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What Are You Addicted To?

shutterstock_218061502We all have known people who seem predisposed to seeing the glass “half-full” or “half-empty”—the optimists vs the pessimists, the perky Pollyannas vs the Debbie Downers, the Susie Sunshines vs the in-the-dumps Eyores of the world. Why the difference?

It turns out that there is a biochemical, molecular answer! In the early 1970s, a young doctoral student at Johns Hopkins, Candice Pert, was working on her PhD in neuropharmacology. She was the first to discover opiate receptors on the outside of a cell—these opiate receptors “receive” both external opiates, such as heroine and opium, as well as our internal natural opiate, endorphins.

A decade later, while working at the National Institutes of Health, her research evolved to uncover one of the most significant discoveries in the history of neuroscience:

Your emotions consist of real, physical things

Dr. Pert, in her book, The Molecules of Emotion, describes that every emotion (love, joy, peace, anger, frustration, sadness) has a unique neuropeptide associated with it, and our bodies produce that unique neuropeptide by the billions every time we experience a particular emotion.

We become comfortable with our most familiar emotions. If our most familiar emotions are negative emotions, that’s what we’re used to and, in a sense, we become “addicted” to those emotions. If our most familiar emotions are positive emotions, that’s what we become most familiar with, and thus “addicted” to positive emotions.

emotionsThe more the brain perceives the world through the lens of gratitude, the faster the hypothalamus (the control center of the brain) signals to secrete the “positive” neuropeptides that bind to billions of cell receptors throughout the body to produce positive emotions.

The more the brain perceives the world through the lens of threat, loss, pessimism, worry, scarcity, and so on, the faster the hypothalamus signals to secrete “negative” neuropeptides that bind to billions of cell receptors throughout the body and cause the cells to become damaged and more susceptible to disease.

In short:

  • Positive emotions produce positive neurotransmitters, creating a sort of biological “addiction” in our cells—all day, every day—for more positive emotions.
  • Negative emotions produce neurotransmitters that are harmful to our cells, creating a sort of biological “addiction” in our cells—all day, every day—for more negative emotions.

The question to answer is this:

What is your default addiction?

If it’s a positive addiction, congratulations! Research tells us we’ll will live longer, healthier, and happier. If it’s not, the good news is that we can change.

Coaching tip: Engage your clients in “Rewriting Their Story!” A wise person once said “our lives are a reflection of our beliefs.” If there is a part of your life that you are not yet satisfied with, rewrite the beliefs for that part of the story. For example:

  • I am the type of person who regularly makes great decisions in every area of my life—health, business, relationships, finances. I easily see and leverage new opportunities. I easily relate to people who have built multimillion-dollar businesses and both learn from them and offer them value.
  • I tackle my priorities and enjoy getting the right things done in the right order at the right time. I “ride the wave” of uncomfortable emotions when I learn new things and find it an adventure to “not be perfect” when I’m experiencing a learning curve. I model this for others. I am so relaxed in approaching my projects.

What will your new addiction be?!


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