In an earlier post I gave a simplified introduction to four key regions of the brain that influence how we feel. The most important take-away is the understanding of how the neural circuits work. There is a circuit for every thought, feeling, and action we have. By making small tweaks we can “swing the vote” of the synaptic signal.
Think of this system as a presidential election. If you change the number of votes in a few key states by a tiny percentage of points, you can dramatically change the course of the county. The same is true for the brain.
This means our biology is not our destiny. Just because Grandma Jones suffered from debilitating depression, doesn’t mean little Jonesie will. We can now think of genetics as a guide navigating through uncertain terrain, rather than a life sentence. Environmental factors influence the course, but so does our awareness.
The key to change is knowing how you’re wired. For example, I live in the Pacific Northwest but was born and raised in Southern California. When the long winter days settle in and the sun goes into hiding, I start to go a wee bit nuts.
Ever seen the Simpson’s take on the Shining? That’s me. “No sunshine or blue skies makes Kerry go crazy.” To offset this, I have to find ways to bump up my serotonin and dopamine levels. One way I do this is to sit in a sauna, but that may not do it for little Jonesie. One person’s sanctuary of solitary confinement is another person’s hell. The point is to find what works for you.
The key to changing your brain chemistry may not be as easy as a walk in the park. Though, according to science, that’s a really great place to start.