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Neurochemistry-Based Lifestyle & Nutrition Habits

🤸‍♀️ Stretch 36

In Stretch 34, you voted to learn more about the neurochemistry of focus and motivation.

So, I went out and put on my little citizen-researcher glasses. 👩‍🔬

I’ve collected notes and learnings from neuroscience/management book The Leading Brain and Huberman Lab’s episode Optimize & Control Your Brain Chemistry to Improve Health & Performance.

I know, I know.

“Neurochemistry” and “optimizing and controlling your brain chemistry” might sound far-fetched and wacky, but it’s really not.

It’s pretty basic biology—especially when it comes to the simple lifestyle and nutrition-based habits we can all experiment with.

I really feel like this is information we should all be aware of. Sleep, exercise, nutrition. It’s not just about looking better. It’s also about working, thinking and feeling better—every day!

Having this understanding can save us so much frustration and self-criticism around feeling unmotivated, disorganized, distracted, and low energy.

You don’t have to be resigned to feeling that way. It’s not a part of your personality, and it’s not a sign of weakness.

If you can learn how to control the levels of certain neurochemicals in your system, you can control the activity of neural circuits involved in motivation, focus, and energy to a surprising extent.

So in this deep dive, I’m looking at the four most potent chemicals that influence our mental states and behaviours:

🏃‍♂️ Motivation - Dopamine
⚡️ Energy - Epinephrine
🎯 Focus - Acetylcholine
🧘‍♀️ Contentment - Serotonin

We’ll look at tools and habits you can use to influence these chemicals across three levels:

  • Baseline - how to ensure a natural, healthy baseline level.

  • Directed - how to boost your baseline level in a directed, acute way.

  • Task-oriented - how to plan and organise your daily tasks to make optimal use of the chemicals in your system.

P.S. - I am always thinking about how to best structure and share this kind of information. Is this deep dive too long? Would it be more helpful in another format? If you have any thoughts or ideas about how I can make this better and more useful, I’d love to hear it!


We just finished another cohort of Write of Passage, the online writing course I work for. I am feeling fired up and so inspired about the 300 people having gone through an intense 5-week experience—by so many described in the final session as “absolutely life-changing.”

I work in online education, so naturally I’m a big believer in online courses to explore and reinvent yourself.

I think there’s a huge untapped potential for people. Don’t just use the internet to shop and scroll. Use the internet as a tool, to be more creative and learn new skills. 

(That’s exactly what I’ve been doing with my Year of Creative Experiments! It changed my relationship with technology and the trajectory of my career.)

A Write of Passage session (can you spot me??)

I thought I’d share two workshops coming up in the next couple of weeks that I’m super excited by:

  • Life Drawing for Women. A life model drawing class. Hold on! Resist the urge to say “I can’t draw!”* There’ll be drawing and awareness exercises to help you get past your resistance and doubts. As one participant said, “My first life drawing class! I don’t think I’ve drawn anything since pencilling Bart Simpson in maths class at school. As someone who has always felt like they ‘can’t’ draw it was blissful to drop the judgement and enter a space, as an adult, that felt so freeing and fun and creative! Lara and Meryl are brilliant, so welcoming and exceptionally talented!” This is for women only. 90 minutes on Tuesday, May 30. Book tickets here.

  • Writing Sprints, one-day writing workshops run by Write of Passage. If you’ve been curious about starting to write online but you’re not sure where or how to start, this is for you. Within a day, you’ll workshop your idea, write a draft, receive editor feedback, and hit that “Publish” button. You don’t need to want to be a writer. This is about feeling what it’s like to share your ideas and thoughts online (Trust me, it’s fun!). Coming up on Saturday, June 10 and Friday, June 23. Enroll here.

*I love this story from Howard Ikemoto: “When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?"


Rejection is a sharp pain that dulls over time.

Regret is a dull pain that sharpens over time.

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