Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D., is author of Meet Your Happy Chemicals, Beyond Cynical and I, Mammal, and founder of the Inner Mammal Institute. Dr. Breuning is Professor Emerita of International Management at California State University, East Bay, and a Docent at the Oakland Zoo, where she leads tours on mammalian social behavior. She studied the mammalian brain after lecturing worldwide on her book, Greaseless: How to Thrive without Bribes in Developing Countries, which draws on her year in Africa as a United Nations Volunteer. Plenty of free information on the mammalian neurochemistry in all of us is available at her website, InnerMammalInstitute.org.
Happiness is a surge of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin or endorphin. These brain chemicals turn on and off for reasons that are hard to make sense of until you know how they work in other animals. Then it's easy to see how our happy chemicals are stimulated by behaviors that promote survival in the state of nature. Unhappy chemicals (cortisol) surge when you see survival threats. Your brain defines survival with circuits you built in youth. You can build new circuits, but it's harder than you expect. It's not easy being a mammal, but it helps to know how your operating system works.