Loretta Graziano Breuning

Meet Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin

You can feel good more often by stimulating the brain chemicals that cause happiness. It would be nice if they just spurted all the time, but they were not designed for that. They evolved for survival, though your brain defines survival in a quirky way. The experiences of youth and the survival of your genes are important to our mammal brain. That's why we do quirky things to stimulate our dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphin, despite our best intentions. You can build new neural pathways to turn them on in new ways. It starts with knowing the job they were meant to do. Dopamine is the good feeling of approaching a reward. Serotonin is the feeling of getting respect. Endorphin is a euphoria that masks physical pain, and oxytocin is the feeling of trust. All mammals have the same basic happy chemicals managed by the same basic brain structures. They are powerfully motivating…for a short time. Then they droop, and you have to do more to get more. If you run from these droops, bad habits will result. Accept these droops and your bad habits ease. It's not easy being a mammal. Managing your quirky brain is the challenge that comes with the gift of life. Your ups and downs will make sense once you read this book.
214 printed pages
Original publication
2012

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Quotes

    b5978711211has quoted3 days ago
    big burst of cortisol is what we call “fear.” Small drips of cortisol are “anxiety” or “stress.” These bad feelings tell you you’re in immediate danger of pain, and your cortex tries to figure out what the danger is. Your reptile brain can’t say why it released the cortisol. It just responds when electricity flows down a pathway you connected in the past. You built those pathways from real experience, so the danger feels real to you. You want to avoid stress, but you want to avoid harm even more
    b4463725561has quoted15 days ago
    When your unhappy chemicals flow, you don’t usually respond by thanking them for promoting your survival. Instead, you focus on ways to trigger happy chemicals. For example, when hunger triggers a bad feeling, a mammal seeks food. When cold triggers a bad feeling, a mammal seeks warmth. Just finding food and warmth triggers happy chemicals, before you actually eat or warm up. Happy chemicals flow when you see a way to meet your needs.
    The human cortex is good at avoiding bad feelings. We avoid hunger and chill by planting food and stocking fuel. But unhappy chemicals remain, no matter how well we meet our needs. As soon as you’re warm and fed, your brain scan for other things that can hurt you. Your survival is threatened as long as you’re alive, and your brain never stops looking for survival threats.
    A mammal must take risks to get its needs met. It risks getting killed by a predator while foraging for food. It risks social conflict when seeking mates. It risks losing its offspring before grandchildren have been produced to preserve its genes. Unhappy chemicals are the brain’s way of alerting us to such risks.
    Unhappy chemicals feel bad because that works. It gets your attention, fast. It’s comforting to know that bad feelings have a purpose. When a hungry gazelle smells a lion, bad feelings motivate it to run rather than keep eating. The gazelle survives because the smell of a lion triggers a feeling that’s much worse than ordinary hunger. Once the gazelle escapes from the lion, the bad feeling of hunger gets its attention again, and it looks for a safe place to forage. We are alive today because unhappy chemicals got our ancestors’ attention to one survival threat after another.
    Bad feelings are produced by cortisol. Your response to cortisol depends on what it’s paired with, be it low blood sugar, the scent of a predator, social exclusion, or myriad other danger signals. When your cortisol flows, it links the neurons active in your brain at that moment. This wires you to recognize

    Cuando las sustancias químicas de la infelicidad fluyen, no sueles responder agradeciéndoles que promuevan tu supervivencia. En lugar de ello, te centras en las formas de desencadenar las sustancias químicas de la felicidad. Por ejemplo, cuando el hambre desencadena una mala sensación, un mamífero busca comida. Cuando el frío desencadena una mala sensación, un mamífero busca calor. El mero hecho de encontrar comida y calor desencadena las sustancias químicas de la felicidad, antes de comer o calentarse. Las sustancias químicas de la felicidad fluyen cuando ves una forma de satisfacer tus necesidades.
    El córtex humano es bueno para evitar los malos sentimientos. Evitamos el hambre y el frío plantando comida y almacenando combustible. Pero las sustancias químicas infelices permanecen, independientemente de lo bien que satisfagamos nuestras necesidades. En cuanto te calientas y te alimentas, tu cerebro escanea en busca de otras cosas que puedan perjudicarte. Tu supervivencia está amenazada mientras estés vivo, y tu cerebro nunca deja de buscar amenazas de supervivencia.
    Un mamífero debe correr riesgos para satisfacer sus necesidades. Se arriesga a que le mate un depredador mientras busca comida. Se arriesga a un conflicto social cuando busca pareja. Se arriesga a perder su descendencia antes de que se produzcan nietos para preservar sus genes. Las sustancias químicas de la infelicidad son la forma que tiene el cerebro de alertarnos de esos riesgos.
    Las sustancias químicas infelices se sienten mal porque eso funciona. Llama la atención, rápidamente. Es reconfortante saber que los malos sentimientos tienen un propósito. Cuando una gacela hambrienta huele a un león, los malos sentimientos la motivan a correr en lugar de seguir comiendo. La gacela sobrevive porque el olor de un león desencadena un sentimiento que es mucho peor que el hambre ordinaria. Una vez que la gacela escapa del león, la mala sensación de hambre vuelve a llamar su atención y busca un lugar seguro para buscar comida. Hoy estamos vivos porque las sustancias químicas infelices llamaron la atención de nuestros ancestros ante una amenaza de supervivencia tras otra.
    Los malos sentimientos son producidos por el cortisol. Tu respuesta al cortisol depende de lo que se le asocie, ya sea un nivel bajo de azúcar en sangre, el olor de un depredador, la exclusión social o una miríada de otras señales de peligro. Cuando el cortisol fluye, conecta las neuronas activas en tu cerebro en ese momento. Esto te conecta para que reconozcas

    malayautsolhas quoted18 days ago
    Adrenaline releases the energy you need to handle an emergency. The “adrenaline junkie” is not seeking pain– he seeks to avoid pain. The brain anticipates pain when it sees the ground rushing at you, so it releases a lot of adrenaline. When you’re on a roller coaster in an amusement park, you tell yourself the threat isn’t real. But your brain evolved in a world of real threats, not self-imposed, artificially concocted threats. When it sees lots of threat signals, it releases the adrenaline.

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