Is this damn dopamine ruining your life?
Are your actions making your life better or worse?
Are you creating the habits you need?
What does dopamine have to do with these?
How is your life right now?
Do you snack too much?
Do you spend more time on social media than you’d like?
Do you drink more coffee or alcohol than you should?
Do you find yourself not having done much at the end of the day?
Do you feel depressed or anxious?
Do you lack of energy or motivation?
Having difficulties to sleep?
If you answered yes above, it means that you reward the “wrong” activities. What can you do then?
Nothing, you’ll lead an aimless life of short-term pleasure.
No, I’m joking, we’ll fix this for you.
What do I mean by “Reward”?
What I mean is that you don’t use your dopamine well. And it’s not your fault since it’s not a conscious effort… But it’s still your responsibility to fix it.
See, Dopamine is our feel-good hormone. Our body releases it as a reward when we achieve something.
So it’s a great tool, right?
Yes, it is, the only issue is that not all “achievements” are equal.
On one side, you can run 5 miles, finish a project, fix the car…
And on the other side, you can scroll on Facebook, play video games, or have a snack…
These activities will all release dopamine. But some of them will have a better impact on your life than others, won’t they?
What are your sources of dopamine?
First, you need to identify your sources of pleasure. Asses your average week and take note of the time (or quantity) you spend on everything.
Social media (1h daily)
Alcohol (twice a week)
TV (1h daily)
Coffee (3 cups a day)
Running (5 km once a week)
Then make a matrix based on the usefulness and time of their effect on your life.
Do you want more of them or less of them?
Do they have a short-term or a long-term impact on your life?
This matrix will start to give you an idea of what to change and how important it is.
Here is a very short matrix as an example.
Why does it matter?
You become what you consistently do!
Take someone spending 2 hours per day on social media, that’s 14 hours per week… I let you compute how much it is yearly. No wonder we don’t want to look at our social media statistics, they remind us of all the time we wasted.
And it’s the same for all our actions, the time, energy, and money spent on any given “thing” won’t be on another one. And in the end, only its impact on our life matters, doesn’t it?
So every day, you “reward” some actions, and when you repeat this enough time, they become a habit. And when you have this habit long enough, it becomes part of your character. And your character and habits will predict your next action.
When you say Yes to something, you say No to something else!
We all have 24 hours in a day and yet we see huge differences in what some people achieve compared to others. It gives the impression that highly efficient people don’t sleep or have some tricks that we, the normal ones, simply don’t.
If you’re spending 30 minutes on TikTok, you could have spent them reading a book. But you can’t do both, can you?
When you’re watching TV before bed, then you’re not planning for your next day.
See where I’m going?
Find what works for you
There are many ways to shift your sources of pleasure and change your reward system.
Here again time matters, do you want to shock your system or are you looking for a more gentle change?
Some people need to withdraw totally from the source of pleasure. While others prefer to lower or replace them.
And do you want to do it for a few weeks or forever?
Some people need to reset their system, like a Detox. While others are more focused on building habits for the long term.
So, which type are you?
You also have options on how you’ll do it. Do you prefer to stop altogether or to lessen it? Sometimes we can also replace it with something else.
The goal is to take some time to clarify what is the best approach for YOU.
What will help you change the most effectively?
And we can take different methods for different “rewards”.
One may want to stop social media for a week, and then use it only a maximum amount daily. And next to this, they may decide to replace coffee with tea.
Time for Action
Now you know your sources of pleasure.
You also know what type of strategies you need.
So, let’s just do it.
As an exercise, let’s imagine Joe. Like me , you may recognize yourself in some of his issues.
Joe procrastinates a lot, he has things to do and wants to change of career. But it feels like when he does 1 step forward, he then goes 2 steps backward.
Joe spends too much time on social media and has FOMO. And he has his empty feeling at the end of the day, noticing he did not achieve much. He has all these ideas but they remain just that, ideas.
Financially, he is not where he wants to be and his long-term prospects are not so good, he has low savings, and he does not like his job.
So with Joe, I would assess a common week.
How much time does he spend on each activity?
Which rewards does he want to change?
Then we establish a plan, which may be as follows:
Joe opts for dopamine detox. He won’t do any of the following AT ALL for 2 weeks:
Use social media
He will use this as the foundation for a better lifestyle and he will:
Drink alcohol once per week
Use social media for up to 45 minutes daily
Replace sweets with healthier snacks
Next to this, he also decided that he wouldn’t go to bed until he wrote at least 1 chapter of his book, NO MATTER WHAT until it was done.
Your turn now, asses your average week, and find the actions you want to change and make a strategy.
Need help with this?