The new habits of a happy brain
Is some part of our brain similar to animals? Kristina’s first questions are focused on the similarities or differences between our neurochemicals and animal’s.
Dr. Breuning says that we have 2 parts of the brain: the “human” part of the brain called the cortex and we have the other part of the brain called the lymbic system. The two brains have to work together. Both parts of the brain have to work together!
Animal brain works like a toddler: they want another cookie and they put all the energy they have into wanting another cookie, unless something that is bigger than them stops them from getting it.
Then, at a very young age we learn how to restrain that! And then, we pretend that I didn’t want that banana.
A disconnection between the two is created.
And we blame it on society then!
Animals feel fear because that helps them survive! First from potential predators, and then from tremendous conflict with the same member of the species.
Animals have more hardwiring and they know how to find food soon. Humans take more than 2 decades to find food!
So, how do we leverage the connections that we have for our own sake? Kristina follows. How do we connect the neurons?
The connections get wired from experience, especially childhood experiences. Anything that made you happy was paving on your neuro-pathways.
Anything that made you unhappy, that paved neuro-pathways. Anything that made you feel bad in your past, we fear that.
Everything that feels good in your past, you want it again, even if it is not really good for you!
So, everything configures your own neural network.
All those neural pathways flows into the biggest pathways. It’s like learning a new language: first I have to learn it, and then I have to repeat it a lot!
The neuro-chemicals in your brain
Neuro-chemical makes us feel good. Dopamine is the one that when an animal is crossing a barrier, you keep going because the reward is near!
In the modern world, we are told that we don’t care about rewards. There is a part of you that has an instinct to get a reward. But dopamine only activates when you’re sure you’re going to get the reward, when there is a realistic expectation!
The chemicals that make us feel good are the same in all mammals:
Dopamine is activated by new things, that we say to ourselves that we shouldn’t want all the time!
Oxytocin is the good feeling of social support. It’s not there to expect that the world would cuddle me as a baby. And when you go out from the herd, we feel like a predator will eat us because we’re out of the herd.
But in the herd, there are conflicts that we feel all the time!
So the animals don’t grab the food if the stronger one is there for the fight.
Am I stronger, or am I weaker? We are constantly comparing ourselves to others in that way. If I am stronger, my brain releases a bit of serotonin.
If I am weaker, I think everybody else is going to get the banana but me! I’m not going to get what I want, everybody else is going to get what they want!
When I am with those people, I am very aware of my strength and when I am with those other people, I am very aware of my weakness!
And we want to think that I am strong, but that is simply not realistic! A monkey would get killed if they thought that they were strong all the time!
So we’re really designed to be realistic with that.
In the kindergarten, we’ll be designed to be the star for 1 week! And with other people, we’re going to be the star!
We all have to make the hard decision sometimes of leading the group with risks of their own, or to leave the herd, or to be with the herd even though it hurts us in some way because they could be “peeing at our food”.
Fear is a big Dr.ip of cortisol. The little Dr.ips are known as stress or anxiety.
Also, not taking risks is not realistic. Also, people say: you should have anticipated the problem! But quality control in the 90s was all about that and before that, people learned to anticipate to the problem by analizing risks.
So the problem is that people believe “I should take big risks and do big things” but take into account every possible outcome! We can’t be happy every minute as society tells us, and we can’t prevent all anxiety either.
How do we leverage our inner mammal for our happiness?
Again it’s about realistic expectations, according to Dr. Breuning.
If you keep chasing dopamine, you might do something. Some people even do dopamine detox!
Each of the happy chemicals is a Dr.ug that we abuse: dopamine is cocaine. So it’s natural that we want it for some time, but it’s not natural that we want it all the time!
Oxytocin is ecstasy: if I did that all the time, then I would probably take people home that wouldn’t be recommendable.
Serotonin you can get from antidepressants, even though that is a huge fight among the scientific community.
So basically, getting it from the outside the only thing that does is to prevent your brain from rewiring the connections from the inside!
Awareness comes with feelings. If I do it all the time, there are going to be consequences. A vicious circle versus a virtuous circle. If I am doing something, the minute that it’s over is when you feel bad. If you stop doing the habit, you won’t feel good and you will overthink. So you should tell your inner mammal that it’s feeling bad because it created a neuropathway in the past that doesn’t work anymore!
If you tell your inner mammal that you shouldn’t want rewards, then it doesn’t know what to do. But if you tell it that you’re going to have all the rewards that you want that is not realistic either.
The best way is if you tell your inner mammal healthy rewards, in minimal quantities, often.
So many animals will eat their food if it’s available and getting sick. Some people join a bad habit but they are able to stop later on. It depends on the other neuropathways you might have. Different people react differently to different stimuli.
What you thought as successful as a child is what right now, you believe it would be successful. And you have a created neuro pathway that sometimes can lead you to bad choices! It’s not necessarily that you are repeating what your parents did. You’re repeating what worked for you when you were young.
Kristina relates because it’s easier to fix the things that you fixed before, that you know how to fix, rather than dealing with the piece of garbage that could sabotage the perfectly cleaned house.
Dr. Breuning says that “when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything you see is a nail”.
So, acceptance of your feelings, and that they are all neuropathways that were created because they were successful in the past, would be the way to address that; suppressing the feeling is not the valid way to do that.
Dr. Breuning says that at the beginning, it is really hard to start, then it gets better. Her advice is to do the new thing you want to do for 30 seconds, but do the new thing often.
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I have been a personal growth enthusiast since I can remember! Mindvalley follower since 2015 and practitioner, I support with my writing female entrepreneurs and brands in the personal growth industry; I am a proud editor of this blog!