Exploring Dopamine

I love the idea of studying science for tips on how to be more motivated and happier more of the time. Dopamine is definitely one of the components of happiness.

Dopamine is the hormonal element of brain chemistry that is connected to motivation, craving, and time interval keeping. There are a number of helpful habits we can gain from understanding basic dopamine brain science: For every mountain top, there will be a downhill after. There is a natural rhythm of climbing and then rest. God created the earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th. Know that the body needs to exert itself and feel pain/work/exertion in order to produce pleasure.

1 – Fasting: Consistent overindulgence in pleasurable dopamine activity can actually burn out your ability to feel pleasure. We see this in “rich kid syndrome” where a person may not have to work or exert themselves on any level and all sorts of pleasurable stimuli are right at their fingertips. So because there is no exertion, work, or pain… their may be no pleasure because of simple brain chemistry. That’s why it’s so important to fast social media, video games, or even food from time to time in order to give the body a chance to rebuild and restore so that it can properly function again.

2 – Micro Fasting On a more micro level, it’s important to not indulge every whim that our brain provides and so the “Go/No Go” concept means saying no to stimuli through the day to develop more focus and to keep that dopamine balance of pain and pleasure. Keep the device out of the space where you’re working. Resist the urge to reach for a sensory experience on your phone. This is a kind of micro fasting that helps balance dopamine.

3 – Sleeping: There’s a go-to-sleep-fast hack that I want to try. The idea is to wear headphones with a fiction book going with the volume so low that you have to focus to hear it. This murmur in the background keeps the brain in listening to a story mode rather than problem solving, which makes it easy to fall asleep quickly. I have got to try that!

4 – Go to bed early. If we push ourselves to stay awake later, it makes it hard from a brain science perspective to get to sleep. So we may have a period of feeling really alert in the evening, then going to bed 90 minutes later is great.

5 – Night: Having a bright light in your face between 10 pm and 4 am actually blocks the production of dopamine. It actually activates a part of the brain that will neurochemically punish you for this activity. Firelight, candlelight, and the glow of the moon are all fine, but the light of the device is not good – and it doesn’t matter what color the light is, it blocks the production of dopamine.

6 – Morning: Overnight the sleeping brain is busy working on neuroplasticity and solving problems. Many times upon waking we reach for the device and go into a sensory experience right away – when what we need to do is give our brain at least an hour to tell us what solutions it found to the problems. We need that download, so resist the urge to pick up the device within that first 60 minutes.

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