OK, – Winter has finally arrived on this side of the world…Even my dog prefers the warmth of the bed to the raging elements outside – No wonder people are looking a little forlorn and uninspired.
I must admit that I too have fallen victim to the winter glooms from time to time.
If you’re wondering if your mojo left you along with the summer sunshine, it may be because you’ve been naughty with regard to Dopamine. Allow me to explain:
Dopamine is also known as the “feel-good” hormone and works together with Seretonin to increase happiness by alleviating depression and anxiety. Dopamine, however, is not actually the tonic that makes you smile, as is commonly believed. Dopamine’s prime function is motivation. When you’re Dopamine levels are firing as they should, you feel motivated and on track with life. To illustrate, – there was a test performed on rats, by which one group of rats was fed treats that elicited a Dopamine response. These rats, while enjoying the treats, started to lack the motivation to do much else and started to develop little rat fat rolls. They became listless and lethargic.
In contrast, the other group of rats had to work for their food. Treats were placed out of reach and obstacles had to be overcome before the food reward was given. When compared to their chubby counterparts, these rats were working for their food or Dopamine.
You see, here’s the thing about dopamine. Unlike Serotonin, which is the happy hormone, Dopamine is the goal hormone. If you’re lacking in Dopamine, you will feel listless and de-motivated. Nature gives us a kick in the pants when we earn our Dopamine through activities that require effort.
Humans are like rats when it comes to Dopamine. When we engage in a challenging activity, we receive a shot of Dopamine which in turn spurs us to focus on what we want and how to get it. Jocko Willink and Andrew Hubermann said this well… “You have to earn your Dopamine, and when you do, it provides the drive to keep going.” – Picture a morning workout and how good you feel afterward. – Or imagine doing something scary and walking away, glad that you’ve executed. The opposite side of the coin (fat rat), also receives Dopamine, but it is acquired through minimal effort. For the rat that did not need to move much, the pleasure was all there, but it did not have the tunnel vision of our athletic rat. We, humans, can be fat rats by the way we acquire our Dopamine too. Endless scrolling on Social Media and other entertainment quick-fixes are also enjoyable, and will give us Dopamine, but will do nothing for our focus and drive. In fact, obtaining Dopamine through avenues such as Social Media, Pornography, and Junk food etc, – is the reason that there are so many listless and depressed people out there today. They are in essence, like the fat rat that sips on the Dopamine teat without having to do much about it.
So, to come a full circle, I would hazard a guess that you’re feeling like you’re deep in a listless winter because you have not been earning your Dopamine. How do we correct this? How do we re-set the baseline for our Dopamine levels and thus our motivation?
To begin with, we need to cut out the easy ways of acquiring the precious stuff. I found myself a little down and out some time ago, –listless to the max is how my son would describe it… I have decided to do a Dopamine purge by cutting out the frivolous ways in which I would get at the easy Dopamine, – Our bad habits are unique to us all, but here are some empty Dopamine fixes that you may wish to address…
Social Media, Netflix, Alcohol, Weed, Porn, Snacking, and other slovenly activities are placed on the NO-GO list and are replaced with earned Dopamine, in the form of Gym, Fasting, correct nutrition, reading etc.
This exercise is tougher than one thinks because we’re wired to take the easy route. Old habits, when abandoned, leave a hole in one’s routine and can expose patterns of avoidance and even indulgences that don’t serve us. As a bit of self-experimentation, I am placing myself on a Dopamine re-set for 30 days, which I will monitor and provide daily feedback. This journey dovetails nicely with the concept of habit formation, a la James Cleary from Atomic Habits, which I will be using to pivot in the process of acquiring a few new systems that serve me as opposed to providing just an easy fix for Dopamine…
So, peeps I urge you to look at the hard stuff as a gift… As a paid member, I would like to invite you on a 30-day Dopamine purge… I’ll be sharing my days with you, and will invite you to join me on this journey. It doesn’t really matter if you start later than me. I will share every day with you, tell you what I’m getting up to, how I’m succeeding and where I’m failing etc. You are welcome to connect with me, ask me questions, etc.
Let’s re-kindle the mojo again. Dopamine is the currency of motivation and focus, and when acquired in the correct manner, you’ll soon feel like you have a reason for getting out of bed in the morning…