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Improv teacher Peter Chapman helps me understand what makes us laugh.

THE HAPPY BRAIN PODCAST is a frank conversation between Loretta Breuning and a real reader of her book, Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain your brain to boost your serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin levels. Read the book and send your questions to Dr. Breuning on the contact form at the Inner Mammal Institute at: InnerMammalInstitute.org. You may be a guest on the show yourself!

The brain chemicals that make us feel good are inherited from earlier mammals. They evolved to do a job, not to make you feel good all the time. When you know the job each chemical does in the state of nature, your ups and downs make sense. More important, you can re-wire yourself to enjoy more of them in sustainable ways.

It’s not easy, alas. Our brain is designed to release happy chemicals when you take steps that promote survival. But our brain defines survival in a quirky way: it cares about the survival of your genes and it relies on neural pathways built in youth. To make things even harder, our brain habituates to the rewards it has so you always have to do more to get more happy chemicals.

We are not born with survival skills like our animal ancestors. Each newborn human wires itself from its own early experience. Happy chemicals are like paving on your neural pathways, wiring you to repeat behaviors that made you feel good before. This is why our urgent motivations don’t make sense to our verbal brain. It’s not easy being mammal!

When you know how your brain works, you can find healthier ways to enjoy happy chemicals and relieve unhappy chemicals. You can build new neural pathways by feeding your brain new experiences. But you have to design the new experiences carefully and repeat them— a lot!

The Inner Mammal Institute has free resources to help you make peace with your inner mammal: videos, blogs, infographics, and podcasts. Dr. Breuning’s manyt books illuminate the big picture and help you plot your course. You can feel good in new ways, no matter where you are right now. Get the details at InnerMammalInstitute.org.

Music from Sonatina Soleil by W.M. Sharp. Hear more of it at InnerMammalInstitute.org/musicbywmsharp

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