Sometimes things are terrible.
We may have a good run, where it feels like things are "clicking" and we think we've found the right recipe for happiness -- the perfect amounts of money, exercise, and sweet relationships. Other times those very same areas of life feel rocky, out of sorts, or a complete disaster. No matter how many weights we lift, or vitamins we take, our partners don't feel supported and heard, our energy is low, and inspiration is non-existent.
What makes the difference?
Why don't the good feelings last? Even after a good dose of long-awaited self-care, or a perfect date night, things can turn on a dime, going from fairly blissful to downright ugly.
What flips the switch?
The human brain is a self-reflective biochemical machine. It's designed to react to the environment -- both the external and the internal version. For instance, the brain will switch off the thinking, self-aware, empathetic, creative, and contented ("upper brain") parts anytime there is emotional intensity. It then shifts processing to the social part of the brain (the "mid brain" or "limbic system"), the part designed to elicit connection from others and to process emotion. If/when the outer or inner environs are not soothed through connection and/or emotional processing, then the brain will shift again, further down into the instinctual part (the "lower brain"), the area in charge of our fight, flight, or freeze responses, simply to keep us alive and sane.
Those "bad days" that we all hate? The lower brain runs the show on those days.
It's a design based on survival. In the face of danger, our brains don't want us analyzing danger, empathizing with an attacker, brainstorming fantastic ideas, or any other "executive function". It wants us to forget everything else and FIGHT! or RUUUUN! And for that we're grateful.
But here's the rub -- our brains don't distinguish between the stress that comes when confronting an angry mama bear in the woods, and the stress that comes when we realize we forgot to pay the phone bill (again). So, many times throughout the day, no matter who we are, our brains take over and send us into a fight, flight, or fright state of mind.
Ready for the good news?
Even though our brains feel free to shut down executive function at the drop of a hat, they are also fairly open to bringing executive function back online. It's a matter of sending the right cues when needed, maintaining a sense of where we are emotionally, and then practicing what we've learned so much that the quick shift back to our best selves becomes hard-wired, more our regular state of being than not.
See, you've got everything you need to be the biggest, shiniest version of yourself already built into that beautiful brain of yours.
You just need some tools and some support to claim it.