5 ways to increase your joy from loretta Breuning, PhD
In this episode of the Alcohol Minimalist podcast, host Molly Watts guides listeners toward creating a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Drawing on her personal journey, Molly shares strategies to overcome family alcohol abuse, anxiety, and a persistent daily drinking habit. She emphasizes the importance of understanding brain chemistry, discussing neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Molly challenges societal conditioning, addressing the need for social support and connection without necessarily following the crowd. She explores how setting achievable goals triggers dopamine release, and how building social bonds and focusing on positive achievements influence oxytocin levels. Molly highlights the impact of cortisol, the stress hormone, and how engaging in joyful, absorbing activities can counteract its effects. She encourages listeners to approach these concepts without judgment and apply the insights to transform their relationship with alcohol. The episode concludes with a reminder that change is possible, empowering listeners to take proactive steps toward a peaceful relationship with alcohol.
Hey, it’s Molly from alcohol minimalist. What do you do in this October? I would love to have you join me in my more sober October challenge. What do I mean by more sober October, it simply means that we’re going to add in more alcohol free days than you currently been doing, whether that’s one or two or 31. It’s up to you, you get to set your own goal and that’s why it’s more sober October. You can check it out and learn more at get got sunnyside.co/molly It’s totally free. I’ve got prizes, I’m going to be going live every week to announce the prize winners. And it’s just going to be an awesome event. So I would love to have you join me. You can learn more at get.sunnyside.co/molly and you can get registered today. Welcome to the alcohol minimalist podcast. I’m your host Molly watts. If you want to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, you’re in the right place. This podcast explores the strategies I use to overcome a lifetime of family alcohol abuse, more than 30 years of anxiety and worry about my own drinking, and what felt like an unbreakable daily drinking habit. Becoming an alcohol minimalist means removing excess alcohol from your life. So it doesn’t remove you from life. It means being able to take alcohol or leave it without feeling deprived. It means to live peacefully, being able to enjoy a glass of wine without feeling guilty and without needing to finish the bottle. With Science on our side will shatter your past patterns and eliminate your excuses. Changing your relationship with alcohol is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Well, hello and welcome or welcome back to the alcohol minimalist podcast with me your host Molly Watts coming to you from a steal sweltering or it can. Oh my goodness, folks, it’s still in the high 90s. And I anticipate this week coming ahead. We’re supposed to be in the high 80s to low 90s. So it’s really warm around Oregon right now. And hey, I’m really not complaining. I love the warm weather, especially when I think back to February and March and heck even June this year. So, you know. Anyways, that’s what’s going on in the weather. And I know I know everyone looks forward to hearing about the weather here in Oregon and I love sharing it with you. So I am still having my summer content series continue this week and I am super excited to bring you information from Loretta Bruning and her work at the inner mammal Institute. If you haven’t checked out the inner mammal Institute, I highly recommend it inner mammal institute.org. LORETTA shares a lot of information on that lower brain part of us and how our brains evolved, and especially on the chemicals of a happy brain. And in this video, she’s again, this is a YouTube video that I’ve captured the audio from. She’s sharing five ways to increase joy in your life. And she’s talking specifically about some of the chemicals, those neurotransmitters that are responsible, like dopamine and serotonin and endorphin and cortisol. And one more. What am I forgetting? is oxytocin. So in this brief conversation, actually, it’s a little bit longer than the others that I’ve been sharing. But it’s so great, this very instructive piece of content from Loretta Bruning, she shares kind of the underlying reasons of those background of the happy chemicals in our brains, right and all of the evolution from our inner mammals, and then share some ideas on how you can have a more realistic and adult perspective on how to generate those feel good hormones, without outside elements and how to really just understand what your brain is looking for. Right? So this is a sciency episode, definitely back to sciency. And I’m feeling really happy about that. I feel like I’ve been craving some science so I always like listening to Loretta and I will link in the show notes all of her information, her website, her books, her YouTube channel, her podcast, so that you can learn more about the inner mammal Institute If you’re so inspired, and I will be back very soon, if not next week, the week after I have been working on some great content, including step one. So this podcast is coming out on Wednesday, August 3, and now is the time. Step one is launching. And if you are an early adopter, if you’ve signed up to be on the step one waiting list, and you do that at WWW dot Molly watts.com/step. One all together. Now you can go and sign up for the the offer now, the introductory period offer is from now until only until August 14. Because really, I just wanted to honor the people that had already signed up for early information on step one. From now until August 14 2022. Go check it out www dot Molly watts.com/step. One and learn more get excited. I am just really thrilled about what I have come up with I think it’s going to be a fantastic option for people. And if you have been trying to figure this out for a long time not putting able to put all the pieces together the listening to the podcast reading the book, but just not taking that the actions that you want to be. I think this might be a great step one. Get the name of the course. Alright, that’s all I have for you this week, my friends. Until next time, choose peace and here is Dr. Loretta Bruning. Hi, I’m Loretta Bruning, author of habits of a happy brain, retrain your brain to boost your serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin levels. I’m going to explain five ways to increase your Joie de Vive, your joy of life. And these five ways just happen to fit five different chemicals, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphin, and then how to relieve stress because relieving stress is the biggest source of joy from the animal brains perspective, stress being another chemical cortisol. So let’s start right in with dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical most immediately associated with the feeling of joy. Now, this is not the definition of joy that you’re hearing in the modern communications, because we sort of confuse psychology with religion. And people want to think that they have a higher spirituality, and that that’s the source of their happiness. And so Dopamine is a chemical found in animals, when you know, it turns it on and animals, you can see like, oh, yeah, that is what turns it on and people, but it’s not higher spirituality. So this information may be a bit uncomfortable, but try it on. And I think you’ll see how it works for you. Needless to say, I’m not saying that we should act like animals or have lower values, but we have to be honest about the brain we have in order to manage it well. So it’s if you don’t get real about your happy chemicals, then you’re going to turn them on in unhealthy ways impulsively, because all of that bloody blob that you hear in theory doesn’t really work. So by being honest about your inner mammal, then you can redirect your natural mammalian responses to enjoy the joy of your own happy chemicals. So dopamine is actually turned on by something new and improved. Now, an animal has to look for food, all the timer will starve to death. And dopamine is the feeling of wow, I found something that meets my needs. So in the animal world, it’s pretty hard to meet your need for food. And that’s why animals and our human ancestors were happy just when they found food. But in the modern world, food is easily available. And anything you already have does not spark your dopamine, you want something new. Now this is not needless to say higher values to say that something new makes me happy. So let’s compromise without a bid. If I walk into a coffee shop, and they are roasting coffee, be like wow, that smell. Oh, I love it. It gets me so excited. So think of that as dopamine. Now, if I got a job in that coffee shop and smelled that smell every minute of the day, it wouldn’t turn me on anymore. If it did, we’d all be fighting to be baristas. So then helps us understand how our brain works. So each of us can understand what triggers dopamine in the context of our own past experience, because your past dopamine has wired your present brain. So, for example, when I was young, I had an opportunity to travel. And when I think about my next trip that turns on my dopamine, I can’t wait, I immediately get the anticipation of reward, which is what turns on dopamine. Now, we all have circuits for anticipating reward. And that’s what turns on our dopamine. Now, those circuits were built when we were young. So you may be trying to turn on your dopamine. But anticipating something that’s not really good for you, we all do that, because those circuits were built when we were young. And we didn’t really have a healthy ability to anticipate consequences or realistic ability. Now, it’s hard to change those old circuits. So we all try to work with them and try to adapt an add on to that. So think about a way that you can get excited by something new and improved, and yet, something healthy. So a simple way to think about that is a goal, a new goal, I tell people to have a short run goal, a long run goal and a middle term goal. Because when you take that next step towards your goal, your dopamine is triggered just like a monkey who found a banana, it’s like, well, I can get that banana, it’s the I can get it feeling, your brain has to expect to be able to get it but doesn’t waste dopamine on otherwise. So if you are dreaming of being a rock star, but your brain realizes that you’re not actually approaching being a rock star, it will not waste dopamine on that. So find a goal that you feel like you can actually approach and then take steps toward approaching it. Adjust that goal as needed. And you’ll see that that’s what stimulates your go dopamine. And it doesn’t have to be some fabulous, enormous goal doesn’t have to be saving the world have a short term goal that you can reach by lunchtime, so that you’ll always have a little bit of dopamine, it’s quickly metabolized, but then you’ll always have a little more with your next step. That’s how our brain is designed to work. Now let’s move on to the next happy chemical oxytocin. Oxytocin is widely thought of as the love hormone or the bonding chemical. So we are descended from creatures who found safety in numbers, we look for a herd to feel good. And in the modern world, this is widely thought of as having the support of a group. Now of course, we’d love the supportive group. But if it were that easy, then we’d all be doing it already. So the complication is easy to understand from a baboon perspective. So baboons actually spread out when there’s no predator, because spreading out makes it easier for them to find food. So we modern humans, are not as tribal as our ancestors, we would rather spread out than follow the herd every minute. Now, baboons stick together as soon as they see a common enemy. And in the modern human world, it’s the same. A common enemy is what Bond’s us. So as you go through your day, think about the people that you’re talking to they’re always talking about their common enemy because that’s what Bond’s people that can we feel a little paranoid, a little fearful because all anybody talks about his enemies. That’s the downside of this happy chemical. So how can you get the good feeling of oxytocin, that safety of enjoying social support, that feeling of being protected, which is what your inner mammal is really looking for? If you get it by focusing on enemies all the time or by following the herd all the time, you will suffer? Now all of us look for oxytocin in ways that worked in our youth, because that’s when our neural, our neuroplasticity is high. So that’s when we build pathways that tell us how to find it. Hey, everyone, just a quick break in the show to talk with you about sunny side. Now you’ve heard me talk about Sunnyside on the show before. I’ve had Nick and Ian the founders here as my guests. I am just so impressed with them. They are deeply mission driven. They are building A service to help millions of people create a healthier relationship with alcohol with no pressure to quit or feel guilty. So you know, they are very aligned with everything I talk about here at alcohol minimalist, I wanted to share with you some thoughts and comments made by people in my group and my clients who use sign a site. I checked it out and was pleasantly surprised. I have used a few tracking apps and despise to them. But the support the daily check ins and the plan, yes, the plan. I signed up for three months yesterday and actually looked forward to the check in today. I have no doubt this tool is a step forward for me. I just want to thank you to everyone who recommended Sunnyside in this group and all of your advice throughout, I’m having the best start to a week of moderating Since I fell off the wagon in January, you work the plan, and it works. Thank you everyone. Now you don’t have to take my word for it. You don’t have to take their word for it. I want you to check it out for yourself. Go to www.sunnyside.co/minimalist to get started on a free trial today. So how can you get your oxytocin your nice feeling of being supported in a healthy way? The simple answer, say it quickly is if it’s mutual trust, reciprocal trust. If I trust you, you will trust me, if I scratch your back, you will scratch mine. Now this leads many people to bitterness because they feel like well, I’ve already scratched everybody’s back and nobody’s scratching mine. So we have to be realistic about this. Here’s a simple way of thinking about it. If I build my bridge toward you, that over time, you will build your bridge toward me. So if I spend my time building my half of the bridge toward other people, then my brain will anticipate social trust and connection and mutual support and the protection protection is selfish. A simple example of that is when a gazelle feels threatened, it runs toward the hurt. So it’s not worried about the good, the greater good of the herd, it’s actually actually endangering the herd by running toward it and bringing the predator there. So that’s the way our brain really works. We want protection we seek protection in groups. And the healthy, modern advanced way of getting it is to anticipate the good feeling of oxytocin naturally, by offering protection to others, you know that you will get protection from them when you need it, you won’t get the protection every minute of every day, because that’s the child view of protection that we wired in in childhood. And it’s not helpful to see it that way in adulthood. But rather to know that we can get it when needed. And we can offer it and that helps us feel that we will get it when we need it. So let’s move on to an even more complicated chemical serotonin. So serotonin is the good feeling of the one up position of social dominance. Now this is very threatening to think about because it sounds very unspiritual, unhealthy and even evil to say that you feel pleasure in social dominance. And yet it’s so obvious to see that that’s what makes people feel good is when they see themselves in the one up position. And in fact, when your other basic needs are met. That’s what you focus on. That’s what your brain obsesses over because serotonin is quickly metabolized. So as soon as you get that great feeling of being in the one up position, it’s gone. And then you look for the one up position again. So how can you get it without being a jerk? Now we easily see that other people are looking for the one up position, and other people act like jerks in order to get it. But it’s hard to see in ourselves. Once again. We look for it in ways that we got it in youth, because whatever triggered your serotonin when you were young, built the neural pathways that tell you how to get it today. And so you are looking for the one up position in ways that worked for you when you were young. And I am looking for the one up position in ways that worked for me when I was young. Needless to say, none of those ways can work per physically, because no one’s childhood is a perfect prediction of what works in adulthood. And every strategy is not going to work if you keep repeating it over and over, because you’re going to overdo it. And a simple example of that are many unfortunate examples that you could think of. So one of them is a person who thinks I can hold my liquor better than you can. That’s an example of a child way of thinking about it. Another is a Boolean. Another is materialism. And another is that sort of sarcastic putting down of other people. So what would be an example of a healthy way of enjoying one up position, would be putting myself up without putting others down, what would be a way to do that is taking pride in my own next step. So think of a way that you can take pride in your own next step, take that next step that you are proud of, you will feel the serotonin, you will love it, but it will soon be over. And so you will have to take another step that you’re proud of. That’s hard work. And that’s the way our brain is designed to work. And that’s why it’s hard work to feel good. And yet, you can feel good if you do the work yet. Now, just briefly, I’m going to talk about endorphin. endorphin is actually the same as opioid chemical. It is not designed to be on all the time, it is designed for emergencies only. It is released when you are in real physical pain, because its job is to mask pain with a euphoric feeling, which gives an animal time to escape a predator, which gave our ancestors time to get support when they were injured. So you only get it when you’re injured, and you are not designed to injure yourself just to get it. Fortunately, you get a little bit when you left. So laughing is the healthy, modern way to get it normally get a little bit, but then you can laugh again and get more isn’t that great? Now let’s move on to how can we relieve threat in order to create a good feeling because that is the most functional, relevant, significant way that our brain works. So here’s a simple example. Imagine you’re a gazelle and you smell a predator. Your cortisol surges. Cortisol is what we call the stress chemical. It’s designed to tell you, your life is immediately threatened. Now, gazelles don’t imagine predators that would be a waste of their life. But the big human cortex is actually capable of wasting its life by by imagining predators all the time. Now, what does a gazelle do when it smells a predator? It looks around where is the predator so that it can find the best escape path, and then get back to enjoying the grass? So what do you do when you imagine a predator? You look around for evidence, what triggered my threat feeling. And that’s basically what a lot of people are doing all the time. When you look for evidence, predators, you will find it. And that’s why you can spend so much of your life in a cortisol spiral where the more you look, the more you find, the more cortisol you have, the more you look. So if you know how to manage your cortisol response, then you will get a happiness of relieving a threat. What is the happiness of relieving a threat when a gazelle finds the escape path, escapes the predator and then gets back to enjoying the grass? So gazelles don’t spend their life focusing on lions. They focus on their next step, how can I find a safe escape path and get back to the grass? So you can be doing that by having a more realistic understanding of how your mind is activating that sense of a predator. Simple example is what’s called Post Traumatic post traumatic stress. So whenever you had a surge of cortisol when you were young, neurons connect and build a pathway that tells you, danger, avoid this. So you spend your whole life looking around for that particular threat. And it’s so easy to see how people do this. I look for the threat from my past. You look for the threat for In your past, you’re always worried about x. And I don’t even worry about that, because I didn’t build that pathway. And yet, I’m worried about some other threat. This is what we humans do. So we really need to understand how we’re creating our own threatened feeling. Once you recognize that pattern, then your next step is to do something fun for about a half hour. Because cortisol stays in your body for a while. And anything you try to do. It ruins it gives you a bad feeling about it. Because that’s Its job is to tell you to look for bad information. So, for example, you’re worried about X, you go do yoga, and then you maybe start thinking that you’re really bad at yoga, because the cortisol is giving you that bad feeling. So it’s important to have a distract, or an activity that you actually like, rather than you think you should be doing, because it’s good for you. And when you do that, your brain will be so busy with that activity, that you can’t think about a predator, because you can’t create that illusion of being threatened while you’re focusing on this hobby that you love. And that will stop the cortisol spiral, you’ll stop triggering new cortisol. Now, I realized that I forgot to finish the example about the baboons. When baboons feel safe, they spread out. But when baboons smell a predator, then they gather together. So in conclusion, we’re always looking for a lot of people are always looking for that predator, because then they have that good feeling of joining together. And that feels good for short run. But if you’re only joining about negative things like enemies, then you don’t get that joy of reaching a goal as you do with dopamine. So you can have power over your brain, you can make decisions about how to stimulate your happy chemicals, you can spread yourself out to stimulate all of them, instead of just focusing on the one that you’re sort of good at. And you can free yourself from waves you stimulated these chemicals in the past, in order to stimulate them in healthy ways. And the details of all of this are in my books, especially the introductory book, habits of a happy brain, retrain the brain to boost your serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin levels. I have a new workbook that helps you do this in a step by step way that’s very simplified that anyone can do. It’s called 14 days to sustainable happiness. And I have a new book called status games, why we play and how to stop which zeroes in on the serotonin peaks, because that’s really the hardest part. And the part that’s really absorbing our attention today, which is, why do you feel so good when you’re in the one up position? And why do you feel like it’s a survival threat, when you see yourself in a one down position and put someone else in the one up position, and how to become aware that you’re doing that in your own mind, so that you can create new pathways to have more joy of serotonin and less pain of cortisol? Nice talking to you. Thank you for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Use something you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible you have the power to change your relationship with alcohol now, for more information, please visit me at www dot Molly watts.com