My 13th book, Best Future You, is out!
Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting excerpts from the book and blogging frequently about the main concept in the book – which is the idea of harnessing your body’s internal cellular biochemistry to achieve true balance in body, mind, and spirit – and in doing so, help you to become your “Best Future You” in terms of how you look, how you feel, and how you perform on every level.
Chapter 6 – Feel Your Best
Biochemistry Drives Behaviors
In seeking to build our “best future you” with the energetic feel, youthful look, and peak performance that we all desire, it’s important to remember that this state of health is characterized not only by physical aspects of cellular stress, but that state of balance is also transmitted to emotional and mental aspects of health.
When speaking before thousands of people around the country, one of the most important concepts that I try to convey to my audiences is that “biochemistry drives behaviors” and vice-versa. The reason that you “feel” a certain way is because of your underlying biochemistry. The degree to which you’re exposed to free radicals, cytokines, cortisol, dopamine, serotonin, insulin, or hundreds of other cellular stress “signals” in the body will influence your feelings of energy, happiness, mental clarity, creativity, appetite, and motivation—in short, your vigor.
Think about how you feel when you’re under stress: You often eat more (and eat more junk) and exercise less. You tend to be constantly tired during the day and yet can’t relax enough to get a good night’s sleep. Stressed-out people also have more heart attacks, more depression, more colds, and less sex. And stress-induced disruptions in their internal cellular biochemistry are at the root of it all. I cannot think of a more dismal picture – and it all links back to the ability of our trillions of individual cells to protect themselves from stress and to repair the damage caused by stress.
Brains, Biochemistry, and Behavior
As I have continued my research in this area over the past several years, I have discovered that the influence of cellular biochemistry goes far deeper than ever imagined. In fact, cellular biochemistry not only drives emotions but motivates actions as well.
Breakthroughs in brain research are giving amazing new insights about these connections between biochemistry, the brain, and behavior. And frankly, it is a complex issue that may be hard to understand. It can be mind-boggling—literally—to realize that your thinking can change not only your moods but also the actual shape and function of your brain. Those changes affect your biochemistry, your level of cellular stress, and, of course, how you feel, look, and perform.
As you read this chapter, these complex concepts will become clearer. For now, let me give you a brief explanation and illustration to show you how these connections between mind-body-biochemistry actually work. First, you have to conceptualize the biochemical processes of your body as a circular loop, not a straight, linear progression. What happens internally is that your cellular biochemistry affects your brain circuitry, which affects your behavior, with each influencing and feeding back on each other. This loop has no “start” and no “end,” and each process constantly modifies the others.
What all this means is that the reason that we “feel” a particular way, or the reason that we “behave” a certain way, or the reason our brain “perceives” a certain thing, comes back to how effective and efficient our cells are at managing cellular stress.
The good news is that if you positively change one aspect of this picture, you’ll inevitably exert a positive change the others as well. For example, if you change your behavior—say you begin to take short walks every day or go to sleep fifteen minutes earlier each night—you will, in turn, change your cellular biochemistry and your brain function and performance. Those brain alterations will put you into a mental and emotional state where you will want to continue the behaviors that are creating the positive mood and mental clarity—and the changes in your cellular biochemistry will, in turn, reinforce this “virtuous circle.”
Unfortunately, the “circle” can spin in the opposite direction as well. Suppose that instead of walking every day, you act like a “couch potato,” sitting on the sofa watching TV for long stretches and eating greasy, sugary foods? That behavior will lead toward fatigue, mental sluggishness, and negative emotions. As your behavior begins having detrimental effects on your brain function and biochemistry, a downward spiral toward burnout is set in motion. If you feel caught in that downward spiral, you are not the only one. Keep reading.
Thanks for reading – be sure to tune in for the next installment about, “Low Vigor and High Cellular Stress.”