Love and Other Drugs Volume 1

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • If you know me, or know me through my writing, you may know that I like to run and listen to music. And that my favorite kind is the "alternative" kind from the 80s…The Cult, The Cure, Love and Rockets, (and the best of all) Depeche Mode.

     

    So over the long holiday weekend, guess what was up with me? Running and listening to my beloved alt 80s Pandora station. It's normally the case that I'm listening and thinking and connecting dots on stuff that has been on my mind. And so it went, this past Memorial Day weekend.

     

    A couple of songs played back-to-back ("What is Love?" by Howard Jones then "Strangelove" by Depeche Mode) and got me thinking about a recent talk I heard, given by one of the "TED talk" stars, Simon Sinek (the "Start With Why" guy). Simon is working on his next book and delivered a talk that got into theory on how body chemicals drive human behavior. Specifically, four categories of body chemicals: endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

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    It fascinated me and is something I've intuited for most of my life: that we can take what drives us and use it as tool to help us reach our intended goals and destinations, or what drives us can end up working against us and derail us from our best selves.

     

    Simon did a great job of breaking this down with specific examples of what these chemicals do to us, and how to get more of them. And how we can go about this in healthy ways, or veer off into the land of the dysfunctional, the addicted. My Pandora "love connection" moment connected here - thinking of the feeling you get when you are in love ("in love," versus feeling love). How you just … want… more …

     

    Enter: dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that I can break down in simple terms to a "pleasure chemical" or "reward." You do or get something that feels good to you, there's a dopamine "hit" - so most likely you are going to want to repeat the behavior that gave you the fix.

     

    Scientific research supports the notion that dopamine drives behavior. In fact, a conclusion of one recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience is that the way your brain handles dopamine may predict whether you are a hard worker or a slacker…because this chemical is involved in the driving of behavior through reward.

     

    Moving through the other categories of behavior-driving chemicals: We all know about endorphins, from coverage in the scientific and popular press about the "exercise high" - it's the endorphins that run this show.

     

    Serotonin has also become a part of our everyday vocabulary, thanks to the mainstreaming of mental illness and treatment involving serotonin (one example is depression, often treated with a type of antidepressant known as an SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor).


    Oxytocin is a bonding hormone - it makes you feel close and connected. And one way to get it is through sex. Another, through childbirth. Yet another: nursing an infant.

     

    In short, these four categories of body chemicals are biology at work. So, how to harness biology in a way that works for us, not against us? Volume 2 addresses my thoughts here.

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    For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn’t mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers’ eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders’ insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.

Published On: June 10, 2013