Inner Mammal Training free sample quiz
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Meet Your Happy Chemicals
Congratulations - you have completed Meet Your Happy Chemicals
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Continue on to Level 2 to become a Certified Inner Mammal Trainer.
The feeling of happiness comes from:
dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphin
doing the right thing
Nice thought, but feelings are more complicated than polite platitudes.
a good society
Society cannot reach into your brain and turn on your happy chemicals.
This research is very preliminary and highly skewed by research protocols. If you expect your genes to turn on your happy chemicals, you don't do what it takes.
The happy brain chemicals make you feel good:
all the time.
That would be nice but unfortunately that is not the brain we've inherited from our ancestors.
when you do something that promotes the survival of your genes.
when you make healthy choices.
Unfortunately not. You can rewire yourself to feel good about things that are good for you, but our quirky brain does not do that naturally.
when you make virtuous choices.
Notice how you define virtue in a way that just happens to turn on your happy chemicals. Everybody does it!
Your happy and unhappy chemicals are controlled by:
Diet fads make it seem that way, but humans with widely different diets end up with the same basic neurochemical impulses.
brain structures inherited from earlier mammals, including the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, pituitary, etc.
Internal thoughts and actions have more power over your brain chemistry than externals.
your prefrontal cortex.
It sounds nice, but the PFC does not control your neurochemistry.
Your verbal inner dialogue:
tells you why a happy or unhappy feeling is being released.
Unfortunately not, because our neurochemical operating system is not capable of processing language.
decides when to turn your happy and unhappy chemicals on and off.
Life would be easy if our verbal commands could control our neurochemistry, but our verbal brain evolved long after our feeling brain.
is all in your cortex, which is not on speaking terms with your mammal brain.
is meaningless and should be ignored.
Don't give up on your verbal brain; it's not omnipotent, but it has the power to re-direct your mammalian impulses with practice.
You turn on your happy chemicals with:
circuits inherited from reptiles.
So you like catching bugs with your tongue?
tapes installed by your parents.
It may feel like that, but it helps to know the inside story.
My teachers said this, but it's just a small part of the big picture.
neural circuits built from your unique individual past experience with that happy chemical.
Your dopamine turns on when you:
put your feet up and relax
Remember: your brain rewards you for meeting survival needs.
feel pride in your accomplishment
Ooops, you're thinking of a different chemical; dopamine is the good feeling of getting a step closer to that accomplishment.
approach something you expect to meet your needs
Your endorphin turns on when you:
think happy thoughts
That would be nice, but it's not how our brain works.
get injured to the point of pain
take a vacation from stress
More wishful thinking. Endorphin has a job to do.
live in a tropical paradise
If everyone believes this, it doesn't make it true.
Your serotonin turns on when you:
volunteer in a soup kitchen
If that makes you feel special, then it stimulates your serotonin.
drink kale smoothies
If that makes you feel special, then it stimulates your serotonin.
put others first
If this makes you feel morally superior, then it stimulates your serotonin.
Your oxytocin turns on when you:
distance yourself from people who annoy you
That has its place, but it doesn't stimulate oxytocin.
find greener pasture
That stimulates dopamine, but often hurts your oxytocin.
enjoy the safety of social support
find a place where you can be yourself
That has value, but you lose oxytocin when you distance yourself from others.
Your cortisol turns on when you:
visit your inlaws
Only if you wired yourself to associate them with pain.
see your boss coming
Only if you wired yourself to anticipate pain in that context.
watch the news
Because it triggers the anticipation of pain.
experience pain, or the anticipation of pain
You were born with billions of neurons:
but you may be too lazy to use them.
Don't believe this. Your brain is working hard to promote survival with the circuits you have built. You didn't build them consciously, so it's hard to know how to build new ones.
but they are not connected to each other until activated by experience.
connected into circuits inherited from monkeys.
No, we are not born with circuits, and monkeys are not either for the most part. Circuits get built from experience.
and you keep adding billions throughout life.
Actually, you lose more neurons than you gain. A young brain actually "prunes" itself, getting rid of unused pathways to make room for the ones you use. You can always develop new pathways, but it doesn't happen effortlessly the way it did when you were young.
Your brain builds neural circuits in 2 ways:
male hormones and female hormones
Nope, we're the same at this deep level.
exercise and nutrition
Sounds nice, but are only small factors in a big process.
happiness and sadness
This is only one way: emotion
repetition and emotion
Your neural superhighways are formed by your experiences before age 8 and during puberty because that's when:
you try harder
Intentional trying is not what built your core neural network. We mammals are designed to wire our brains from early experience instead of being hard-wired with the experience of our ancestors like reptiles.
the brain produces a lot of myelin, which coats neurons so they become super efficient at channeling electricity
you are nurtured
Nurturing is nice, but it takes a special chemical to pave the highways in your brain.
people tell you what to do
Experience matters, but a special chemical builds that experience into superhighways.
Your brain is always looking for ways to feel good because:
it evolved to promote survival, and in the world of scarcity that our brain evolved in, good feelings were a good guide to survival
you're messed up
You're a mammal, like the rest of us.
Good feelings in the short-run are not an enlightened guide to well-being in the long-run.
Blaming your impulses on "the system" is popular, but you lose your power over your brain when you do that.
Something that turned on your happy chemicals when you were young gets your attention because:
the electricity in your brain flows like water in a storm, finding the paths of least resistance
you're just a big kid
Every one of us is wired by early experience.
you failed to mature
Maturity adds new circuits but your old happy-chemical superhighways are always there.
you're a spoiled brat
You may be, but that's not what turns on the happy chemicals.
If the brain is focused on survival, why do people do things that are bad for their survival?
Impulses that helped our ancestors survive for millions of years do not always lead to well-being today.
True, but there's more!
Behaviors that worked in adolescence get myelinated, so your electricity flows there even if those behaviors don't work today.
Absolutely, but wait, there's more!
Habituation reduces the reward we get from old pleasures, so we keep trying and overdo it.
Absolutely, but it's only part of the story.
all of the above
Why are we so motivated to escape threatened feelings?
Brains that focused on threats before rewards were more likely to survive, so we've inherited a brain that focuses on threats.
Yes, a baboon who focused on lions before food would live to eat another day. But what about B?
We're born helpless, so any threat to our social support is a survival threat in our formative years. This wires us to feel like a social threat is a survival threat later on.
Yes, the brain confuses social pain with physical pain. But what about C?
Animals only react to threats that are actually reaching their senses, but the human cortex can activate threat signals internally.
Yes, we humans can terrorize ourselves in our quest for safety. But what about A and B?
all of the above
How can you feel good about things that are actually good for you?
Choose a behavior or thought habit that's good for you and repeat it without fail for 45 days whether it feels good or not.
move to a place with high statistical rates of happiness
Many of those places have high suicide rates too - these statistics are biased by many factors so you're better off taking charge of your own wiring.
put on a happy face
Smiling has some power, but you can enjoy many more powerful happy habits when you know how to build them.
tell everyone how much you love your new health routine
That could work for a while, but you have even more power over your brain.
Why is it so hard to be happy with what you have?
habituation: your brain stops releasing happy chemicals once a reward is expected, so your old reliable happy habits fail to work sooner or later
social comparison: your brain rewards you with serotonin when you come out on top but you end up with cortisol when you try and fail
tradeoffs: One happy chemical is at risk when you take a step toward another.
all of the above
How can you help others to be happy?
reach into their brain and build new bridges between their neurons
You know this is a joke, but remember it the next time you expect to make someone else happy.
join in their hostility so they feel understood
You know this is a joke, but if you ride the empathy bandwagon, you may find yourself doing it.
tell them to look on the bright side, and then let a doctor handle it
That would be nice if it worked, but what if it doesn't?
be happy yourself, and their mirror neurons will learn from your rewards