I recently watched a talk “This video will change your life” by Simon Sinek and I was very happy to watch as he laid out the nature of the critical chemicals that affect our brains and subsequent moods and motivations. I am currently working on a new hip hop album (see solocypher.blogspot.com for music) with the working title “Neuroplastic” investigating how our brains work, how we can understand them and how to use them most effectively to improve our own lives and the lives of others around us, so this talk was a real inspiration. Link to the video is below but in summary here’s what piqued my interest….
Endorphins. These chemicals mask physical pain, and is what causes the feeling of a “runners high” after a long cardio session. They are also released when we laugh, as the act of laughing causes such movement in our internal organs that they hurt. Hence why after a serious bout of mirth or tickling we yell “stop, stop”….this is because the endorphins have “run out” and so we feel the actual pain that has been inflicted on us by laughing!!
Dopamine. We get little hits of dopamine every time we achieve something. This is why it is great to write down goals, achieve them and then physically cross them off. Dopamine is also extremely (or as Sinek emphasises, “highly, highly) addictive…Alcohol, Cigarettes and your mobile phone all induce the brain to release high levels of dopamine so be extrelmely concious of how much time you are spending around any of these things. (there’s a whatsapp message waiting for me right now, I’m desperately trying to avoid reading it as I type…should have left my phone in another room before begining to type this article!)
Sinek forcefully reminds us that dopamine can be dangerous and destructive if inbalanced, and reminds us that we can always
- Go for a run/do some exercise
- Achieve some goals
- Get dopamine
Without having to resort to more addictive/dangerous behaviours. He then goes on to discuss the equally important, if harder to obtain, chemicals of Seratonin and Oxytocin.
Seratonin – Associated with pride and status, we recieve it at events such as graduations, whether we are recieving an award or are part of the network making the achievement possible, seratonin is released all round which helps reinforce bonds and relationships. It is also present when individuals feel safe in a group setting. As a result, Sinek insists, it is the primary job of all leaders to make every individual feel safe and secure in their environment. This leads to the question for all leaders (this includes you, dear reader); how big do we make the circle of safety? Sinek asserts that the greatest leaders make the circles the widest. I would be inclined to agree.
Oxytocin – Presented as the chemical with the most potential for overall benefit, Oxytocin induces feelings of love, trust and friendship. This is why physical contact in relationships, such as hugging and handshakes, really matter. I have always been a pretty tactile bloke, and have always enjoyed embraces of all kinds, and is one of the abiding features I love about hiphop culture with its handshake/hug standard method of greeting. Now I know that there is deeprooted brain chemistry going on in the background I’m going to embrace this method even more. As Sinek says, the more you engage in this type of behaviour, the more you want. Additionally it boosts your immune system and is not physically addictive.
So in general, we should be looking for situations in work, family, in fact all areas of life that help us boost the above chemicals. What is actually happening, much to Sinek’s (and my own) chagrin, is that work places and environments are not providing us with opportunities to release these chemicals, in fact our jobs are prone to make us release a different chemical – Cortisol; which induces stress, fear and anxiety and if released regularly over long periods of time is extremely detrimental to our health. As Sinek succinctly puts it at 42 minutes into the talk “Our jobs are killing us”. I couldn’t agree more, so as is the aim of this blog, lets get together, release some good chemicals and start coming up with solutions to make our selves happier, our societies happier, and the planet a much happier place to be on!
If you have any ideas or experiences that can help boost any of these chemicals on a daily basis, comment below to share the love!
Brain Chemicals Image Linked from: http://emailday.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/wwwkeralitesnet-4-happy-hormones.html No other credit source available, so thanks whoever made it!