Your brain has an operating system inherited from earlier animals. It rewards you with happy chemicals when you take steps toward meeting your needs. It alarms you with unhappy chemicals when you see a threat or obstacle to meeting your needs. Your ups and downs make sense when you know the job they evolved to do.
You have power over your brain, but it’s limited. It helps to know exactly where that power is.
Here is a simple introduction to your inner mammal so you can build your power over it.
- Happiness comes from brain chemicals we’ve inherited from earlier mammals: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphin.
- The mammal brain releases a good feeling when it sees something good for your survival, and a bad feeling (cortisol) when it sees a survival threat.
- But it defines survival in a quirky way: it cares about the survival of your genes, and it relies on neural pathways built in youth.
- We can build new pathways to turn on our happy chemicals in new ways.
- These chemicals are not designed to flow all the time. They evolved to turn on in short spurts to motivate survival behavior. Each spurt is soon metabolized and you have to do more to get more.