In Part 1 of “The Big Lie” found here  we discussed dopamine and the role of this feel good, natural neurotransmitter in our brains.  We noted that our brains and specifically our Nucleus Accumbens (NA for short) are indifferent when it comes to the “stimulant” that heats up our NA and dopamine surges.  Our brains and our NAs only care that dopamine is delivered.  They will go to whatever means necessary to initiate the surge.

Most of us have had an experience where we commit to not behaving in a way that we have deemed undesirable, and then doing that behavior any way.  Part 1 of this post pulled the curtains back on the way our dopamine can be stimulated by engaging in activities we consider unhealthy or bad for us.  We talked specifically about the brain’s need for dopamine and how we will satisfy that craving no matter what it takes, even if that means we are lying to ourselves about what we will and won’t put into our bodies.

What we didn’t discuss in Part 1 is that there are other innate avenues in our miraculous bodies available for getting that same feel good dopamine surge that don’t involve bad habits or addiction.  We didn’t discuss all of the natural “feel good” chemicals, only dopamine.  There are actually four and they are referred to here as EDSO:  Epinephrine, Dopamine, Seratonin and Oxytocin.  These all play a critical role in “how” we are “feeling.”  If we can stimulate the production of these chemicals proactively, we may be less susceptible to breaking our promises to ourselves later.

Increased EDSO presence may cause us to notice a decrease in the variability of our mood.  This can make us less vulnerable as we reclaim our power, keeping our promises to ourselves.  EDSO production is not reliant on a food binge or a trip to the casino.  If we engage in certain behaviors, EDSO production is actually bountiful without having to rely on our “weaknesses” or “addictions” to gain access.  We can naturally program our brain to secrete these neurotransmitters without having to negatively impact ourselves in the process.

So how can we increase the flow of these amazing “all is well and I belong” natural brain chemicals that help us feel everything is ok, at least for right now?  The great news is that there are countless ways to accomplish this, many of which are free and infinite.  As we learn to tap into our body’s natural ability to heal and comfort itself, we can work to release ourselves from addictions.  Instead of guilting, blaming and shaming ourselves for whatever has us stuck, we begin to layer in some consistent behaviors so that EDSO secretion is plentiful and effortless.  No addictions needed.

Getting our neurotransmitters fired up naturally constitutes a much longer discussion for each chemical, understanding how each works and what the levers are to pull for each one.  You can, and you should, do your own investigating.  For our purposes, a small number of actions are shared below that have been thought to help our brain chemistry realign itself naturally.

Not many surprises here, but the reminders may be helpful:

  • Sleep: A minimum of 7 – 8 hours per night (Actual sleep, not time in bed)
  • Exercise:   Frequent (more so than infrequent but intense) movement of the body through walking, yoga, cardio activities and an overall “active” lifestyle keeps our brain pumping all day and all night.  For example, instead of walking three miles a day in the morning, see what happens when you take three, one-mile walks in the morning, afternoon and evening.  Not all schedules will allow for this but anything we can do to increase the frequency of moving our bodies is desired.  I have heard it said that regular exercise is like taking a hit of Ritalin and a dose of Prozac.  Both of these synthetic medications act on the EDSO neurotransmitters, which is what makes them, and exercise effective.
  • Nutrition:  Eat whole foods.  Avoid sugary and processed foods which can trigger mood dips.  There is endless data on this.  If interested try reading “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan, who advises us to “Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much.”
  • Connect with other humans:  Spend time with people in live person to person interaction.  This is a MAJOR lever we can pull to balance our brain chemistry.  Specifically, maintaining regular contact with someone who loves and supports us can transform our negative propensities and flood our brains with reminders (via EDSO production) that we are part of a larger collective, not off on some island isolated.  This has become critical in the age of COVID-19 when so many of us are suffering medical symptoms resulting from prolonged isolation and lack of human connection.
  • Connect with your pets and/or nature: Same rationale applies as above.  The unconditional love and acceptance we feel around our pets and also around nature are direct avenues to keeping our neurology balanced and our feel good chemicals plentiful.  Noticing that nature is brilliant, and that we are part of that intelligence is a grounding exercise that can remind us of who we are in our most natural state.  Seeing ourselves in nature is a connection so powerful you have to experience it for yourself.  In the meantime, play with your pets, and study the foliage in the featured image of this post.
  • Meditate: You knew this one was coming!  So many of us resist this free, flexible, customizable and available anywhere/anytime resource!  I didn’t start understanding the material impact this practice could have on my quality of life for the first twenty years I intermittently tried it.  But over the last five years or so that has changed for me.  Even practicing one minute of stillness before starting and ending the day, can be transformative.  If curious about starting this practice there are lots of resources, but I invite you to also contact me if you have questions.  I love sharing my experience with this!
  • Shopping, sex, gambling and other activities that can result in addiction are also known to increase the production of EDSO. Check out this article from Harvard Women’s Health Watch:  “Dopamine, the Pathway to Pleasure” by Executive Editor Stephanie Watson.  You also can, and should identify your own authoritative resources if further interested in this topic.  Information is power.

In summary, Parts 1 & 2 of the “Big Lie” post have been shared to communicate that we do not have to be indentured to our minds and their whimsical yet cunning and deceptive maneuvers.  We now know they will be skillful when they want more dopamine.  Seeking to understand what role our life’s activities and choices play in driving the chemicals in our brains is a powerful first step in breaking the hold a bad habit has on us.  Remember, our brains are the most magical, intelligent, creative and malleable computers in the Universe.  Checking out the user’s manual on these priceless machines is not a bad idea from time to time.

~ Please check with your medical provider for medical advice.  This post is for thought consideration only. ~

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