Feeling & Function: 4 Brain Chemicals Simplified

Retraining Your Brain For Success (series)

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Ah, that feeling of happiness, like driving along the coast on a warm summer day, top down in a convertible, hair flowing back, your favorite music playing, and your best friend next to you. No worries, no challenges, no problems.

That feeling is the release of dopamine in the brain. Alongside of this chemical, that scenario above can release serotonin, glutamate, and norepinephrine (adrenaline). Our brain contains more chemicals than those, however these specific four play an essential role for how we feel and operate daily.

Chemical Breakdown

Let’s breakdown these four chemicals in a simple, easy to understand manner so we can assume control of them, which is crucial to creating sustainable success.

Dopamine: Controls behaviors and emotions. It is associated with the part of our brain that affects pleasure and reward.

Serotonin: Controls sleep and depression. It is associated with our moods.

Glutamate: Controls development, cognition, and learning. It is associated with how we remember (memory).

Norepinephrine (Adrenaline): Controls our stress response. It is associated with our “fight or flight” responses. 

This simple understanding is the framework for how we can use these chemical to train our brain for sustainable success. 

Brain Retrain

Now that we have a simple understanding, lets unpack how we can use these chemicals to create new patterns and habits daily to capitalize on these important chemicals.  

We know that Dopamine is released when we are rewarded or feel pleasure (happiness). This one is easy to create. Plan a way to reward yourself daily for completing a project, meeting a deadline, or accomplishing a needed task. Once completed and the reward follows (maybe a nap, perhaps a bowl of ice cream) dopamine is released and the brain remembers that. Soon when you finish a task the reward will be the completion not anything physical therefore the brain will release dopamine and elate you even before you reward yourself.

This happens too with happiness, especially when people listen to music. I have certain styles I like to listen to when I am completing different tasks, and merely knowing that the music is coming puts me in a happy mood, ready to tackle it.

One of the greatest ways we can increase our success is by increasing Serotonin levels by taking a serious look at our sleep patterns. The better (and more) sleep we get the less depression we will feel, and the more focus we will have during our waking hours. I think as entrepreneurs we all struggle with this from time to time. Being aware of sleep patterns, especially is we sleep less than 7 hours a night can increase serotonin.

Have you ever thought to yourself ‘I wish I could remember what I was thinking…” throughout the day? Knowing how we learn best, whether listening, writing, seeing, or doing and spending as much time leaning in what suits us best will increase glutamate release. Also, learning in the manner that best suits us increases the other three chemicals too.

Finally, when we are motivated and excited to do something, norepinephrine is released. Finding ways to get excited about what we are doing increases the release. Certainly, this chemical also becomes affected when we have challenges, yet reframing the mindset of those challenges can also restructure how adrenaline is released.

Let’s Get To It

Take inventory of a ‘normal’ day in your life. At the end of that day look at how your body used (or didn’t use) these chemicals. Now you will have a baseline to grow from. Leave a comment below with some of your ‘a-ha’ moments.

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