Humans aren’t big fans of the status quo. The status quo is not what we long for. We are always looking for more experiences and new rewards. Dopamine, a brain chemical that stimulates these diverse behavior patterns, is responsible. You can call it the motivation molecular.
However, there is a downside to dopamine in the modern age. Dopamine can be too elevated by substances that provide great pleasure such as coffee and cocaine. Digital technologies like video games or social media may also affect our dopamine levels. Similar.
Our brains work to balance out dopamine levels, so it is possible for peak levels of dopamine to be followed by unpleasant crashes that leave us craving more. Tolerance, addiction and eventually, suicide can result from repeated indulgences. Anxiety and Depression.
We can stop this downward spiral of dopamine lows by becoming healthier. Here’s how to do it.
Be aware of any compulsions
The first step is awareness. Anna Lembke, a Stanford professor and psychiatrist, suggests tracking your daily activities to see if they’re turning into compulsions with negative consequences. An example could be in your hand right now; smartphones deliver “digital dopamine 24/7,” Lembke wrote in her 2021 book, Dopamine Nation. A recent study found that people are spending an average of $80 per month. They spend a third each day.Check their phones.
Addictive behavior is a spectrum; even if an activity doesn’t meet the scientific criteria for addiction, too much of a good thing can still undermine happiness, Lembke says. Your brain may try to balance your dopamine levels if you experience a constant increase in dopamine, which can lead to a decrease in the number of dopamine receptors. This could eventually cause a decline of motivation and enjoyment.
Lembke’s book tells the story of a patient obsessed with shopping online. Eventually, new packages lost their thrill, and he piled up large debts—but couldn’t stop buying. Lembke recommended that the man stop buying online products for one month. Lembke challenged the man to accept her challenge. His compulsion gradually cleared up, and he started feeling “natural highs” again, such as the buzz of anticipation for seeing friends.
“Not everyone needs 30 days,” Lembke says. “I’ve seen people abstain for one week and reset their reward pathways.” On the other hand, these breaks don’t work for everyone. Some people require more drastic interventions such as medication. “But for many,” says Lembke, “abstinence is the starting point.”
Nora Volkow, a psychiatrist and dopamine researcher who leads the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, says that prolonged breaks from addictions could work in theory, but studies must explore whether this approach actually reduces the unwanted behavior in the long term. “Individuals are much likelier to succeed if they have social support systems and access to healthier activities that raise their dopamine and motivate them,” Volkow says.
Take some pain medication to help you feel better
Good replacements for unhealthy fixations take full advantage of dopamine’s seesaw effect. Dopamine peaks can result in painful lows filled with cravings, but the reverse holds true as well: some initially painful experiences drive upswings in motivation and positive mood—minus the crash. This is known as hormesis. “Well-timed deprivation can do wonders for pleasure,” says Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford biologist who wrote about dopamine in his 2017 book, Take care.
Lembke states that cold showers are one example of Hormesis. While more research is necessary, there have been some studies suggesting that the body reacts to cold water by increasing feel-good molecules. including dopamine. “These are modest natural rewards without a big comedown,” she says.
Kenneth Kishida (a Wake Forest neuroscientist) studies dopamine fluctuationsCamping trips are a great way to get hormesis. It is not GlampingHe said that it was roughing in the state parks for several nights. It involves taking cold showers and eating occasionally, as well as sleeping in small tents. “It’s really hard, but I come back feeling refreshed,” he explains.
Camping involves exercise. Cross-training for one hour three times per week is a good way to increase dopamine levels in people who are addicted to methamphetamine. increased. Alexis, a Brooklyn 29-year old health aid, became addicted to Phenylcyclohexyl Piperidine or PCP after experiencing sadness following the deaths of her loved ones. Alexis has requested that her name be changed to protect her privacy. She joined an organization run by Odyssey HouseCall it Run for Your LifeThe program allows people who are recovering from addiction to train for the Central Park marathon. “Exercise gives me energy,” Alexis says. “It’s adrenaline.”
It is proven that exercise can also be beneficial. ProtectDopamine receptors decrease with age. If they do not, then their levels will plummet. 10% each decade.
Do not combine pleasures
Be careful not to mix exercise with exciting stimuli like texting or blasting your favourite music. “We need some period of time when we’re not stimulating our brains,” Lembke says. “We need to experience the pain to appreciate the pleasure.” But Wendy Suzuki, an NYU neuroscientist who studies exercise, sees music as a great motivator. “Without music, most people aren’t going to enjoy exercise enough to do it regularly,” she says.
Volkow warned people against using caffeine to boost their activity. It disrupts the brain’s balancing mechanism, blocking its process of removing dopamine receptors in response to dopamine spikes, her research Shows. Gaming is made even more enjoyable by video gamers who drink energy drinks. “You have to be cautious to avoid compulsive gaming,” Volkow says.
Try to have your favourite combinations less often than you would like. Some experts Please suggestThis approach is based upon a principle known as reward prediction error: we’re highly motivated by pleasant surprises. Dopamine levels will drop if we continue to indulge in the same extremely pleasurable combination over and over again. The novelty of a good combination is only temporary. Tolerance won’t build up.
Meditation is another tool to increase dopamine levels. Eric Garland, distinguished professor in the University of Utah’s College of Social Work, developed a Mindfulness-Oriented Rehabilitation EnhancementThe MORE program has proven effective for treating opioid misuse, chronic and acute pain as well as emotional distress. The In You can find more information at StudyPublication in February JAMA Internal MedicineAfter just nine months of treatment, more than half (45%) of MORE participants were free from opioid addiction. That’s nearly double the rate of people receiving standard psychotherapy. MORE calls for daily meditation and mindfully savoring sunsets and other “natural pleasures.” These activities raise dopamine levels without the spikes caused by drugs and other addictions, Garland says.
A lot of MORE involves helping people suffering from addictions process their negative emotions. “Life involves pleasure and pain,” Garland says. “Mindfulness allows us to embrace both aspects of human existence and accept them deeply.”
Increase dopamine levels through flow states
“We’re living in a pain-phobic culture,” Lembke says. Accepting that there will be some pain is a part of human life can lead to a greater appreciation for it. more well-beingFind deeper happiness. You can see this in flow states.
Rian Doris says that flow is when people become so involved in their task they forget about themselves. This coincides with an increase in dopamine, which slows down but remains steady., co-founders of the Flow Research CollectiveIt studies neuroscience and flow states. Doris says that in order to unleash flow, one must get out of our comfort zone, which often involves struggle and pain.
“It’s very difficult to get into flow activities,” says Paul Bloom, a University of Toronto psychologist who authored The Sweet SpotA book on the worth of suffering chosen. “It’s easier to sit on your sofa and watch Netflix.”
Let’s say you want to write a memoir. Mastery of the craft requires arduous, deliberate practice, and “there’s a high drive to distract with stimulating activities for rapid dopamine releases,” says Doris.
If you persist, flow may be possible while you write chapters. Training for a major race is another example. Alexis participated in the New York City Marathon last November. “Running gets me out of my head,” she says. “The more you exercise, the easier it gets.”
Moderation is the key to dopamine. Don’t spend too much time in flow, Doris recommended, even for your job. For some, Lembke says, “work has become druggified like everything else.” Take Breaks for Fun. Video games and social media can provide great opportunities for entertainment, especially when used occasionally.
“I wouldn’t frame flow as a cure for your Instagram addiction,” Bloom says. “It’s just another thing in life worth pursuing. We all want pleasure, but we also want meaningful activities, even when they’re tied up with struggle.”