During times of stress our bodies release cortisol to help us meet the challenge. Long-term exposure to cortisol can be damaging and we are biologically programmed to lower it as quickly as possible.
Dopamine is a feel-good brain chemical that lowers our cortisol levels. It gets released when we anticipate a reward or something pleasurable. Dopamine also helps us remember and repeat the behaviors that were successful in getting us the dopamine release in the first place.
So when we grab a brownie or a bag of potato chips when we are stressed, our brains get a dopamine hit which makes us feel better – but not for long. Often, we start beating ourselves up for not having enough willpower to make a healthier choice.