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Inner Mammal Institute
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Making peace with the animal inside you
Making peace with the animal inside you

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Meeting individual needs while maintaining groups ties is hard work. Constant small adjustments are necessary. But we are better at this than we realize.

We have inherited a brain good at meeting its needs while living with others, yet the more we satisfy one need, the more we seek the other. You forget your successes because your brain is onto the next thing.

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The brain’s quest for happy chemicals often leads to a vicious cycle because of the side effects. “Everything I like is illegal, immoral or fattening,” goes the old saying. Happy chemicals exist because of their side effects, thanks to natural selection. When happy chemicals dip and we seek more, we get more side effects. They can accumulate to the point where they trigger unhappy chemicals. Now, the behavior you use to trigger happiness creates more unhappiness. And the more cortisol you produce, the more motivated you are to repeat the behavior you expect to make you happy. You are wired for frustration.

Vicious cycles are everywhere. Some of the most familiar ones are alcohol, junk food, compulsive spending and drugs. Other well-known vicious cycles are risk-taking, getting angry, falling in love and rescuing others. Each of these behaviors can make you feel good in a moment when you were feeling bad.

You can stop this vicious cycle in one instant. You can resist that “do something” feeling and live with the bad cortisol feeling. This is not easy because cortisol screams for your attention. It did not evolve for you to sit around and accept it. But you can build the skill of doing nothing during a cortisol alert, despite that urge to make it go away in any way possible. That frees you to activate an alternative happy circuit instead of the old familiar one. A virtuous circle starts in that moment.
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If you have a secure attachment style, you expect to be loved. You trust that your partner will care about your needs. If this sounds like an impossible dream, you may be in the approximately 50% of the population who has either an anxious or an avoidant attachment style.
The anxious attachment style leaves a person constantly worried that a partner will not return their love. The avoidant attachment style leaves a person convinced they are better off distancing from a partner except for the idealized person they imagine in their past or future. However, you can still change your style and build a sense of security. More in this post:

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We all want our children to have healthy habits, but unhealthy habits often take us by surprise. To understand why, it helps to know how the brain builds habits. Also, after you’re 20, myelin plummets, and new superhighways in the brain are hard to build. Helping a child build healthy habits is the best legacy you can leave.

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Nature gave us distinct Happy Chemicals that give us good feelings. You can build new habits and train your brain to obtain a well balanced happiness diet. #Time2Rewire #Science
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You can graft a new branch onto the roots of a happy circuit you’ve already developed. When old people reconnect with high-school sweethearts, they are grafting new circuits onto old roots. Returning to a hobby you loved as a child or building a hobby into a career are other well-known grafting successes. Adding branches to an existing tree is a good way to overcome the difficulty of building brand-new happy circuits.

Grafting is also a good way to balance your neurochemicals. You can spark the happy chemical that’s difficult for you by grafting onto an activity you love. If you love photography, for example, you are stimulating dopamine when you seek and find a particular shot. You can also stimulate oxytocin if you share the images with others, and serotonin by entering your pictures in exhibitions. If you’re a person who loves parties, you are already stimulating oxytocin. You can stimulate dopamine by planning parties, and serotonin by organizing fundraisers. New happy chemical pathways are easier to spark when you build on existing roots.

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When you know how serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin work in our animal ancestors, the “modern” frustrations of life suddenly make sense. More about that in this fun video interview with the Fat-Burning Man Podcast .

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You don’t need a lot of time or money to build a new neural pathway; you need courage and focus, because you must repeat a new behavior for forty-five days. Whether or not it feels good, if you stick with it, you'll have blazed a new circuit in your brain after six weeks!
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Your brain turns on its emergency broadcast system when your urge for recognition is disappointed. When you feel socially slighted, you can easily find evidence to "prove" it. You can point to evidence that you've been wronged, neglected, disrespected, undervalued, misjudged or abused, so you think you're being objective. But our brain is designed to find what it looks for. You can end up in a bad loop, where neglected feelings prompt a scanning for evidence of neglect, which triggers more neglected feelings. To escape this loop, focus on what you are doing instead of what you think is being done to you.

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The newness of experiences and novelty of the world during our youth helps explain why early memories leave such strong impressions in our adult brain.
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