Did you know you’re a chemist?


image: chemical structure of serotonin, drawn by Dr David R Hamilton

Yes, you are a chemist! As you think, you shape the chemistry of your brain and blood, you shape the chemistry of your relationships, and you also shape the chemistry of your life.

I have a PhD in chemistry and was once a professional chemist. I trained in how to build molecules and found myself working as a scientist with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

I loved ‘organic chemistry’, which is where we stick atoms together in various combinations to construct a particular shape of molecule. My specialist fields were cardiovascular disease and cancer.

But even though we think of chemists as people who work in labs, everyone is a chemist and the labs we work in are the laboratories of our bodies, our homes, and the laboratories of our own lives. Here’s the different ways you’re a chemist.

1) How you practice brain chemistry

As you think, you practice brain and blood chemistry. When you think about someone or something that stresses you, then you produce stress chemistry in your brain and blood stream.

You elevate levels of cortisol, adrenalin, norepinephrine, and histamine. Prolonged thinking like this often leads to a build up of free radicals and inflammatory cytokines in your bloodstream. These are chemicals that play a role in heart disease and ageing. And you’re doing this with your mind!

If you were to think of someone that you love instead, or think of a moment of affection, so you produce different chemistry. You elevate levels of dopamine, serotonin, growth hormone, and oxytocin.

If you consistently think in this way, so you increase oxytocin in your bloodstream, which helps sweep those damaging free radicals and cytokines out of your blood. It is a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone. And again, you’re doing this with your mind.

To take a scientific example, research shows that a hostile mindset is linked with cardiovascular disease. People who tend to be most hostile and aggressive have a much higher risk of heart disease than the general population. An attitude of love, compassion and kindness, on the other hand, is associated with better cardiovascular health.

2) How you practice relationship chemistry

A hostile or aggressive mindset also shatters relationship quality. It steers conversations towards complaints and criticism and guides us away from the things that really matter.

When we overly focus on what’s wrong with things or what’s wrong in the world, we get so caught up in the emotions of anger and frustration that we actually miss out on savouring special moments that happen around us. During these times, we move farther away, emotionally, from those who matter most to us.

When we point the mind towards the heart and focus on what’s good and the good qualities in people, on the other hand, we sow seeds of emotional closeness. People find us more approachable and more enjoyable to be around. We gradually move closer, emotionally, to those who matter most to us, as well as build a network of people who value us for who we are.

3) How you practice life chemistry

Our thinking also shapes the events and circumstances of our lives. We move towards, or attract, those things that we give most attention to.

The trouble most of us have is that while we might have a goal or aspiration, we only give it a fraction of our focus. Throughout the day, a whole manner of things occupy a greater portion of our minds: how crap our current state of affairs is, how such and such a person is causing us stress, how we have too much month left at the end of our money, as well as, of course, a lot of happy thoughts too. But most of us generally apportion a larger percentage of our thinking to where we are and the woes of the past than to imagining and visioning our future. We need to flip this around a bit and learn to direct a better portion of our attention to where we want to go.

Even if it’s not an event or ‘thing’ you want but a state, learn to direct more of your attention inwards, perhaps through meditation.

So everyone is a chemist. I like to reflect on the fact that I started out as a chemist, left that role to study and write about the power of the mind (initially based on the placebo effect. You may have read my bestseller, ‘How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body’), and only years later realised that I never stopped being a chemist at all. I’ve just learned to practice different kinds of chemistry, kinds of chemistry that we’re all practicing in every moment of our lives. We just don’t realise that we’re doing it.

Now if we do realise it, we can impact our health in a favourable way, we can nurture and build our relationships, and we can use our chemistry prowess to shape the landscape of our lives.

Most people grow up with the idea that the mind is impotent, that its only function is to interpret life, think and make decisions. But the mind can be thought of as a force, one that pushes chemistry in the brain and body, one that brings love into our lives, and one that pushes outwards to create our hopes and dreams.

You are much more than you think you are and far more capable than you think you are! Now believe in yourself!

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  1. Helen Lamb on October 21, 2013 at 10:33 am


    Your words are so inspiring and uplifting – thank you so much! I have had the honour of meeting and talking with you in Bournemouth twice at the Positive Living Group a while ago and also saw you in London at the I Can Do It 2013, where you were your sparkly self!

    Keep up your good work and I’m so pleased you have ‘appeared’ in my life. Whenever I think of you there is always a smile on my face!



    • David R. Hamilton PhD on October 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      Thanks Helen. It makes me smile to know that I make you smile. 🙂

  2. Helen Wellington on October 21, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Hi David!

    Your words today are very profound, thank you!….however l would also like to remind you and your readers that chemistry doesn’t stop with your own mind creations!
    We are all sinergising….and collectively we are creating a more advanced awareness of our true oneness!
    How magnificent we are!
    How awesome is our future!
    How wonderful to be so knowing!

    We have infinite capabilities!…..once we accept and believe that…..the resources will flow into action!
    belief is unblocking the awaiting potential!

    Those of us that have come to realise what others have yet to find……have a responsibility to human kind to help in anyway possible to raise the awareness of others…..and you know what??….just the intent of that thought makes an immediate difference! Haha!
    Ain’t life grand!…..
    My very best wishes,
    Helen x

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on October 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      Beautifully said Helen. 🙂

  3. Anne Winslow on October 21, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Absolutely love this article David. You sum it all up so amazing and powerful.

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on October 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      Thanks Anne. 🙂

  4. Cathy on October 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Beautifully said!

  5. malini on October 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Hi David,
    So we are, aren’t we? I have been practising positive chemistry diligently, when this morning I happened to hear rather disturbing and sad news from a family member and I had to struggle to get back on track as there is nothing I can do about it. I feel so refreshed after reading your post and thanks a lot for reminding, good job…

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on October 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks Malini. I’m glad the post arrived at the right time for you. 🙂

  6. Renée Paule on October 22, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Wonderful article … thank you for being so inspiring 🙂

    We’re all alchemists.

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on October 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks Renee. 🙂

  7. june furey on October 23, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Thank you David, after reading your book I now spend many hours meditating whilst endeavouring to put into practice.your suggestions. I am now 84 and two years ago I was was diagnosed with triple cardiovascular blockages. I refused the operation and am trying to live my life as peacefully and with love for others. Reflecting on my life I often wonder what it was in my life I could have recognised to diagnose this condition before I reached this age. For ten years I travelled from Australia to France and England for my inspirational journeys to paint. I have had the most enjoyable years of my life. Now I am unable to enjoy these activities I am enjoy the peace of creation and the joy received from loving others and being loved in return.
    joy to you and all readers
    June Furey

  8. carol on October 23, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Thank you so much for this David! Just what I needed light& luv carolxxx

  9. Lourdes Molina on October 28, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I am a chemist also. I have read your article which is very interesting. I am also being working on the effect of meditation and mindfulness in healing process. I liked a lot. Good Job.

  10. Shay on November 7, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Very well written. I can see this working in my only life. Thanks David