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Meet Your Happy Chemicals

Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin

By Loretta Graziano Breuning
15-minute read
Audio available
Meet Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin  by Loretta Graziano Breuning

Meet Your Happy Chemicals (2012) provides a detailed introduction to the four chemicals responsible for our happiness: dopamine, serotonin, endorphin and oxytocin. The book explores the mechanics of what makes us happy and why, as well as why some bad things make us feel so good.

  • Anyone interested in turning their bad habits into productive ones
  • Anyone who wants to become a happier person
  • Anyone who is interested in psychology and neurology

Loretta Graziano Breuning is the founder of the Inner Mammal Institute as well as a docent at the Oakland Zoo, where she lectures on the social behavior of mammals and gives tours. She has written several other books, including Beyond Cynical: Transcend Your Mammalian Negativity.

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Meet Your Happy Chemicals

Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin

By Loretta Graziano Breuning
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Meet Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin  by Loretta Graziano Breuning
Synopsis

Meet Your Happy Chemicals (2012) provides a detailed introduction to the four chemicals responsible for our happiness: dopamine, serotonin, endorphin and oxytocin. The book explores the mechanics of what makes us happy and why, as well as why some bad things make us feel so good.

Key idea 1 of 9

We feel happy every time we see something that is good for our survival.

Everybody wants to be happy. In fact, if we had our way, most of us would always be happy. But what does “being happy” actually mean? And what does happiness look like inside our brain?

Several structures in our brain, collectively called the limbic system, manage all of the chemicals responsible for our happiness. These happy chemicals are brain chemicals – dopamine, endorphin, oxytocin and serotonin – that are released each time we see something that is good for our survival.

Whenever we sense something, the limbic makes a quick assessment to “decide” whether or not something is worth a spurt of happy chemicals.

The limbic system developed a very long time ago in our evolutionary history, and works today as it did in the past: things that increase the possibility of survival trigger happy chemicals, and things that decrease our chances of survival trigger unhappy chemicals.

Though we inherited the limbic system from our ancestors, our brain doesn’t automatically know when to release happy chemicals. Rather, it’s our experiences and the neural pathways they form which determine what makes us happy and what doesn’t.

Neural pathways are mainly formed when we are young: Each time we experienced something nice as a child, a neurochemical connection was built or strengthened.

When you were hungry as a child, for example, that experience probably made you feel bad. If your mom gave you a cookie to ease your hunger, however, you probably felt better. If this happens a few times a connection between your neurons is formed. That’s why you now reach out for a cookie whenever you feel bad: your brain formed a connection between eating cookies and a happy feeling.

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