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The Brain Molecules of Focus & Motivation

Thank you! Hope you have a peaceful day

In today’s Apple podcast episode (or scroll down to listen right here) I want to take another dive into our brain and its ability to influence our mood, motivate us, and help us stay on task. In this day and age when even our home speaker demands our attention, how can we improve our focus and not lose sight of what’s important?  Even though as a society our lives became so much more convenient, the widespread dissatisfaction and the lack of happiness are alarming. The industry of anti-depressants, Adderall, and sleeping pills is booming like never before.  While it's very easy to pop a pill, sniff a thing, pour and glass, and help us feel better – there is not one person whose brain has been 'fixed' with prescription medicine.  I would like to emphasize the importance of using professional help for real mental health diagnoses and life-saving pharmaceuticals, and at the same time encourage all of us to implement daily selfcare that can support and re-wire our complex and always-changing brains. I also want to mention a fun fact about all external drugs – the only reason why any substances have any effect on our brain – is because they mimic our own internal pharmacy, and some of the mind-altering substances have actually helped the scientists discover those internal neuro-transmitters and better understand how our brain works. 

While there are over 100 neurotransmitters that influence our mood and behavior, in this episode I’ll start by talking about the first 3 that make or break our ability to pay attention, feel satisfaction and stay motivated to participate in everyday life. Those molecules are dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin made by your own brain incorporated. I’ll also share the 7-Step Simple Plan you can implement today to Increase the Amounts of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin molecules to improve our attention, focus, and life satisfaction. 

In the next episode, I’ll cover Oxytocin, Beta-Endorphins, nitric oxide, and Anandamide. The last 40 years since developing SSRI and other psycho-active drugs, had taught us that targeting a few neuro-transmitters cannot fix mental health, and bring the human brain to ‘balance’ in quotes. Our brain is extremely complex and while scientists still don’t understand the exact ratios of all of our molecules - we now know that the presence of each one of them is what makes healthy and balanced emotions and a well-functioning brain.


A healthy, balanced brain is associated with both – a unique cocktail of chemicals – neurotransmitters, and brain waves because our Body operates on 2 levels – electro-chemically – on Energy and Matter. E= MC square, the most famous Einstein discovery. From matter, we make energy, and energy in return, influences, and transforms matter.  Our cells are made of physical matter and chemicals, and by using them, our body generates energy – the electricity needed to run the whole system. We’re like sophisticated warm and soft robots.


Our brain generates its own energy patterns called Brain Waves, we now can measure. Scientists have defined 5 Brain Waves from slowest to fastest Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, and that every brain wave influences how we feel and which particular molecules the body will produce. For instance, Beta wave is dominant when we are stressed and actively engaged – and during its phase the body will create the molecules to stay awake and alert, or to fight and flight. During the slowest waves: Delta, Alpha and Theta states, our body produces dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, helping us be creative, and feel good and happy. To best way to get our brain to Delta wave is to Sleep, to Theta & Alpha – is to meditate! Why is it important you ask? It is important because, for a healthy balanced brain, we must do the activities to bring our brain into those different states to balance things out. Think of brain waves like nature's seasons: in the summer things are active – it’s your Beta, active, alert state. Delta – is the winter – it’s time to sleep and repair, make memories. Think no sleep – no serotonin. We have to make time for every season in order to restore, generate new ideas, make new cells, and feel happy.

Our brain runs our whole entire body using our Nervous System, a complex communication system made up of tree-like cells called neurons. The particular Brain Waves define what molecules aka neurotransmitters the brain will need to produce to help direct the currents by connecting and disconnecting particular paths, influencing our behavior, emotions, and ultimately, our survival.  The molecules aka neuro-transmitters turn on and turn off our synapses, which define how we feel, our abilities to sleep, numb pain, be alert, connect with others, solve problems, have memory, and do all the business of Being alive.


​1. Dopamine is our champion neurotransmitter, its our pleasure, energizing and motivating us, making us feel alive and excited for life. Dopamine is linked to THETA brain waves. Pleasure releases dopamine, emotional and physical pleasures from enjoying movement, physical touch, doing new things, achieving goals, feeling calm and safe, connected, and being in love. Even thinking about pleasure can release dopamine. And vice versa, chronic pain and chronic stress deplete dopamine. In the following 7-Steps I will give you the simple tools to stimulate Dopamine production and feel energizes, alive and excited, naturally.


When we don’t invest time into the activities that produce dopamine to feel pleasure from our daily life – we tend to seek ‘easy buttons’ like shopping, binging on TV, eating, and self-medicating. The longer we use those ‘easy buttons’, the unhealthy pleasures, and the more addictions we create, the less dopamine we can produce naturally. Most Recreational (External) Drugs and mind-altering prescriptions deplete our natural dopamine production which is very dangerous and life-altering. Our addictions take over our whole life and can cause the inability to build a career, relationships, or reach our full potential. Every single mind-altering drug including seemingly harmless ones like THC will eventually deplete our brain’s balance and our ability to sleep, concentrate and regulate our emotions. Besides alcohol, food, sex, and TV addictions, Big pharma today is responsible for a huge number of adults struggling with Opioids, and Amphetamine (Adderall) addiction too. There is an interesting documentary you can see about addictions called ‘Take your Pills’. This brings us to internal super-molecule number 2:


2. Norepinephrine (noradrenaline): is our wake-up, attention, and focus neurotransmitter. It’s associated with Beta Brain waves and is synthesized from Dopamine and released by our sympathetic nervous system and dilates our arteries and our breathing pathways to provide us with oxygen and stay alert and keep focus. It’s our survival molecule, it prevents us from getting drowsy and avoiding danger and ADAPT TO STRESS.  We need Dopamine for norepinephrine to be produced – both dopamine PLUS Norepinephrine amplify our focus and counteract our wandering mind.  When we’re deficient in both – we’ll struggle with concertation, and impulsiveness – and can even develop ADD at any age. If you struggle with getting things done, have impulsive behavior, and lack of mental clarity -  it’s important to find the root cause of imbalanced Norepinephrine. Remember that it's synthesized from Dopamine, which can be depleted by:


  1. All addictive behaviors like sex, video games, or even being a social media influencer, chasing likes  

  2. Substance abuse like daily smoking, weed, pens, drinking booze, or taking the pills

  3. The lack of a 7-Step Self-care Routine to produce those molecules by our internal pharmacy, which I will cover right after we’ll address the 3rd, super important neurochemical!


3. Serotonin: the feel-good neurotransmitter, our satisfaction molecule.  I want to cover it today too because it works with dopamine to balance our behavior, mood, and physical hunger.  It gives us a sense of euphoria and satisfaction from achieving our goals. Serotonin is associated with ALPHA, THETA & DELTA (3 slowest frequencies) Since discovering this molecule Big Pharma had made unimaginable amounts of profits with SSRI which can save lives but is not designed to treat the root cause. An interesting fact is that serotonin is similar to an external natural substance - psilocybin that is found in over 200 species of mushrooms.  9000 years ago, art found in Northern Africa depict mushrooms as medicine of that time. Mushrooms appear in the art of many other ancient cultures, Southern America and Greece. In the late 1950s, the Western world discovered magic mushrooms. Gordon Watson with his wife Valentina went to Oaxaca, Mexico where the local healer Maria Sabina introduced them to the ancient plant. Their later published essay in Life Magazine described it as a potent stimulant that lets you explore the mysterious spiritual realm and today is being used by professionals as an alternative treatment for mental health and depression.


7 Simple Steps to increase Dopamine, Serotonin & Norepinephrine:


Each of the following 7 steps is essential and can make or break our brain chemistry, so please listen carefully, and figure out an action plan on how you can implement all 7 steps in a simple way every day.


  1. Meditation and breathing exercises – according to science are the most effective tools to produce all those 3 neurotransmitters. The more often we tune out the outside stimulation through our eyes – the healthier our brain will become. Which meditation or breathwork? It doesn’t really matter – as long as you close your eyes and breathe, seriously. Soundbaths, listening to slow and wordless music. The thing to remember - every single time we reduce the brain’s stimulation from the outside – we enter the Alpha and Theta brain states – which are the incubator environment for dopamine & serotonin production. In my yoga classes, I always offer students to close their eyes whenever possible – to help our brain replenish those healthy neurotransmitters. Taking slower pace yoga classes that include breathwork is amazing for our brain balance. I have added a few of my favorite breathwork episodes here, scroll down to try some, and here's a link to my Breathwork Book with 10 Days of Breathing Exercises that had changed my life and made my meditation a breeze!  

  2. Daylight is key to the production of the neurotransmitters – make sure to take a daytime walk every single day, and don’t wait until the sun is down. Without daylight, our brain will literally wilt like a plant without water. When I was looking for Glow Yoga location, the skylights were a HUGE win, maximizing the benefits of daylight in our indoor classes. Don’t you just love how bright and airy our classroom is? Working from home, or choosing an office desk, it is definitely worth negotiating for that window seat for your mental health.

  3. A steady sleep schedule that aligns with the sun cycle. The more our morning is aligned with the sunrise – the healthier our brain is.  When we sleep deprived - our intricate brain’s chemistry is disrupted.  If your job requires you to work night hours, make sure that your sleep is still regular and you spend the maximum of your daylight hours outside to minimize brain damage. Not having quality sleep, or not spending enough of daylight hours outside throws off our intricate brain’s balance.   

  4. A healthy gut and smart nutrition.  Molecules are made of matter. When our gut is inflamed it cannot absorb the nutrients needed to create those essential neurotransmitters. Make sure to eat a spoon of raw kimchi every day, and add small wild-caught fish rich in Omegas like sardines, or nuts like walnuts if you’re vegan into your weekly meals. Listen to my Gut Health episode - every one of these 7 Steps can make or break our ability to produce dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

  5. Daily gratitude practice has a direct effect on dopamine and serotonin production, it's so easy! When you wake up and go to bed, just repeat the words ‘Thank You’ 20 times, and add the 2 smallest things from your day to appreciate. The smaller your things are – the better your brain will become at experiencing joy from daily life. I like to think of putting my fluffy slippers on, enjoying a chat with a student before class, or smelling the spring bloom on my way home.

  6. Doing new healthy activities regularly brings us pleasure by increasing both dopamine and serotonin. When all we do for fun is watch tv and go to dinners – our brain will turn into a bored raisin. The richness of life comes from saying YES to new experiences, from letting your brain learn new things. Built one of these into your weekly routine: to go on a hike, Explore the art galleries in your neighborhood, Sign up for a painting class, standup show, music show, or live theater, join a macaroon-making class, book a spa visit, attend an upcoming film festival, walk your neighbors’ dog, simply get out of your house and go explore the world! My yearly Kayaking & Meditation Weekend is coming up, on June 23, please check that out and say yes to a new healthy activity!

  7. Daily exercise. Hello, I don’t even have to tell you that. We need both, daylight and exercise – so taking a daily walk is gold! Yoga class can replenish even more neurochemicals by getting us outside, moving, breathing, and making time to close our eyes to erase the overwhelm.  Are you still procrastinating to leave your house for your daily movement? If so - please join my daily 25min live mini-workouts from your living room. Literally, the best way to start your day, and we include almost out of the 7 steps mentioned above: breathwork, gratitude practice, a sunrise wakeup, and the sense of newness – no workout day is ever the same. This training is designed to build a sustainable selfcare habit for graceful aging to enjoy all the gifts of this funny life to the fullest. You can read about my Live training here below, and join us! It’s a small & friendly group of dedicated women who want to feel their best.


Ok, to summarize what we’ve learned today about our ability to feel inspired, motivate us, and help us get shit done: it’s a cocktail of drugs made by our own brain! We can take external drugs and develop life-altering addictions, or we can turn on our internal pharmacy by balancing our sleep with activities that will make us feel high on our own supply. The intention behind recording this episode is to share with you my fascination with our incredible brain, and maybe even inspire you to take better care of it. You see, I didn’t talk about HOW to get things done, because first and foremost - without balanced neurochemicals, we simply can’t, and if we only focus on accomplishing tasks – we’ll hit a dangerous burnout.  Implement the 7 Steps into your life, restock your internal pharmacy and with time you’ll find yourself cranking projects & inspiring yourself, your loved ones. and even your impassive cat will be impressed. You can also see my episode on The Best Time Management Skills here if you need time-management tune-up ideas.

Thank you so much for reading, I am so proud of you for staying curious and learning new ways of taking loving care of what you have been given as a gift. Remember, that healing is the application of loving and care for all the places that hurt, and that consistency is key. If you enjoyed this podcast – please tell me what was the most interesting to you - and share it with your loved ones, Sending you love and health from one and only San Francisco, until next time!


Some of The Mentioned Resources:

My Breathwork Book: 10 Days to Clarity & Calm 

Kayaking Meditation Retreat June 23-25

My Selfcare Program: Live 25Min Mini-Workouts from home 

Brain Waves from Scientific American

Norepinephrine & Meditation 

Molecular Mechanisms of Meditation 

Exercise and Attention Deficit 

Meditation and its Effect on Serotonin, Norepinephrine, and Dopamine

'Take Your Pills' Documentary

Brain and breathing


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