Blog

Loretta Breuning’s classic posts
are below. Her new posts are at:

PsychologyToday.com
The Positive Psychology People
WomenWorking.com

How to Make Frustration Work for You

Overcoming obstacles is the natural way to feel good. Our frustrations are often blamed on modern society, but monkeys had the same frustrations 50 million years ago. They could climb a high tree for a juicy mango only to have it snatched from them by a fellow monkey. But they evolved a brain that thrives on frustration,…

Why Winning Feels Good

Serotonin makes you feel good when you gain an advantage. Winning doesn’t matter, we’re told, but something deep inside suggests otherwise. “Our society” creates the urge to win, we’re taught, yet monkeys have been trying to one-up each other for fifty million years. Natural selection built a brain that rewards you with a good feeling…

The Sadness of Partisan Polarizing

And the choice to live without partisan goggles. I am surrounded by political anger. Everyone expects me to be on their side because they are the good guys, and they label me a bad guy if I don’t. But I can’t bring myself to join up and wear partisan goggles. I’ve tried, and the distortion unnerves…

Five Ways to Boost Your Natural Happy Chemicals

You can trigger more happy chemicals naturally. Here's how.  You can stimulate more happy chemicals with fewer side effects when you understand the job your happy chemicals evolved to do. Here's a natural way to stimulate each, and to avoid unhappy chemicals.  #1 Dopamine (Embrace a new goal) Approaching a reward triggers dopamine. When a lion approaches a…

The Urge To Be Heard At Your Core

Expressing your needs eases your deep survival fears   You need to express yourself to feel safe. We are born with no survival skills except the ability to express pain. When you withhold your urge to be heard, you feel helpless and endangered. A human infant is the most fragile bit of protoplasm on earth….

Why It’s Always High School In Your Brain

Your teen self is still the core of who you are Does life sometimes seem like a high school cafeteria? It's not your imagination. Our brain is designed to wire itself in adolescence. Our emotional brain is inherited from earlier mammals, who struggle for status in their herd or pack or troop. As a result,…

How Baboons Choose Their Leaders

Patronage works in the Baboon World Every baboon troop is led by an alpha who holds power until ousted by a challenger. Brute force makes you alpha among small-brained mammals like bovines, but in the primate world, power is won by trading favors. Baboons have curiously familiar ways of winning support. They share meat after…

Feeling Good Is a Learned Skill: Dwelling on your gifts wires in good feelings.

"When I'm good no one remembers.   When I'm bad no one forgets." This lament rings true for most people. What if you fed your brainwith appreciation for yourself? It may sound like cheating, but it works. It won't win you a Nobel Prize, but it triggers brain chemistry akin to winning. Appreciating yourself is not like…

Score! Dopamine! Repeat! Or Not: Why goals don’t bring satisfaction.

Reaching a goal triggers dopamine. That feels great, but the spurt soon ends. Then you become who you were before the spurt. If you’re not comfortable with that, you can get caught up in endless efforts to stimulate more dopamine with more goal-seeking.  We're uncomfortable with dopamine dips for good reason, of course. Unhappy chemicals command your…

Why Love Is a Neurochemical Roller Coaster

Love makes your happy chemicals surge, but they always dip. Love triggers dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. That's why it's so motivating. But happy chemicals come in spurts. They do their job by turning off after they turn on. When your happy chemicals dip, you might interpret it as a loss of love. That turns a natural fluctuation…