevailed since the first mammal struts. You’re above all this foolishness, obviously. But it feels good when I trust you and you trust me.
  71. 71. Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD, Inner Mammal Institute © 2015 Serotonin swells your chest with pride When you get respect and needn’t hide. Yourbrainfeelsgoodwhenyouboostyourselfhigher. But when others do this, it provokes your ire. “I don’t care about status. It’s other who do.” Butyouspurtserotoninwhenthelimelight’s on you. You are quite modest and don’t like to boast. But no serotonin flows when you coast. Status doesn’t depend on money. You can be clever or helpful or funny. But when others one-up you, your mind agitates. ‘Cause serotonin droops ‘til you lift your own weights. Serotonin

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