top of page

12 links between Hormones and Decisions

"A rational mind does not work under compulsion; it does not subordinate its grasp of reality to anyone's orders, directives, or controls; it does not sacrifice its knowledge, its view of the truth, to anyone's opinions, threats, wishes, plans. " - Ayn Rand

Thank you for joining me for blog 29, highlighting decision-making and the brain. This is my public exploration of what drives decision-making and how we can use that information to make better decisions, resulting in better outcomes.

Over the last 7 weeks I have covered (individual blogs listed below) what I consider to be the key hormones that could influence your decision making.

What have been the key take-aways? (I also share links to the recent blogs)

1) Most irrationality is not lazy thinking but imbalance. Rational thinking might not be easily reachable for many people who feel threatened, coerced, lonely, in pain, disrespected, stressed or ignored, even if their feelings are nothing to do with the decision at hand. These states and many others can warp decision-making. Rationality is balance. It can best be accessed when your stress and happy hormones are neither too high nor too low (achieving that balance is next week's topic).

2) Hormones and emotions are not bad. They help us survive through highlighting threats and give us cues in complex social interactions. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be both sensitive to and be able to manage the feelings that hormones and emotions give rise to.

3) We are being hacked. Our phones and wearable devices are targeting our dopamine systems to keep us glued to mindless distraction. This is denaturing our ability to focus on things that matter to us, or enjoy real things happening around us.

Find out more here:

4) We love being part of a group. Oxytocin is high when we are part of a group and this impacts decisions in two main ways. Firstly, it makes us less likely to offer a differing opinion when we are part of a group to avoid being expelled. Secondly, it make us feel unhappy and risk averse when we feel lonely or isolated.

5) We love social status. Serotonin is released when we are given respect and importance. This influences our decision-making by trying to control people we see as lower social status than us, and feel depressed and unmotivated if we do not get recognition from those who have higher social status. Much of the circus we see around us (politicians, wealthy people and those with fame) is about gaining social status and getting that serotonin release.

6) Sometimes we want to dull the pain. Sometimes physically, but often socially, we feel pain. Endorphins are nature's pain relief but can sometimes be accessed by self-harm, starving yourself and over-exercising. Many people also fall prey to drugs that utilise opioids (like heroin and oxycontin) that mimic the pain relief system. Your better decision is to feel that relief more safely by stretching, laughing or training in something new.

7) We sometimes feel panicked. This is Cortisol in action. Cortisol is there to take you from harm's way, but is more likely to put you in harm's way if you act rashly. The best way to counter the bad decision-making is 1) prepare for bad situations in advance (e.g. fire drills), 2) take a walk to get your cortisol down before you act, and 3) get someone else's advice who can access a calmer state.

8) We sometimes get bored. As a young boy some of the most trouble I got into was when I was bored and looking to do something 'fun'. The seeking of adrenaline in dull situations sometimes leads to bad decisions. It is a real thing. Make sure that your environment is fun and varied to avoid ill-advised thrill-seeking.

9) Don't put an aggressive bully in charge of risk management. If there was one word in support of more women in male-dominated industries it would be 'Testosterone'. Testosterone, if allowed to pervade too deeply into corporate life, could lead to reckless risk-taking and an aggressive, stressful atmosphere.

10) We should be incredibly considerate to those going through the menopause. The drop in Estrogen can cause a number of side-effects including low moods, a struggle to control eating and some compulsive behaviours. Ensuring that people are allowed to make decisions optimally for themselves during this change is important to firms, friends and families.

11) Sleep well, decide better. Understanding the way melatonin and adenosine work will help you sleep better, and good sleep is the bedrock of a balanced mental state. If people are looking for three points on good sleep it would be: 1) Keep a consistent bed time/wake time, ideally 8 hours apart 2) Get natural light first thing in the morning and turn down the light at least 60 mins before bed (minimal phone use!) 3) Exercise each day ideally earlier in the day to bring about tiredness.

12) Bad moods lead to lower tolerance of uncertainty, and good moods lead to higher tolerance of uncertainty. In most situations, outcomes are uncertain and a bad mood will highlight the negative outcomes and a good mood highlights the positive outcomes. Next week's blog of how to manage your hormones will provide the tips I have researched to achieve balance of those negative and positive outcomes.

For those new to the blog, here was a summary for my first 20blogs.

Thank you for joining. Next week will be 'managing your hormones'.


bottom of page