Hello once again. In continuation of last week’s column, this week I will acquaint you with the happy chemicals of your brain. Brain chemistry is important because it is so difficult to overcome the influence of the chemicals on our emotions. In fact it might be true that chemicals are our emotions. Let us examine some of the primary chemicals that shape our moods, attitudes and our good and bad feelings. So, if you are ready, let us start with the first important chemical.
Dopamine is a ‘feel good’ brain chemical that is energising and satisfying. The expectation of reward triggers dopamine in our brain and releases the energy needed to reach the rewards. When a lioness approaches a deer, its dopamine surges and the energy she needs for the hunt is released. Dopamine motivates you to seek. Whether, you are seeking a college degree, love or a parking spot. This is a problem in modern life. Dopamine helped our ancestors alert their attention to meet their needs to survive and thrive. However, in the modern world, survival has been replaced with abstract and artificial temptations. Hence it has become easier to live a life motivated by entertainment, indulgences, conveniences and comforts. We can develop dependencies with habits of getting our dopamine from stimulants like coffee and sugar, which pump us up with artificial energy. This artificial boost of energy comes at a terrible cost, causing brain damage. We have to take action to get our doses of dopamine honestly, which in turn would encourage brain health. So the million dollar question is what should you do? To start off, you need to get specific, specific about the purpose of your life. Don’t know your purpose? No problem, make it up. Write down what you think it is. Now make it a lifelong project to fine tune this purpose. A good place to start is to cultivate more health, love, joy and peace in your life. Start learning, growing and become a conscious human being. Anchoring to your life’s purpose brings more meaning to your life and puts destructive and unhealthy behaviour into perspective. It also motivates you to set goals, these goals lead to the release of dopamine which in turn gives you the energy required to fulfil these goals. Start thinking of your daily activities as goals, write them down. In fact, write down lots of goals and check them out each time they are attained. This helps to build a new dopamine pathway that will compete with the habit that you are better off without.
Serotonin is also a feel good chemical and is triggered by confidence. People try to be better than other people because it stimulates serotonin. You get a surge of this chemical from your brain when you feel respected by others. Your brain seeks more of that feeling by repeating behaviours that triggered it in your past. The respect you got in your youth paved more pathways to tell your brain how to get more serotonin today. The old patterns of behaviour with their serotonin reward do not always serve our highest good. Conformity, overly accommodating behaviour, people pleasing and performance based self esteem often obstruct our truest and best self. Identify your externally derived sources of serotonin and think creatively how you can get them a different way. With intention, we can build internally derived self-worth and confidence. This is possible with the technology of affirmations and goals, which is a conscious method of self design. Develop a passion and become competent at it, at the same time acknowledge the things that you are already good at. You will strengthen your serotonin. Other tips to improve serotonin levels are to get natural sunlight daily and reduce intake of caffeine as it suppresses serotonin levels.
Oxytocin is another feel good chemical and naturally enhances a sense of optimism. Feelings of safety and trust trigger oxytocin. Mammals stick with a herd because they inherited a brain that releases oxytocin when they do. Because social bonds help mammals protect their young from predators. Natural selection built a brain that rewards us with a good feeling when we strengthen those bonds. When our trust is betrayed, it paves a neuro pathway that tells us to withhold trust. But to the degree we withhold trust, is the degree that we are deprived of oxytocin. We can stimulate oxytocin by building trust consciously. We can accomplish this by finding the courage to be vulnerable with others. Have a vulnerability meeting with a friend or with a group. Make sure you communicate that your intention is courageous sharing and trust. Request that they support your sharing without judgement, criticism, analysis or even advice. Find good listeners. Share your humanity, your faults, your mistakes and your negative thoughts. While this may not seem to be big ego booster, it is an honest and clean act in which you find out that you really are okay afterwards. Surprisingly, you feel great because your internal oxytocin factory will be working overtime. Practice modifying expectations, when negative emotions come up, identify them and investigate. Write them down and see if you can modify them. Create a list of new expectations that are more realistic. Reinforce them by adding these new expectations of yourself and others in a daily affirmation list. Read them every day. Another tip that I can share with you to improve oxytocin level is to detoxify and maintain a healthy diet completely avoiding white sugar. Oxytocin receptors are found in the gastrointestinal tract, so healing the gut is essential.
Until next week,
Stay positive, stay abundant