Have you ever tried a detox before? If so, do you remember how you felt initially compared to afterward? Many people attempt to eliminate their dependence on substances such as alcohol, caffeine, and sugar for a healthier lifestyle. We often overlook the fact that consumption is more than just eating or drinking — it is also psychological. What if there was a chemical that you produce naturally, based on external stimulus? Dopamine is rarely considered a threat to overall physical health. However, when it is abused, your wellbeing can be compromised.
Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.Rumi
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain connected to positive reinforcement. It is often referred to as the “feel-good” hormone. Your brain releases dopamine whenever it expects a reward. So why exactly is something affiliated with pleasure considered negative?
There should be no cause for concern as long as it is used in moderation. However, when you begin to rely on dopamine too frequently, it can become a problem. This is where addiction arises. Whether it manifests as overeating, constantly checking your phone, excessively watching TV, or overindulging in general — too much of anything is not a good idea. An overabundance of dopamine can leave you feeling temporarily euphoric followed by heavily drained when it wears off, much like a sugar crash.
The most contradictory issue with media is that while our bodies are supplying us with dopamine in advance, we often receive essentially an empty promise. Far too often, what we find is an unbalanced amount of anger, negativity, and suffering. Our motivation is not reinforced with a reward. In essence, while anticipating a positive experience, we are left feeling unfulfilled. The expectation does not meet reality, therefore the cycle of dopamine addiction continues.
Why do we try so hard to impress people that we do not even know? Our reliance on the opinions of others has become disproportionate, irrational, and unhealthy. What else do we gain other than temporary dopamine high from likes or followers? We are left wanting more, but somehow it is never fulfilling enough. Dopamine dependency is a vicious cycle that can drastically affect your mood and overall quality of life.
Do not validate your self-worth based on attention from others. Always stay true to who you are and what you feel is right rather than conforming to society. The people who matter most will respect you for it. The only way to fully reconnect with yourself is to detox and disconnect from an unhealthy dopamine addiction.
There is nothing I regret more than missing out on a meaningful conversation with a loved one because I was too preoccupied with checking my phone for a dopamine fix. If you negate unnecessary behavior, you will have a greater chance of success. Set a goal and limit yourself to fewer distractions. For example, I have already removed several time-wasting apps from my phone to decrease temptation. Learn to differentiate what your brain is telling you to crave from what you actually need.
Eradicate any stimulus that leads to toxicity in your life. We have all heard the phrase, “you are what you eat.” The same applies to social media. You probably would not willingly consume anything poisonous. Follow only what you have known consistently to be informative, positive, true, and uplifting information. Ultimately, you will become what you choose to be influenced by.
Most Americans have grown accustomed to receiving instant gratification for what we want — when we want it. Comedian Ronny Chieng hilariously sums up our obsession with impulse buying and expectations. During his Standup Special, he talks about Amazon Prime: “Send it to me before I want it!” This lighthearted comedy pokes fun at the notion of how our dopamine dependency has grown ridiculously out of control.
Minimize your attachment to material things. Discover what brings you true happiness. This is best achieved through a real-life experience rather than acquiring an object. Sure, impulse buying can be exciting temporarily. But once the moment has passed, it holds little value. Help yourself to save your hard-earned money and peace of mind by choosing a lifestyle that is less-dependant on dopamine.
We discussed the effects of mindfulness in my previous post. Rather than engaging in activities that will leave you feeling dopamine dependant — try to channel your energy and attention towards something else you enjoy. Listen to music that evokes positive emotions. Practice mindful self-control. Follow the examples of individuals who inspire you. Make educated decisions and be productive.
Use your own unique talents to attain happiness without reliance on anyone or anything else. You can be proud of what you accomplish on your own once you break away from the dopamine-reliant cycle. I guarantee you will discover a genuinely healthier, more fulfilling life.