Each New Year sees millions of resolutions made and broken. We are not the problem; we just need to make smarter resolutions.
Resolution Number 1: I will love and accept myself just as I am. Willingness to accept ourselves as we are promotes an accurate assessment of what must be changed. Self-acceptance is not the same as acquiescence or apathy towards change. If anything, self-acceptance is the opposite. Before you can change something you have to understand what needs to be changed.
Resolution Number 2: Understand your social journey. Pain occurs in the body, but suffering occurs in the mind. Humans pass suffering from generation to generation in the family.  For example, the children who survived the Jewish and Armenian Holocausts have to live with the devastation of it. The children of Nazis and Turks have to live with the guilt of it. Nobody goes for free—just different shows, different performers and different admission prices. It is not a matter of one being better or worse. We are individuals within a social species; all of it is tragic or triumphant. Additionally, it contributes to your epigenetics—the non-genetic influences that affect your gene expression. [2-7]
Resolution Number 3: Accept your personal journey. From conception until our early 20’s, our brain observes our environment and wires and rewires itself accordingly to survive in that environment. [8-13] Our developmental experiences, physical as well as psychological and emotional will affect how our brains work.  There’s no need to judge it, wear it like a badge, or tote it like burden. Just understand and accept, no matter how scary, sad or humiliating, they are just things the Universe has appointed in your life.
Resolution 4: Accept your Socioeconomic Status (SES) values. We all have a race, age, income, education level, profession, marital status, etc. Depending on the circumstance, they can influence the moments in our lives. At best they’re just an indicator of how unsophisticated society is because of the brain’s proclivity to consolidate, simplify and generalize. Still, the world treats us differently in some circumstances because of our SES values, or those boxes wouldn’t be on most applications and forms. Accepting your SES values is not synonymous with defining yourself by them, or allowing them to dictate what you can and cannot do in life. It is just being aware that people often think they know you without ever having met you.
Resolution 5: Evaluate the fulfillment of your social needs. The Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) of the brain monitors our fulfillment of key social needs such as social inclusion because in a social species inclusion is key to survival and breeding, which are key agenda concerns.[15-23] The VTA is in the old brain, so it doesn’t think, it just responds to cues and galvanizes the release of the brain’s happy dance drugs when it believes these needs are being met. Thus it’s easy for the thinking cortex to trick the VTA. The VTA can’t distinguish a homosexual act, heterosexual act using birth control, or masturbation from actually breeding.[24-27] All it registers are the physiological events associated with all three – which are identical. This is good news in a pinch, as any teenage boy will tell you. However, the lack of tactile stimulus and other aspects of sexual congress that Internet porn can’t supply will eventually catch up with you, resulting in deficits in the brain’s happy dance drugs. These deficits may evolve into looking for fulfillment in overeating, smoking, and other harmful behaviors that feel good.
Being connected in a social species is crucial to survival on multiple levels. Evolution also tells us to ally with the alphas, romantically and platonically, because there are benefits from such associations. In our modern world the notion of what an alpha is has become distorted because of the disparity between technology and evolutionary biology. Our modern world sees a wealthy or young pretty person as an alpha. That’s not necessarily true. You can be wealthy and weak, or pretty and ugly – and no one is strong and pretty 24/7/365.
Yet, we often enter bad social relationships because instinctually we are attaching ourselves to someone we believe is more alpha than ourselves—which usually is just a reflection of our insecurities and lack of self-awareness, and self-appreciation. Sometimes these relationships can be very one-sided. You give all you have to give, and they give what is convenient. You pretend you don’t realize that they never call you—or they say they will call you back and never do. You have to examine those relationships. How real are they? Are you just tricking your VTA? They may or may not be more of an alpha than you are, but the bottom line is, they are not your alpha friend or lover.
If you are willing to stand naked in front of the mirror and say, “This is who I am, this is how and why I am this, this is what I would like to change, this is what I cannot change, this is what is real, this is what is not—these are my truths, these are my falsehoods, this is what makes me powerful, this is what makes me wretched,” you’ll be better off. Wear it like a regal robe, and then accessorize it with the things society says you are and go forth making the necessary changes, eventually you will not need the various unhealthy happiness substitutes we use… Remain Fabulous and Phenomenal.
Or visit me at:
1. Candib, L.M., Working with suffering. Patient Educ Couns, 2002. 48(1): p. 43-50.
2. Alegria-Torres, J.A., A. Baccarelli, and V. Bollati, Epigenetics and lifestyle. Epigenomics, 2011. 3(3): p. 267-77.
3. Dinan, T.G., et al., IBS: An epigenetic perspective. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol, 2010. 7(8): p. 465-71.
4. Gottesman, II and D.R. Hanson, Human development: biological and genetic processes. Annu Rev Psychol, 2005. 56: p. 263-86.
5. House, S.H., Epigenetics in adaptive evolution and development: The interplay between evolving species and epigenetic mechanisms: Extract from Trygve Tollefsbol (ed.) (2011) Handbook of Epigenetics - The New Molecular and Medical Genetics. Chapter 26. Amsterdam, USA: Elsevier, pp. 423-446. Nutr Health, 2014.
6. Maze, I. and E.J. Nestler, The epigenetic landscape of addiction. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2011. 1216: p. 99-113.
7. Orozco-Solis, R. and P. Sassone-Corsi, Epigenetic control and the circadian clock: linking metabolism to neuronal responses. Neuroscience, 2014. 264: p. 76-87.
8. McEwen, B.S., Hormones and the plasticity of neurons. Clin Neuropharmacol, 1992. 15 Suppl 1 Pt A: p. 582A-583A.
9. McEwen, B.S., Hormones as regulators of brain development: life-long effects related to health and disease. Acta Paediatr Suppl, 1997. 422: p. 41-4.
10. McEwen, B.S., The neurobiology of stress: from serendipity to clinical relevance. Brain Res, 2000. 886(1-2): p. 172-189.
11. McEwen, B.S., Commentary: the ever-changing brain. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2001. 25(6): p. 797-8.
12. McEwen, B.S., Plasticity of the hippocampus: adaptation to chronic stress and allostatic load. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2001. 933: p. 265-77.
13. McEwen, B.S., From molecules to mind. Stress, individual differences, and the social environment. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2001. 935: p. 42-9.
14. McEwen, B.S., Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators: central role of the brain. Dialogues Clin Neurosci, 2006. 8(4): p. 367-81.
16. Morgane, P.J., J.R. Galler, and D.J. Mokler, A review of systems and networks of the limbic forebrain/limbic midbrain. Prog Neurobiol, 2005. 75(2): p. 143-60.
17. Northoff, G. and D.J. Hayes, Is our self nothing but reward? Biol Psychiatry, 2011. 69(11): p. 1019-25.
18. Russo, S.J. and E.J. Nestler, The brain reward circuitry in mood disorders. Nat Rev Neurosci, 2013. 14(9): p. 609-25.
20. Thompson, J.L. and S.L. Borgland, A role for hypocretin/orexin in motivation. Behav Brain Res, 2011. 217(2): p. 446-53.
22. Xu, L., Leptin action in the midbrain: From reward to stress. J Chem Neuroanat, 2014.
23. Yin, H.H., S.B. Ostlund, and B.W. Balleine, Reward-guided learning beyond dopamine in the nucleus accumbens: the integrative functions of cortico-basal ganglia networks. Eur J Neurosci, 2008. 28(8): p. 1437-48.
25. Ku, H.L., et al., Brain signature characterizing the body-brain-mind axis of transsexuals. PLoS One, 2013. 8(7): p. e70808.
26. Nestler, E.J. and W.A. Carlezon, Jr., The mesolimbic dopamine reward circuit in depression. Biol Psychiatry, 2006. 59(12): p. 1151-9.
27. Shaw-Lutchman, T.Z., et al., Regulation of CRE-mediated transcription in mouse brain by amphetamine. Synapse, 2003. 48(1): p. 10-7.
28. Bell, M.R., et al., Adolescent gain in positive valence of a socially relevant stimulus: engagement of the mesocorticolimbic reward circuitry. Eur J Neurosci, 2013. 37(3): p. 457-68.