Bill Fountain Posted November 13, 2020, 10:15 pm

Take a break

One of the biggest problems in our generation is our unlimited access to sources of instant gratification. Alcohol, drugs, news, social media, and junk food are among a plethora of activities that give our brains dopamine with little to no actual effort. Engaging in these behaviors too much creates a tolerance to dopamine. We become desensitized to it and wire our brains to need more dopamine just to get the same effects. As a result, we need to be constantly stimulated in order to feel normal.

Sometimes I will buy a book that I am excited to read. I see it in the store and my brain is lit up with dopamine imagining the possible contents of the book. Then when I am home and have the option of reading the book, I decide that I would rather check Reddit instead.

My brain considers the two options. It knows that reading a book will give me dopamine, but it will likely take several pages of reading before a payoff occurs and I feel satisfied. My brain also knows that Reddit can give me that same dopamine in a much quicker amount of time, with way less effort. I'll begin reading the book, trying to power through, but my brain is too bored and resorts to mindless scrolling on the internet.

Now, what if I was locked up in jail with nothing to do for hours on end? That same book would give my brain immense satisfaction from reading it. Of course, I would have no other options in the jail environment, but we absolutely have the power to reset our dopamine tolerance no matter where we are. If you find yourself in a position where you have no motivation to do anything to improve your life, and you find regular life to be boring and mundane, you need to do a dopamine detox. I am not a doctor but can testify that I have had success in doing this.

Some people will do a hard reset and go 24 hours without any sources of dopamine, including food and water, spending the day journaling and meditating. I personally will cut out certain sources of dopamine that I know long-term are not manifesting anything physical in the real world. Cutting out video games was the first thing I did. Once my brain realized it was no longer getting that fix, it would eventually accept it and find other places to get its fix. The trick is to get dopamine from sources that will actually better your life in the long-term. Things like exercising, working on your business, learning a new skill, etc.

Consider a man riding a donkey holding a carrot on a stick to coax the donkey to move forward. Getting the carrot is the donkey's motivation to move. Now, what if you feed the donkey a buffet of junk food? The donkey will have no longer have any desire for the carrot, and will not move. The only way for the carrot to have any effect is to starve the donkey from the buffet. Now when it is hungry, the carrot will once again cause the donkey to move.

The donkey is just like your brain. If you give your brain all types of different sources of immediate gratification, AKA a buffet of junk food, then your brain will not be motivated by work.

There is a study that has been done with rats that also illustrates this concept. The rat wears a helmet that is connected to its dopamine receptors. There is a button on the ground that the rat can press, and when it does, the rat gets an instant hit of dopamine. Scientists have found that the rat will spend its entire life pressing the button over and over until it dies of exhaustion. It will have no motivation to eat, mate, or do anything- it will only want to press the button. The only way the rat will eat is if you feed it directly without the rat having to move. Even if the button is moved to a location where the rat has to walk over metal that will shock it, it will willingly shock itself to get to the button.

This is essentially how most Americans live their lives on a daily basis. Only the button is in the form of different substances and behaviors. Watching the news gives us dopamine. We all want to know what's going to happen next with all the craziness that is happening in this world, even though it is causing us to put a lot of thought and energy into something that isn't really that productive to our lives. The news is mostly perpetuating fear and division, and watching it is taking up time in our lives that could be spent doing something that will actually improve ourselves.

If you feel that you are overstimulated, or just don't have the motivation that you wish you had, I would highly recommend taking a break from some of the things that are giving you instant gratification, but bringing you no real results. After a while, your brain will draw in dopamine from simpler things, and you will find that you appreciate the little things much more. Doing this has caused me to feel more purpose, confidence, and motivation, and has overall increased my outlook on life.

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