Introducing the Inner Mammal Institute

Introducing the Inner Mammal Institute

The Inner Mammal Institute helps people find their power over their happy brain chemicals: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphin. With books, videos, podcasts, and training, this platform has helped thousands of people enjoy more happy chemicals in natural ways.

Loretta Breuning founded the Inner Mammal Institute in 2013 to spread her knowledge about the brain we’ve inherited from earlier mammals. She had been a college professor for 25 years and had no marketing or tech skills. But she had a lot of energy to invest since her children had grown, and she had a small retirement income to live on.

She began by self-publishing the book I, Mammal: How to Make Peace with the Animal Urge for Social Power. No one noticed, but she had the best marketing strategy to write another book. Since she hated marketing and loved writing books, she did that! Eventually, she found publishers and finally faced the marketing challenge. She began creating resources for people who don’t like reading books and for wellness professionals.

Slowly, the Inner Mammal Institute grew. Loretta received letters from grateful readers whose lives had been changed by her books. That motivated her to keep facing new challenges; today, her books have been translated into twelve languages.

The Inner Mammal Institute explains the animal origins of our happy brain chemicals. When you know what turns on dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphin in animals, it’s easier to see what turns them on in yourself. These happy chemicals are hard to manage because brain structures control them. This “limbic system” releases a reward chemical to meet a survival need and a threat chemical when you see a threat. However, the animal brain doesn’t process language, so it can’t tell you why it is releasing a chemical. Knowing each chemical’s function in the state of nature helps you see what triggers it and why it’s not meant to flow all the time.

When people read Loretta’s books, they see what it takes to feel better. They want to tell everyone they know. They often get a bad reception. Their friends and relatives may not like that they’re responsible for their happiness. So, the Inner Mammal Institute has difficulty scaling.

The core problem is those beliefs about mental health conflict with the facts about our mammal brain. People have learned to believe that happiness is genetic, so you can get it from a pill if it doesn’t come on its own. People blame “society” for their unhappiness, so they focus on changing the world instead of changing their old wiring. Finally, people have learned a Disney view of happiness and that unrealistic expectations trigger disappointment and cortisol.

The inner Mammal Institute website offers plenty of free resources to help people rewire. It showcases the Inner Mammal Method as a tool for dealing with anxiety, addiction, parenting, relationships, and career problems. It offers a video series; You Have Power Over Your Brain, which is entertaining and accessible to young people and those in distress. The site also offers podcasts showing how people from all walks of life build their power over their inner mammal. In addition, it has plenty of infographics, social media, and blog posts that make it easy to discover and share the mammalian facts of life.

The opportunities for the Inner Mammal Institute are tremendous because most people want to be happier. Unfortunately, individuals have learned to see their natural ups and downs as a disorder. 

Lessons Learned

The Inner Mammal Institute provides a low-cost, natural way for anyone to understand their ups and downs and steer toward more ups. Loretta is not focused on earnings because she is formally retired and wants to focus her energy on long-term rather than short-term benefits. She feels it’s harder to change people’s deep beliefs when money is part of the equation. However, Loretta’s father was an entrepreneur, and she applauded people striving to support themselves through entrepreneurship. So she’s pleased to share these lessons learned.

  1. Don’t Rely Too Much on Forecasting
    “I’m always planning my next step, but I realize that most of my progress has come from things outside of my control. So, I keep putting irons in the fire without overanalyzing when each iron will heat up. For example, I didn’t know what a podcast was, yet they soon became a big part of my outreach. I started my podcast, and though the numbers are not huge, it builds deeper connections which plants seeds for nice surprises in the future. Another example is earned media. You can’t really predict which outreach will succeed, so I create ways to enjoy my outreach efforts so I don’t get hung up on results.”
  2. Get Real about Social Comparison
    “Our brain is always making social comparisons because it’s inherited from mammals who do that. Mammals compare in order to spread their genes while avoiding conflict with bigger individuals. We don’t think this with our verbal brain, but our mammal brain makes social comparisons despite our best intentions. But this natural impulse can ruin your day. You might get a nice boost in your numbers, but your inner mammal notices people with better numbers. Your numbers may fall after they spurt, and your inner mammal makes it feel like a survival threat. When you understand this natural impulse, you can redirect your brain toward your strength rather than the weakness. That is the subject of my book, Status Games: Why We Play and How to Stop.” 
  3. Don’t Give Too Much Power to Consultants
    I have been barraged by consultants telling me I’m doing everything wrong. I was tempted to trust them because my knowledge of technology and marketing was limited. I often noticed that they sold cookie-cutter solutions without understanding my unique business. A simple example is that they insist on targeting a demographic group even though my customers are equally divided along age, gender, and geographical lines. The first marketing person I consulted told me, ‘ Get rid of the mammal thing— no one wants to hear that.’ If I had followed their advice, I would have lost my unique offering and ended up with me-too clichés.
  4. Tackle Technology in Small Steps
    “At first, I got Tech PTSD a lot. I got really upset when I tried new platforms and couldn’t get them to work. Then I’d get more upset when I looked for tech support and couldn’t find it. In time, I learned to trust that I will eventually solve the horrible tech snags that waste my time. Instead of making it worse by kicking myself, I take it in small bites. I focus on one technology challenge at a time and work on it for a limited amount of time. I reward myself with a funny video after tackling a tough tech problem. I don’t take on frustrating challenges when I’m tired. Feeling overwhelmed triggers cortisol, which builds a pathway that turns on the stress chemicals faster the next time you think about that site.”
  5. Do What Feels Good Instead of Following Trends
    “I focus on the aspects of my business that I love and minimize the aspects I don’t love. This may seem like bad advice, and perhaps it’s easier because I’m officially retired, but doing things you like is essential to avoid burnout. For example, I love to correspond with people who agree with me, and I don’t burn myself out by arguing with people who don’t agree with me. I love designing new resources and don’t burn myself out analyzing the performance of each resource. I love hearing people’s success stories, but I do not act like a free therapist to the whole world. I love planning my next project by focusing on what’s “trending.” 

The Inner Mammal Institute is beginning a new era because it just launched an all-new website. Loretta tackled that gigantic project in small steps. First, she built trust with consultants who managed it without giving away the reins. (Most of the work was done by a Russian and a Ukrainian working together, and they did a great job!) She knows the new site will open new horizons, but she cannot control them, so she is focusing on projects she can control. Her current new project is a “dopamine crawl,” which is like a pub crawl but without alcohol. She will meet people in London and lead them on various stops that will trigger ups and downs in their dopamine. The goal is not to artificially spike your dopamine but to understand your natural responses to build your power over them.

Anastasia Filipenko

Anastasia Filipenko is a health and wellness psychologist, dermatolist and a freelance writer. She frequently covers beauty and skincare, food trends and nutrition, health and fitness and relationships. When she's not trying out new skincare products, you'll find her taking a cycling class, doing yoga, reading in the park, or trying a new recipe.

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