Are you ready to unlock the secret sauce for a more steady stream of joy in your life? 

Imagine a joy that doesn’t depend on external factors, but rather stems from within you. 

In today’s Thin Thinking episode, I am going to walk you through a book I thought you might find as a great summer read–Laurel Mellin’s “Wired for Joy: The Science of Happy Living.” 

Through practical techniques and profound insights, Mellin guides us in rewiring our brains for positivity and resilience. We’ll dive into the intriguing concepts of emotional patterns and explore the hidden secrets of self-compassion.

Join me as we delve into excerpts from this book, unearthing the mysteries of our emotional landscapes and uncovering the keys to cultivating a joyous life. 

So, grab your comfiest reading chair, brew a cup of joy-infused tea, and come on in!



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Rita Black: Wanna learn the secret sauce for creating a more steady stream of joy in your life? I mean, the kind of joy where you are not reliant upon the outside world to give it to you, but you are creating joy from within. Not only would that give you power, but think of how slimming life would be if we weren't eating over our negative emotions because we could switch into a joy state instead. In this episode, we are delving into Laurel Mellin's captivating book, Wired for Joy, the Science of Happy Living. Mellin, a happiness guru, extraordinaire blends science, psychology, and a sprinkle of magic in this delightful masterpiece. With practical techniques and insights, she guides us on rewiring our brains for positivity and resilience. Join me as we look through excerpts of the book, unearthing the mysteries of emotional patterns, and discovering the secrets of self-compassion. So grab your comfiest reading chair, a cup of joy infused tea, and get ready to rewire your neural pathways on this enchanting journey of self-discovery and happiness hacking. Let's go.

Rita Black: Did you know that our struggle with weight doesn't start with the food on your plate or get fixed in the gym? 80% of our weight struggle is mental. That's right. The key to unlocking long-term weight release and management begins in your mind. Hi there, I'm Rita Black. I'm a clinical hypnotherapist weight loss expert, bestselling author, and the creator of the Shift Weight Mastery Process. And not only have I helped thousands of people over the past 20 years achieve long-term weight mastery, I am also a former weight struggler, carb addict and binge eater. And after two decades of failed diets and fad weight loss programs, I lost 40 pounds with the help of hypnosis. Not only did I release all that weight, I have kept it off for 25 years. Enter the Thin Thinking Podcast where you too will learn how to remove the mental roadblocks that keep you struggling. I'll give you the thin thinking tools, skills, and insights to help you develop the mindset you need, not only to achieve your ideal weight, but to stay there long term and live your best life.

Rita Black: Hello everybody. How are you? I know this episode is gonna be dropping the first day of summer of 2023 or thereabouts. I mean, you might be getting a little later, but you know, I always love to recommend a good summer read, and I was thinking what's something that, you know, would help my readers or my listeners have a really elevated summer, you know, not just some summer romance that's, you know, as cheap as the paper it's printed on. But that is something that is gonna really stick with you, give you some tools to make life better, and I thought about Wired For Joy.

Rita Black: Laurel Mellin's really great guide to learning how to shift your mood. It's a really captivating read. You learn so much about the brain. So we're gonna dive in and I'm gonna read some excerpts for you. And I really am looking forward to introducing you as well to Laurel Mellin, who I've read a number of her books. She is a great author, and just as she writes about the brain in such an intriguing and great way for layman, you know, people who you know, aren't in the research field like she is. I'm gonna read you a little bit about her right now. So Laurel Mellin is author of the New York Times bestseller, the Pathway, which is also another awesome book. And she is an Associate Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco's School of Medicine.

Rita Black: She directs the National Research Coordination Center for Emotional Brain Training, EBT, which you're gonna hear about in the book and UCSF's Center for Health and Community. And she has authored two bestselling books on EBT. Mellin has conducted research on the method and has trained a psychologist, physicians, and other health professionals to use the tool and their practices. She also directs the nonprofit organization, the Institute for Health Solutions, which certifies health professionals in EBT.

Rita Black: So now, let me read you a little bit about Wired for Joy. Wired for Joy, researcher and New York Times bestselling author. As we already know, Laurel Mellin presents a simple and yet proven way to train your brain to move through stress and back to joy. Her method focuses on rewiring the emotional brain, the cauldron of our stress, rather than the thinking brain, which has been the focus of most other stressed busting methods based on cutting edge science of neuroplasticity.

Rita Black: I always have a hard time saying that word, neuroplasticity, plastic, neuroplasticity, you know, what I'm talking about. Mellin outlines the five emotional states of the brain. For each state, she presents a specific tool that easily and quickly switches the brain back to wellbeing, in essence, retraining your brain to enjoy more moments of the day. 80% of health problems today are due to the downstream effects of stress. And because an overload of stress leads the brain to become wired for extremes of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, you can see its negative effects in every area of your life. Stress symptoms include everything from high blood pressure to heart disease, to addiction, to chronic anger. So learning to break free from stress could dramatically improve your mood, your relationships, your health and your life. Imagine a world without all the jaw clenching, nail biting, and stress induced meltdowns.

Rita Black: With five simple tools in Wired for Joy, you can finally change the wiring that triggers your stress instead of focusing on its symptoms. And once you make that switch, life becomes easier and more rewarding. Your stress symptoms, depression and anxiety, overeating, tend to fade and you experience a new sense of freedom in your life. All right, sound pretty good? Okay. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna read to you from Laurel Mellin's book Wired for Joy, and I'm gonna read you the bits. Now I could go, I'm not gonna go into all the five levels of brainin training, but I wanna read to you some stuff that I find really interesting in the book, and then if you're intrigued, if you wanna read more, you can get the book and go through and learn all the tools, but we would be on here for way too long if we were gonna get into the five. I'll hint and walk through the five at the end, but for the moment I just wanna read you some of some fascinating stuff that she says about the brain, cuz I think she does write so well.

Rita Black: The human brain has an amazing capacity to create joy, not by chance, but by choice. Everyone has the equipment to do this and it is uniquely human. Unlike other animals, the human brain has multiple strong connections between areas of conscious thought and pleasure. The thinking brain, the seat of consciousness is strongly linked to the emotional brain where pleasure centers abound. You can learn to use your consciousness to send chemicals and electricity through these connections and create ripples of pleasure that you can feel in your body. There are only two glitches. First, the message that arouses such pleasure cannot be about eating ice cream, sipping fine wine or buying the latest shoes. It can't be anything you acquire, ingest, or inject. Instead, that pleasure comes from the desire to be of service to do good. Our hunter gatherer ancestors survived based on their capacity to cooperate and share. As a result, this joy response evolves over the millennia to ensure the survival of the species. When you take action that favors the greater good, you are rewarded in the moment. A pulse of feel good chemicals affixes to special receptors in the brain's reward centers, and you experience a surge of peace, power, and pleasure in your body.

Rita Black: Second, the system of rewiring bliss on demand breaks down during stress. Stress hormones affect your motivations because you are in survival mode. Forget about compassion. Instead, you're focus on surviving in the moment, doing whatever it takes. In that stressed state, your brain is not functioning well, it is not thinking magnificent thoughts and fueling you with passion to be your most altruistic self. Your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are decidedly extreme because even though you are not being chased by a hungry lion, your brain perceives that you are. Survival is the drive and the chemical cascade is ensuring that you will do whatever you need to do to get what you want, when you want it, without regard to how that affects others. That is the nature of the stress response. It is ego-based extreme and meant for episodic use to keep you alive in response to short-term stressors. In effect, your physiology is organized around the dance of these two responses, stress and joy. You need both as short-term survival is based on marshaling an effective stress response. In other words, creating a response to make you run away from the approaching lion, and long-term survival is predicated on your capacity to marshal an effective joy response. As the feel good chemicals flow, you feel an abiding compassion for others that motivates cooperation and sharing essential for enabling your tribe to thrive and not blow up the planet.

Rita Black: The problem is that the stress response is not only triggered by physical stress like the lion chasing you, but also by metabolic and psychological stress. As a result, you see the lion everywhere. The stress response ends up being recruited chronically and can even cannibalize to the joy response as the brain cannot be in a state of joy and stress at the same time. One of the two swaps the other. This is why the relentless pursuit of natural joy may be the most effective defense against stress.

Rita Black: Okay, so that was the opening of the book. Now I wanna read to you a little bit about ladders in the brain. So this is, she's carrying on this a little more, it's a little further in the book, but I love this chapter here. So I'm just gonna read you a little bit.

Rita Black: Neuroscience has shown that there are ladders in the brain, the rungs of which we can refer to as brain states. Knowing about these brain states gives you insights into how to best find the way to climb out of any stress state. Back to the top that is back to joy. In each of these brain states, a different part of the brain is in charge. Depending on the level of stress, when stress is low, the top part, the neocortex takes the lead. When overwhelmed with stress, the bottom part, the reptilian braid, is dominant at intermediate states of stress. Areas in between take the lead. We also know that a person's brain state changes moment to moment throughout the day. When I'm sifting through the memorabilia in the basement, I'm relaxed and joyous, savoring happy memories, the top of my brain is in charge and I'm feeling in love with my life. If a fat rat comes into view as I pour through those old photos, I probably jump up, scream and carry on as if my life were on the line.

Rita Black: It doesn't matter if the stress is real or imagined, emotional or physical or even metabolic, it's all stress. So the brain downshifts giving control back to the more primitive reptilian brain, which is reflective and quick. If you freeze framed me, languishing in the basement in rapture with happy memories, and again, when I was screaming and carrying on in response to the rat, you'd think you'd caught two different people, one scared and crazy and the other as saying as they come, I am the same person, but my brain state has changed. If we are that different in each of the brain states, imagine how different those brain states are chemically and electrically. The vast chemical and electrical differences between the brain states explain why up to this point, stress management has been so challenging. Most methods are one size fits all. They encourage you to use the same response, the same process. Self analysis, positive thinking, and meditating no matter what your brain state. That worked fine until we began learning more about the brain. Because the brain is so different at each level of stress, it doesn't make sense that the same process would be optimally effective for the times when you're only a little rattled and those when you're completely overwhelmed. If you are really serious about climbing out of stress back into joy, then having customized tools, one for each brain state only makes sense.

Rita Black: Okay, now I'm gonna go a little further in. All right. This bit is called the highly plastic brain. By knowing what brain state you're in and using the tool that opens up your joy, you feel great, but then the feeling passes and you're back to feeling a little stressed. That's because the emotional brain thrives on the status quo. It likes what it knows and learns to stay at that certain level of stress out of habit. The more moments of the day it spends in stress, the more it likes hanging out there. This becomes its set point, the point it fights to get back to. However, we know that this set point can change. After all, the brain is highly plastic. It changes in response to experience bringing to humans and expansive capacity to adapt to diverse and environmental realities.

Rita Black: You will see in the pages that follow, the emotional states of the brain are rather impervious to a strict diet of knowledge, insight, planning, and deciding. You can read a stack of books on parenting, but still parent just the way your parents did. I love that. You can know every last detail about your childhood, but still respond to conflict the same way you used to. You can list all of your issues, but listing them doesn't change them. To change your emotional brain requires accessing a fine set of emotional skills, which are presented as the five tools of EBT, which we are not gonna get into, but I'm just giving you a little taste of what she's getting at. What I love, she's talking about here is our brain are emotional states get to a set point.

Rita Black: So haven't you noticed people who are always in stress mode and then those people who are always finding their way to, you can, they could have a horrible day, but they always manage to get back to that happy mellow place. Or those people who you could tell them they won the lottery and they could be happy for five minutes, but then they could find a reason to bring themselves back to be stressed about it. Oh my God, I gotta pay taxes and everybody's gonna be after my money. You know? So I find that's really fascinating because I do see that in my practice, how people get in the habit of being a certain way. It's important to have these tools because they make it safer to focus on your feelings. The only way to train the brain to shift is its emotional set point is through emotion. You can't think your way to healing a deep hurt. The circuits are emotional and they only open up and change. When you feel your emotions, often people go to great lengths to avoid feeling their emotions because it scares them.

Rita Black: If they felt their sadness, it would go into depression or if they were aware of their anger, it could trigger a sugar binge. The truth is, if you don't have the skills to process emotions, they can be dangerous, which is why EBT is based on using effective emotional processing tools. The emotional brain changes only through experience and while it is very powerful, it is not all that smart because the brain is a creature of habit. It would rather be constantly miserable than periodically happy. From the emotional brain standpoint, any change is objectionable because the emotional brain confuses safety with the familiar don't we know this so well? Anything novel such as a bright sunny mood is suspect. And in fact, blips of joy can trigger full-blown stress response. So the brain resists change when asked to change it hides out, performs poorly and generally doesn't cooperate.

Rita Black: So isn't that interesting? And you might know this of yourself, like even when you find yourself celebrating and happy, it might then make you feel a little stressed out. There are two kinds of memory. So this is, this chapter is called the elusive unconscious mind. There are two kinds of memory, conscious and unconscious. Conscious memory is what you know, you know the stories you tell, the dates you remember, the analysis you do. It is stored mainly in the thinking brain or the neocortex. Unconscious memory on the other hand, is stored primarily in the emotional brain. It is what you don't know. You know the gut feeling that something is wrong, that wordless knowing that someone is trustworthy, the unconscious expectation that you don't matter. Conscious memory is controllable to some extent. You decide to learn a new computer program or about whether forecasting or how to arrange flowers.

Rita Black: Unconscious memory on the other hand, is not within your control. It doesn't allow you to pick and choose your memories of daily life. Instead, all of your experiences flood into the unconscious mind and the ones stored during stress may be particularly misleading. Beliefs such as the fact that you aren't good enough or the certainty that men will always leave you are stored in your subconscious mind if asked point blank. If you believe that, you quite honestly say that is hogwash, even if in fact those emotional memories shaped every one of your choices in that arena. All these unconscious memories are based on an influx of information into your limbic brain. 20 million pieces per second compared to a poultry 40 pieces for your conscious memory housed in the neocortex. And these memories are stored in survival based vaults in your mind, creating a set of beliefs about your condition that can easily trump conscious thought.

Rita Black: For example, let's say young woman is repeatedly treated by her parents as if she's a princess, and that the rules of life do not apply to her. Locked in her unconscious mind is a basic expectation of which she is not aware that the world owes her or take another child. And no matter how loving, smart, and successful a child is, the repeated contact of the parent's own unconscious memory of not being worthy is passed along to the him. No matter how many advanced degrees he earns, there is still in his gut a feeling of unease as if any moment he would be found out and labeled an imposter.

Rita Black: Okay, now let's talk about the analyzer, the neocortex. Last but not least, is the neocortex, the thinking brain, which evolves last in life. The neocortex is revered because it's the most complex part of the brain, which can think abstract thoughts, analyze information effectively, and make stellar decisions. With EBT, you will use the power of the prefrontal cortex, a part of the neocortex that is located just behind the eyebrows to rewire your emotional circuitry. One of the most important attributes of the prefrontal cortex is consciousness and the capacity to choose rewards. Your brain is reward driven. So every choice you make is based on rewards. Even if the choices are completely unconscious, using the tools makes you aware of your choices. The prefrontal cortex is the grand overseer of the emotional brain. And when it's not stressed, it functions magnificently. Providing a emotional brain with the repeated experiences, it needs to feel secure attachment a sanctuary within the tools of resilience and the most basic expectations that bring safety and power.

Rita Black: It can also appraise your emotional state and do what needs to be done to process the stresses of your current situation back to joy. But what about really bad situations in which there seems to be no good option? Or what about the situation where the best choice is to tolerate it instead of resolving it? Even in these situations, the prefrontal cortex can clear away the stress in the emotional brain so that it can choose between shades of gray and hold on tight, even when taking no action is the most challenging thing. With enough attention and focus and a few new tools, the prefrontal cortex can analyze the unconscious expectations in the emotional brain and break free from the ones that don't conform to its authentic need and values. It can find meaning in life and it can even see in rotten situations that would otherwise lead to teeth clenching and feeling constantly on edge.

Rita Black: And it can arouse the moral centers in the brain to imbue any situation with higher meaning, causing an intense rush of feel good neurotransmitters that swamp the pain when the neocortex that is not in stress is dominant and in charge. You can aim for positive emotions, not through hedonic rewards, but through onic rewards. These are the rewards you get when you bring blueberry muffins to the sick neighbor or hold your tongue instead of telling somebody I told you. So it is the reward of being good, of being of higher purpose and being of spirit instead of the ego.

Rita Black: Alright, now I just want to walk you through thinking in terms of wires. Every response you have in daily life is just the triggering of a wire. When the alarm goes off in the morning and you respond by shutting it off, rolling over and going back to sleep, that's a wire. When you come home from work and make a beeline to the refrigerator and reach for that leftover poached salmon and rosemary potatoes, that's a wire too. In fact, every one of our emotions, thoughts and actions is a wire, a string of nerve cells or neurons that link together in a particular pattern. Each person has about a hundred billion neurons and each one connects with 100 to 100,000 others to create wires or circuits. They're the basis for all learning that is carrying forward the experiences of the past so that our responses to the current moment and the plans for the future are adaptive and keep us in the game of life. So what actually happens when a wired is triggered? Let's say the alarm sounds and stimulus enters the brain. The brain's first order of business is to look for a past experience that is similar to what has just, it has just sensed. It's looking for an existing wire to trigger because triggering an existing wire is the easiest option. If the brain finds one similar enough to an experience that has occurred before it arouses an old wire.

Rita Black: But what if you never had an alarm? What if while growing up your mother always gently wake you? When it was time this, if this was the case, the brain would lay down a fresh new wire, but it much prefers to use already formed wires rather than create new ones, ring bells in the morning, not the familiar buzzer of an alarm, and it will happily trigger the buzzer alarm circuit. It leaves off the nuance of the current experience and in many ways, it this de desensitizes us to vibrant complexity and freshness of the current moment. As we age, we funnel more and more of the crazy delightful enthralling new things that occur into old circuits. And more and more everything looks the same, even when it's not. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Even when a circuit has triggered neurons that were on their own not linked at all, instantly snap into place with other neurons in a familiar pattern, you know the drill, you interpret that wire as time to get up.

Rita Black: Once your feet are on the floor and you're off to take that hot shower or check in with the morning news, that circuit quiets down the activation of those neurons, peter out, left behind is a memory trace, a slight tendency for those very same neurons to connect in response to the same or similar stimuli in the very same pattern that enables you to move experiences forward and make presumably presumably better choices that are more informed by the past.

Rita Black: So as we go through the book, Laurel Mellin begins to walk through the five brain states and how to start to rewire our responses. Brain state one is feeling great. Brain state two is feeling good. Brain state three is a little stressed. Brain state four is definitely stressed. Brain state five is stressed out and part of this process is really starting to tune into what state you are at at any given time and when then you start to use brain training tools to recognize which number you're at and then to adjust the state up so that you're eventually going from maybe a five, which is stressed out, up to a little stressed up to feeling great.

Rita Black: So it's, what you're doing is using the brain through these particular working with each of the ways that you would work of each of these brain states. For instance she calls these tools like the Stressed Out. The tool for Stressed Out is called the Damage Control Tool. The little stressed out is called the Emotional House Cleaning Tools. And, and each of these tools is designed to get you up to joy. So again, it's very interesting because what she's doing is taking you to tune into yourself. So self connection using your front brain, your, your smart brain to assess where you're at and to connect it to the emotional state and then begin to use the two together, the front brain and the emotional brain together to instead of just a a pure reaction, emotional response, you're now using your, your thinking brain, your prefrontal cortex to to combine, to, to take hold, to use that, to sift and use tools to work the emotional brain into a better place up into the level of joy.

Rita Black: Now, the more and more you do this, the more and more you're training the brain, the deeper brain. You're rewiring the brain to be at a higher level in a natural state, you know, the higher level, emotional level but also have the mental ability, the nimbleness to move between brain states way more quickly than you would, you know, just getting stuck in stress. So it's a fascinating read. I'm just, you know, looking through this now to see if there's any more. I feel like those were the main things. I just find that it's so fascinating that one, that we tend to get stuck at a set point emotionally and and then, you know, of course we make that mean things about ourselves, which of course they don't. It's just what the brain does. I feel like the more we learn about the brain and how the brain works the less it is about us, the less it's about how screwed up we are and the more we are at choice to begin to make changes within ourselves.

Rita Black: And that's a lot of our work that we do with Thin Thinking as well. We're not accepting the fact that we're screwed up or there's anything wrong with us because we struggle with weight. But we're really starting to say, Hey, wait, no, this is how my brain works. I can get mindful about this and I can begin to think about myself differently. I can begin to use my mind more effectively. I can use my smart brain to interact with my emotional brain and to shift myself out of old abusive self-abuse, still talking that leads me to overeating and to old patterns and to show up for myself, love myself down the scale, and to begin to use my mind in a much more powerful way. So I do think that this book is a really great you know, what I like to present to you guys are tools for your toolkit for weight Mastery.

Rita Black: And I, I certainly am a big fan of Laurel Mellin. If this appeals to you, this is a great book or The Pathway as well has some great tools in it as well. If you like the way she writes she definitely uses case studies. I didn't get into those today. Here there's a number of, there is a case study of a family that she follows in the book. So I hope that you enjoyed those excerpts and I hope you will think about getting wired for joy or maybe listening to it through an audible this summer. And I hope that it is a great and wonderful summer for you. And if you wanna learn more about Wired for Joy, the link is in the show notes.

Rita Black: And also a reminder, write that review, get that free weight loss hypnosis download. My email, Send me a screenshot of your review that you've uploaded on your favorite podcast platform and get in that drawing for that shift out of emotional eating process. That is coming this, this month in the month of July, sorry, month of July. Is this July? No, I don't even know anymore. No, it's not July. But this is a really great I'm working on it now as we speak. You're gonna love it. So get in line, get in that drawing to get a free copy. Okay? Have a great week. And remember the key and probably the only key to unlocking the door, the weight struggle is inside you. So keep listening and find it. Have a fabulous Wired for Joy week. I will see you next week.

Rita Black: You wanna dive deeper into the mindset of long-term weight release, head on over to That's, where you'll find numerous tools and resources to help you unlock your mind for permanent weight release tips, strategies, and more. And be sure to check the show notes to learn more about my book From Fat to Thin Thinking. Unlock your Mind for Permanent Weight Loss.