Hacking your brain chemistry

#1
This thread is for discussions on how to hack your brain chemistry without drugs.

I'll start things off with these articles from my blog and web site:

How to use meditation to produce spiritual experiences by setting up a feedback loop in the brain that increases production of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins and reduces levels of cortisol:
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/meditation-1#meditation_serenity
Simplified Instructions

Sit comfortably in whatever way you prefer, in a chair or on the floor. No special meditation posture is needed. Close your eyes. Notice how you feel throughout your body. Do you feel anxious or tense? Try to relax your whole body. Take a deep breath and relax your whole body as you exhale. Notice the pleasant feeling of relaxation? Now breathe normally and relax your whole body as you exhale. Notice the same feeling of relaxation. Relax your whole body as you inhale and notice a similar feeling of relaxation. It might help you to relax if you slow down your breathing somewhat. Continue to relax your whole body as you inhale and exhale and notice the pleasant feelings of relaxation. Your whole body may begin feel heavy as you become more and more relaxed. While you meditate this way, also say to yourself, (inwardly not aloud) "in" as you inhale, and "out" as you exhale. Notice the absence of mental chatter as you focus your attention on the words "in" an "out". Meditate this way with the understanding that you are trying to have a pleasant, relaxing, calming meditation session. After a while, observing the pleasant feeling of relaxation as you inhale and exhale might make you want to smile.

If you feel like it, go ahead and smile, even if it's just a little bit, and notice the pleasant emotions that accompany smiling as you continue to meditate
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Smiling causes the brain to release dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, which are molecules that will elevate your mood. Smiling also reduces levels of the anxiety causing stress hormone cortisol. These chemical changes will produce a pleasant effect and may make you want to smile even more. This can result in a feedback loop that produces intense feelings of feelings of happiness, loving kindness, and connectedness.
What it is like:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/02/joy-during-meditation.html#joy_trip
But this type of serenity meditation creates a feedback loop causing the brain to release endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.

It really is like a drug trip, maybe not a psychedelic trip but it's not normal meditation. Every breath you take is like a hit from a bong, but there's no bong. And it is hugely spiritual. It doesn't require super intense concentration so I think most people could learn to do it. I had to stop the other day because it was so intense I was getting nervous. How many people do you know who were feeling so happy, and connected to all things and feeling such intense metta that they were worried they might never get back to normal? And I felt the presence of non-physical entities too.

It also creates a kind of synesthesia where everything I see and hear I also feel in my body as if they are part of me. There is an effect like the brain is a virtual reality machine and what I see is really a movie inside my head projected on the unchanging screen of pure awareness, like my mind contains the whole universe including me walking around inside it. Other times I feel like my self and its boundaries are dissolving and I am expanding to merge into infinite space. It's not scary, it's like coming home.

This meditation changes the "energy" of your surroundings too. You could go to the filthiest shack in the poorest slum in the most miserable godforsaken corner of nowhere and meditating this way would make it a place of beauty and joy. These effects are not gross like a psychedelic trip they are subtle like a change in understanding. And these experiences are not restricted to sitting meditation, you can have them walking around town or out in nature. When you do this, you see it transforms reality because when you walk around smiling, people smile back. In that way, it doesn't just change you, it changes the people around you. It doesn't just make you happy, it makes the world friendly.

It also produces a state of mind where nothing can upset you because you find something within you which you can relax, and when you do, any unpleasant emotions flow away as soon as they arise. It's as if relaxing opens a door and unpleasant emotions go out through the door as soon as they appear. They just appear and go. Not just during meditation but during daily life.

It's not nirvana, I still experience some worries, annoyances, and emotional ups and downs, but this type of meditation showed me that happiness is a choice.

The best thing about this type of meditation is not the intense experiences, the best thing is that between meditation sessions I'm happier and I worry less.

And it doesn't cause vomiting or diarrhea like Ayahuasca does. It's 100% free. And as far as I know it's legal everywhere.
How to increase serotonin production in the brain through diet and nutrition:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/occasionally-i-post-something-to.html#misc_diet_mood
It is possible to increase serotonin production in the brain by eating protein 20 to 40 minutes after eating carbohydrates. Eat at least 25-35 grams (about 120 calories) of carbohydrates, wait 20 to 40 minutes, and then eat protein. (The source of carbohydrates should be low in protein and fat.) A simple way to do this is to eat the carbohydrate portion of your meal first then wait 20 minutes before eating the protein portion...
How to turn off the body's reaction to stress:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-parasympathetic-nervous-system-and.html
The sympathetic nervous system is involved in producing the body's response to stress. The parasympathetic nervous system is involved in turning off the body's response to stress.

Anything that activates the parasympathetic nervous system suppresses the sympathetic nervous system and helps you to relax.

There are many undesirable effects of stress on physical and mental health so learning to turn off stress can make your life better in many, many ways.

Learning to turn off stress is also helpful in spiritual development because when you are stressed, you are more likely to be thinking about yourself and your problems ie. being egocentric. But when you are relaxed, you are less likely to be thinking about yourself and more likely to be in harmony with spiritual values like love, kindness, forgiveness, tolerance etc.
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The best way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and turn off stress that I know of is to do exercises which involve gently moving or stretching your muscles while exhaling slowly as you count to ten. This technique is extremely effective because it combines four separate methods for activating the parasympathetic nervous system in one technique...
 
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#2
This thread is for discussions on how to hack your brain chemistry without drugs.

I'll start things off with these articles from my blog and web site:

How to use meditation to produce spiritual experiences by setting up a feedback loop in the brain that increases production of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins and reduces levels of cortisol:
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/meditation-1#meditation_serenity


What it is like:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/02/joy-during-meditation.html#joy_trip


How to increase serotonin production in the brain through diet and nutrition:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/occasionally-i-post-something-to.html#misc_diet_mood


How to turn off the body's reaction to stress:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-parasympathetic-nervous-system-and.html
Practicing what is described in the third article can be helpful in producing the experiences described in the first two articles. And practicing what is described in the fourth article can be helpful in learning to relax while breathing as described in the first article.
 
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#3
I have written another "Hacking Your Brain" article for my blog.

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/10/hacking-your-brain-part-ii.html
Hacking Your Brain Part II: Turning Off Unpleasant Emotions by Deactivating the Default Mode Network in the Brain​
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Most people who have done some form of meditation are familiar with the experience of losing their concentration and finding themselves lost in thought, noticing it, and then returning to the object of meditation.​
When you are lost in thought, the default mode network in the brain is active. In that state emotions can be troublesome. When you return to meditation, you get out of the default network and into the experiential network where emotions are much less troublesome.​
If an unpleasant emotion arises in the course of a meditation session or during daily life, then you are probably in the default network. Getting out of the default network is easy. Just observe something, like your surroundings, or your breath, or even the emotion itself if you treat it as an object of observation rather than an experience you are immersed in - although it can be difficult to avoid getting drawn back into the default network if you are observing the emotion.​
The trick to using this phenomenon effectively is to remember to use it when it matters most: when a very strong emotion arises. Strong emotions tend to take over your mind, they grab your attention and draw you into them even for people who are used to meditating.​
...​

The article is based on the science behind mindfulness and insight meditation. When you focus your attention by observing something, such as your surroundings or your breath, you deactivate the default mode network and activate the experiential network in the brain. This has the practical effect of turning off unpleasant emotions.

It also goes well with another article on my blog: Turning Off Stress: The Parasympathetic Nervous System And Spiritual Development

Using the two techniques together: relaxation (tranquility) and mindfulness represent two aspects of meditation that were originally taught together by the Buddha, but over the years have been separated. However it is easily possible to practice both relaxation and mindfulness during meditation.
 
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#4
I have written another "Hacking Your Brain" article for my blog.

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/10/hacking-your-brain-part-ii.html
Hacking Your Brain Part II: Turning Off Unpleasant Emotions by Deactivating the Default Mode Network in the Brain​
...​
Most people who have done some form of meditation are familiar with the experience of losing their concentration and finding themselves lost in thought, noticing it, and then returning to the object of meditation.​
When you are lost in thought, the default mode network in the brain is active. In that state emotions can be troublesome. When you return to meditation, you get out of the default network and into the experiential network where emotions are much less troublesome.​
If an unpleasant emotion arises in the course of a meditation session or during daily life, then you are probably in the default network. Getting out of the default network is easy. Just observe something, like your surroundings, or your breath, or even the emotion itself if you treat it as an object of observation rather than an experience you are immersed in - although it can be difficult to avoid getting drawn back into the default network if you are observing the emotion.​
The trick to using this phenomenon effectively is to remember to use it when it matters most: when a very strong emotion arises. Strong emotions tend to take over your mind, they grab your attention and draw you into them even for people who are used to meditating.​
...​

The article is based on the science behind mindfulness and insight meditation. When you focus your attention by observing something, such as your surroundings or your breath, you deactivate the default mode network and activate the experiential network in the brain. This has the practical effect of turning off unpleasant emotions.

It also goes well with another article on my blog: Turning Off Stress: The Parasympathetic Nervous System And Spiritual Development

Using the two techniques together: relaxation (tranquility) and mindfulness represent two aspects of meditation that were originally taught together by the Buddha, but over the years have been separated. However it is easily possible to practice both relaxation and mindfulness during meditation.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/10/hacking-your-brain-part-ii.html

I have been trying to keep my default mode network inactive as much as possible by practicing mindfulness as much as possible.

When I try to observe emotions with the default network inactive, emotions seem to be "wispy little things" as described in the video. And I don't get caught up in the story they are telling as if it was reality. So it is much easier to see emotions as impersonal sensations rather than facts of reality that need a defensive or aggressive response. (Before I understood what was said in the video about how deactivating the default mode network affects emotions, I would not pay much attention to emotions when my default mode network was inactive because they were so faint they didn't seem to be causing problems and didn't need attention. When I would observe emotions, it was when the default mode network active. This change is how the video influenced my practice).

As impersonal sensations, emotions no longer seem like they are "mine", or that they are telling a story about "me" they are more impersonal like seeing something outside my body is impersonal. So I don't feel egoistic reactions like offense, or outrage, or defensiveness, or aggressiveness, when "unpleasant" things happen. It's like if a child tried to throw a snowball at me and missed. All of those reactions would reinforce my sense of self. Without that reinforcement my sense of self ...

I can also see how emotions, when you think they are "mine", make you deduce the existence of a self.

All of this also provides a way to understand physical discomfort. When I notice physical discomfort, I try to notice the emotions caused by the physical sensations and observe how the emotions change when the default mode network becomes inactive.

Anyway, I am finding it very instructive to try to observe emotions from a mindful state where the the default mode network is inactive. By a "mindful state" I mean just noticing my surroundings, or just noticing what I am doing while I am doing it, or noticing all the sensations that come into my awareness. I can tell when I get distracted and the default mode network becomes active (it's just like when your mind wanders during meditation) and when I notice that, I go back to some type of mindfulness practice. Another thing that tells me the default mode network is becoming active is if I feel more than just a wisp of an emotion, that is a more sensitive indicator, it acts like a biofeedback signal that reminds me to remain fully mindful.

A very nice way to do this practice is to go for a walk and notice what I see as I look around and focus the mind on a feeling of spaciousness.

It produces a feeling of a lack of separation.
 
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