Habits of a Happy Brain
eBook - ePub

Habits of a Happy Brain

Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels

Loretta Graziano Breuning

  1. 240 pagine
  2. English
  3. ePUB (disponibile sull'app)
  4. Disponibile su iOS e Android
eBook - ePub

Habits of a Happy Brain

Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels

Loretta Graziano Breuning

Dettagli del libro
Anteprima del libro
Indice dei contenuti

Informazioni sul libro

A revolutionary approach to enhancing your happiness level! Get ready to boost your happiness in just 45 days! Habits of a Happy Brain shows you how to retrain your brain to turn on the chemicals that make you happy. Each page offers simple activities that help you understand the roles of your "happy chemicals"—serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphin. You'll also learn how to build new habits by rerouting the electricity in your brain to flow down a new pathway, making it even easier to trigger these happy chemicals and increase feelings of satisfaction when you need them most. Filled with dozens of exercises that will help you reprogram your brain, Habits of a Happy Brain shows you how to live a happier, healthier life!

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Our Survival-Focused Brain

Your brain is inherited from people who survived. This may seem obvious, but when you look closer at the huge survival challenges of the past, it seems like a miracle that all of your direct ancestors kept their genes alive. You have inherited a brain that is focused on survival. You may not think you are focused on survival, but when you worry about being late for a meeting or eating the wrong food, your survival brain is at work. When you worry about being invited to a party or having a bad hair day, your survival brain sees the risk of social exclusion, which was a very real threat to your ancestors. Once you’re safe from immediate threats like hunger, cold, and predators, your brain scans for other potential threats. It’s not easy being a survivor!
Consciously, you know that bad hair is not a survival threat, but brains tuned to social opportunities made more copies of themselves. Natural selection built a brain that rewards you with a good feeling when you see an opportunity for your genes and alarms you with a bad feeling when you lose an opportunity. No conscious intent to spread your genes is necessary for a small social setback to trigger your natural alarm system.
These responses are rooted in your brain’s desire to survive, but they’re not hard-wired. We are not born to seek specific foods or avoid specific predators the way animals often are. We are born to wire ourselves from life experience. We start building that wiring from the moment of birth. Anything that made you feel good built pathways to your happy chemicals that tell you “this is good for me.” Whatever felt bad built pathways that say “this is bad for me.” By the time you were seven years old, your core circuits were built. Seven may seem young, since a seven-year-old has little insight into its long-term survival needs. But seven years is a long time for a creature in nature to be practically defenseless. This is why we end up with core neurochemical circuits that don’t always match up with our survival needs.
In short, your brain has some quirks:
  1. It cares for the survival of your genes as urgently as it cares for your body.
  2. It wires itself from early experience, though that’s an imperfect guide to adult survival.
This is why our neurochemical ups and downs can be so hard to make sense of.

How Do Chemicals Make Us Happy?

The feeling we call “happiness” comes from four special brain chemicals: dopamine, endorphin, oxytocin, and serotonin. These “happy chemicals” turn on when your brain sees something good for your survival. Then they turn off, so they’re ready to activate again when something good crosses your path.
Each happy chemical triggers a different good feeling:
  • Dopamine produces the joy of finding things that meet your needs—the “Eureka! I got it!” feeling.
  • Endorphin produces oblivion that masks pain—often called euphoria.
  • Oxytocin produces the feeling of being safe with others—now called bonding.
  • Serotonin produces the feeling of being respected by others—pride.
“I don’t define happiness in those terms,” you may say. That’s because neurochemicals work without words. But you can easily see how strong these motivations are in others. And research illuminates these impulses in animals. As for yourself, your verbal inner voice may seem like your whole thought process until you know the chemistry of your inner mammal.


Dopamine: the joy of finding what you seek
Endorphin: the oblivion that masks pain
Oxytocin: the comfort of social alliances
Serotonin: the security of social importance

How Do Happy Chemicals Work?

Happy chemicals are controlled by tiny brain structures that all mammals have in common: the hippocampus, amygdala, pituitary, hypothalamus, and other parts collectively known as the limbic system. The human limbic system is surrounded by a huge cortex. Your limbic system and cortex are always working together to keep you alive and keep your DNA alive. Each has its special job:
  • Your cortex looks for patterns in the present that match patterns you connected in the past.
  • Your limbic system releases neurochemicals that tell your body “this is good for you, go toward it,” and “this is bad for you, avoid it.” Your body doesn’t always act on these messages because your cortex can override them. If the cortex overrides a message, it generates an alternative and your limbic system reacts to it. So your cortex can inhibit your limbic system momentarily, but your mammal brain is the core of who you are. Your cortex directs attention and sifts information, but your limbic brain sparks the action.

Each Chemical Has a Job

Your inner mammal rewards you with good feelings when you do something good for your survival. Each of the happy chemicals motivates a different type of survival behavior:
  • Dopamine motivates you to get what you need, even when it takes a lot of effort.
  • Endorphin motivates you to ignore pain, so you can escape from harm when you’re injured.
  • Oxytocin motivates you to trust others, to find safety in companionship.
  • Serotonin motivates you to get respect, which expands your mating opportunities and protects your offspring.
You might come up with different motivations in your verbal brain, but your inner mammal decides what feels good.


Dopamine: seek rewards
Endorphin: ignore physical pain
Oxytocin: build social alliances
Serotonin: get respect from others
The mammal brain motivates a body to go toward things that trigger happy chemicals and avoid things that trigger unhappy chemicals. You can restrain yourself from acting on a neurochemical impulse, but then your brain generates another impulse, seeking the next-best way to meet your survival needs. You’re not a slave to your animal impulses, but nor do you just operate on pure data, even if you believe you are doing that. You are always looking for a way to feel good, deciding whether to act on it, and then looking for the next best way of feeling good.

Good Feelings Help Animals Meet Needs

Animals accept their neurochemical impulses without expecting a verbal rationale. That’s why animals can help us make sense of our own brain chemicals. The goal here is not to glorify animals or primitive impulses; it is to know what turns on our happy chemicals.
For example, a hungry lion is happy when she sees prey she can reach. This is not philosophical happiness, but a physical state of arousal that releases energy for the hunt. Lions often fail in their hunts, so they choose their targets carefully to avoid running out of energy and starving to death. When a lion sees a gazelle she knows she can get, she’s thrilled. Her dopamine surges, which revs up her motor to pounce.
A thirsty elephant is happy when he finds water. The good feeling of quenching his thirst triggers dopamine, which makes permanent connections in his neurons. That helps him find water again in the future. He need not “try” to learn where water is. Dopamine simply paves a neural pathway. The next time he sees any sign of a water hole, electricity zips down the path to his happy chemicals. The good feeling tells him “here is what you need.” When he’s exhausted and dehydrated, a sign of a reward at hand triggers the good feeling that spurs him on. Without effort or intent, happy chemicals promote survival.
But happy chemicals don’t flow constantly. The lion only gets more happy chemicals when she finds more prey, and the elephant only releases them when he sees a way to meet a need. There is no free happy chemical in the state of nature. Good feelings evolved because they get us to do things that promote survival.

Comparing the Limbic Systems and Cortexes of a Variety of Animals

Animals make survival decisions with very little cortex. Their limbic system is enough to decide what’s good for them. It motivates them to approach when a good feeling is released and to avoid when a bad feeling is released. This simple system kept our animal ancestors alive for millions of years and is still working inside us.
The following figure shows how the basic chassis of our brain stayed the same while the size of the parts changed immensely. Nature tends to build on what’s there instead of starting over with a blank sheet. Mammals built onto the reptile brain and humans built onto the mammal brain. We humans have a large stock of extra neurons ready to wire in new experience. Reptiles have a miniscule stock of neurons so they rarely adapt to new experience. But the reptile brain is skilled at scanning the world for threats and opportunities. If you ever feel like you are of two minds, or that your mind is going in different directions, this chart makes it easy to see why.
Comparing brain parts
extra neurons that store life ...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Title Page
  2. Dedication
  3. Table of Contents
  4. Introduction
  5. 1 | Your Inner Mammal
  6. 2 | Meet Your Happy Chemicals
  7. 3 | Why Your Brain Creates Unhappiness
  8. 4 | The Vicious Cycle of Happiness
  9. 5 | How Your Brain Wires Itself
  10. 6 | New Habits for Each Happy Chemical
  11. 7 | Your Action Plan
  12. 8 | Overcoming Obstacles to Happiness
  13. 9 | Rely on Tools That Are Always with You
  14. Keep In Touch
  15. Recommended Reading
  16. About the Author
  17. Copyright
Stili delle citazioni per Habits of a Happy Brain

APA 6 Citation

Breuning, L. G. (2015). Habits of a Happy Brain ([edition unavailable]). Adams Media. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/1423094/habits-of-a-happy-brain-retrain-your-brain-to-boost-your-serotonin-dopamine-oxytocin-endorphin-levels-pdf (Original work published 2015)

Chicago Citation

Breuning, Loretta Graziano. (2015) 2015. Habits of a Happy Brain. [Edition unavailable]. Adams Media. https://www.perlego.com/book/1423094/habits-of-a-happy-brain-retrain-your-brain-to-boost-your-serotonin-dopamine-oxytocin-endorphin-levels-pdf.

Harvard Citation

Breuning, L. G. (2015) Habits of a Happy Brain. [edition unavailable]. Adams Media. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/1423094/habits-of-a-happy-brain-retrain-your-brain-to-boost-your-serotonin-dopamine-oxytocin-endorphin-levels-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Breuning, Loretta Graziano. Habits of a Happy Brain. [edition unavailable]. Adams Media, 2015. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.