Decoding the Female Brain with Dr. Stephanie Estima
"Know that you’re not alone—everybody feels this way and it’s part of our neurobiology."
This week’s podcast is all about decoding the female brain—and we welcome back special guest
The Kwik Brain podcast community has often asked about decoding the differences between the male and female brains. Have you noticed differences in communication between women and men? Are men really from Mars and women from Venus? Are our brains really that different?
A chiropractor, healer, and biohacker who has built her career on helping others to achieve extraordinary health, Stephanie is the Kwik Brain community’s wellness wonder woman and she’s here to tell us how we can build up happiness, improve our relationships and remove shame about our emotions and behaviors by learning about the simple differences in the male and female brains.
In this conversation, we explain the neurobiology behind the two sides of the brain and the structural differences between the male and female brain. We’ll talk about how we can drive up our serotonin and dopamine levels, and how we can improve ourselves through our relationships. We’ll take you through your brain on breakups, give you some tips for coping with the loss of a loved one, and explain why you shouldn’t feel any shame about how your brains work and what you feel.
If you haven’t listened to our other popular episode with Stephanie about getting a shredded mind, check it out here!
2 SIDES OF THE BRAIN
- 2 hemispheres of the brain: right and left side
- Our brain typically develops from the right to left e.g. a baby starts off with more gross motor skills before developing the ability to hold a pen and developing left-sided fine motor skills
- The left side is classically called the “male” side of the brain: strategic, linear, mathematical
- Dopamine lives on the left side of the brain: this is our motivator, keeps us engaged with the things we love to do, keeps us passionate
- We can control our own levels of dopamine
- The right side of the brain: sensual, passionate, creative, where serotonin lives
- The right side is classically called the “female” side of the brain
- Serotonin (happy hormone) lives on the right side of the brain
- You don’t raise your own levels of serotonin: levels get raised by your external environment e.g. receiving positive reinforcement from the people around you, then when serotonin gets high it will drive dopamine release
- Difference between male and female brain: men have twice as many serotonergic receptors in their brain than women
- Meaning: women need twice as much positive reinforcement from our environment to drive up serotonin and consequently, dopamine
- Four main neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins
- Oxytocin is the “bond” neurotransmitter e.g. new mother bonding with her baby releases oxytocin, bonds them together
- Endorphins: feeling happy and elated comes from the prefrontal cortex—happiness comes from the left side, joy from the right: endorphins regulate both of those feelings
- Example of a positive way to drive up serotonin: at work, Stephanie receives positive feedback from her clients about their improved health, which drives up her serotonin levels and increases her motivation to go back the next day and do it all again
- Negative example: Stephanie tries to create a wonderful night out with her husband, gets dressed up, but then her husband comes home and says he’s had a terrible day—this is devastating neurologically seeing as women need more feedback from their environment
- The cumulative effect of experiences over the relationship in its entirety can affect the brain e.g. if this type of negative experience happens 10, 20, 50 times over the space of a relationship, might go some way to neurologically explaining the divorce rate
- Development of the female brain: more estrogen receptors in areas of the brain that drive language and communication—able to read nonverbal cues (reading face, listening to tone)
- The male brain is under influence of testosterone, affects amygdala in the temporal lobe that influences anger and emotions—more testosterone receptors there in the male brain
- Talking it out helps women to deal with stress, females heal through dialogue. Men, because they don’t have as big a language center, don’t need to talk as much
- Relationships are so important in forcing you to the next level of development e.g. your personal and work relationships, who you spend time with is who you become
- Mirror neurons: constantly imitating and adopting attitudes and beliefs of the people around us
- There’s a saying ‘you need to love yourself before you can love other people’, but you need to love other people first because that’s where you’ll receive serotonin and dopamine activation
- If you want to feel more love, give more love: it’s not because you’re giving to get but because it’s who you are
YOUR BRAIN ON BREAKUPS
- Feeling devastated after a breakup of any kind goes back to our roots: we’re designed to be in tribes of people, not by ourselves—this goes back to evolution and our chance of survival being much higher in a group
- Can feel like we’ve been exiled, feel the rejection on a neurological and physiological level
- Cortisol (stress hormone) gets released: this is our fight or flight response, designed to get us away from danger or fight the danger
- The brain will perceive stress, which affects sleep and circadian rhythms, ability to stay asleep, and puts your heart and vitals under duress
- As much as we are modern, in many ways, our DNA and biology haven’t changed much in the last 10,000 years
WHY LEARN ABOUT YOUR BRAIN?
- By learning about the neurological workings of the brain, you can remove the judgment on how you feel, remove the shame of feeling bad, and understand that you’re not unusual or a ‘freak’
- Having someone who affected the way your brain worked and was a source of dopamine, taken away can change the brain so it’s okay to feel the way you feel
- When you’re led by emotions, your brain functions differently—this is why we say avoid sending that email when you’re tired or angry, and keep learning more about your brain so you can identify when this is happening
- E.g. when you’ve lost someone, don’t follow the person on social media, change your physical environment, avoid physical cues that will activate memories
- Hope is by sharing difference between male and female brains is so that you can remove the shame, know that you’re not alone, know that everybody feels this way and its part of our neurobiology—it’s not unique to you and makes you behave in a certain way
- Understanding why you might feel ‘needy’ or want compliments from your partner—because you neurologically need it, nothing to feel ashamed about
- Habits are prompted by a trigger in your environment, so the best way to break a habit is to remove the trigger to avoid old behaviors and memories being reinforced over and over again
- Remember: make sure your physical environment serves you!
- Episode mentioned about productivity: Kwik Brain with Julia Roy
Related Kwik Brain Episodes You Might Enjoy
Episode 18: Fast Focus & Productivity with Julia Roy
Episode 47: How Gratitude Rewires Your Brain
Episode 62: What To Eat For Your Brain with Dr. Mark Hyman
Episode 73: Getting a Shredded Mind with Dr. Stephanie Estima