Episode 22: Happy Brain Chemicals with guest Dr. Loretta Breuning (Part 3)

Episode 22: Happy Brain Chemicals with guest Dr. Loretta Breuning (Part 3)


Our guest Dr. Loretta Breuning, Founder of the Inner Mammal Institute, helps people manage the ups and downs of their mammal brain. She is also a professor emerita of management at California State University East Bay and the author of eight books, including "Habits of a Happy Brain" - which talks about the brain chemicals that make us feel good, and how to stimulate them naturally.

Dr. Breuning’s Books (selected)

  • Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain your Brain to Boost your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin and Endorphin Levels (click here for more information).

  • The Science of Positivity: Stop Negative Thought Patterns by Changing your Brain Chemistry (click here for more information).

  • Tame Your Anxiety: Rewiring your Brain for Happiness is Dr. Breuning’s most recent book (click here for more information). It discusses how to manage moments of anxiety by rewiring your autopilot, so that you can get things done. Specifically, it suggests ways to stimulate happy chemicals instead of going into a cortisol surge.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is your stress hormone. It is the brain chemical that warns you that a situation is dangerous. For example, cortisol is designed to protect you from touching a hot stove twice. If you touch a hot stove once, you’ll pull your hand off and you say “Whoa, I'm never going to touch that again!”  

You have been wired to protect yourself against most things that have hurt you in the past. But, needless-to-say, you can wire yourself to think too many things are terrible or dangerous, when in fact some of these things might not be.

For example, you may perceive all dogs as dangerous, because a dog that you met when you were younger lunged at you. So, now, every time you see a dog, you get anxious and stressed (cue the surge of cortisol!).

What is the cortisol loop?

Once you get that initial feeling of “Oh, this could be bad for me,” you will look for information. Specifically, what your brain does is it looks for evidence of threat.

For example, you see the dog, and the dog is big and has teeth; so, you feel frightened.

Once you see evidence of threat (e.g., the dog), then your brain releases more cortisol - it says “Whoa, there really is a dog and it's close and it's going to get me!”

That's sort of what you've learned. Once your cortisol turns on, you’re primed to be looking for the “bad” or for the “danger”.

That's the tragedy - you can ruin a perfectly good life by wiring yourself to look for the bad.

So, it's a matter of building a circuit that looks for the good and then connecting the good circuit to that moment of threat. This way, you enter a potentially threatening situation looking for the good.

For example, you saw the dog. BUT, nothing actually happened. The dog did not lunge at you. The dog just walked by wagging his tail. As such, there was no real reason to feel frightened by the presence of this dog.

All of Dr. Loretta Breuning’s books are available where books are sold or visit (click here for more information).

Dr. Loretta’s “The Happy Brain Podcast”

The Happy Brain Podcast answers all of your questions about happy brain chemicals. If you have any relevant questions, Dr. Breuning would be happy to hear from you. To find out more visit: https://innermammalinstitute.org/podcast/

Dr. Loretta’s Video Series

If you are looking for short, five minute introductory videos on brain chemical, be sure to check out (click here for more information). Dr. Breuning created a 7-part series just for you!


To learn more about Dr. Loretta Breuning visit her website (click here).