Dopamine – How Can You Reward Yourself Today?
Dopamine – How Can You Reward Yourself Today?
You can reward yourself by understanding Dopamine!
Neurotransmitters are one of my most favourite topics. If you have read any of my blogs you will know I am all about how we can influence both our external but most importantly internal environments to achieve greater balance and happiness.
Because I am not a neuroscientist I often present fairly basic information in relation to neurotransmitters and usually as a segue to my real love which is to illustrate how much influence we have on our brain chemistry and our happiness.
All too often there is a perception that ‘you get what you are given’ regarding mental health and happiness and this is far from accurate.
You may have read my blog on why Smiling is so awesome and how doing it when you least feel like it can have great benefits in changing your state of mind. Or my blog on Brain Training, Stress Management and Yawning and the ways that it too can alter our ability to learn, focus and remain productive.
This blog is about the role of DOPAMINE and its connection to reward, learning and motivation.
As a primary neurotransmitter in the brains’ reward centre (brain ‘centres’ are now an outdated way of talking about the brain as we recognise more and more that the brain is a series of networks so I use the term with caution here and for ease only) which is located in the limbic system and is sometimes referred to as our ‘emotional brain’ dopamine gives you a happy rush. It would be natural to expect that this dopamine rush happens most often when we get what we want. You would be right however, research shows the anticipation of getting what we want can also produce significant amounts of dopamine and eventually eclipse the dopamine reward we get from attainment.
Have you ever really wanted something and you have been highly motivated to get it and then once achieved the pleasure of it’s attainment does not match the feelings of excitement associated with wanting it? Yep that’s exactly what I am talking about.
In the extreme this is a description of the motivator for addiction.
This understanding is used globally by the gaming industry, gambling institutions, fast food outlets and even shopping centres as they strive to manipulate our behaviours for their benefit.
We can become addicted to the feeling of the dopamine rush because it feels great! It offers us access to powerful motivation as we strive to have our desires fulfilled.
Why is this a problem?
Most of the time it is not unless what we want is actually bad for us… think chocolate, coffee, shopping, gambling, junk food etcetera.
Our ability to choose what makes us feel good is a learned process, and, whatever goes up must come down. As we learn to associate happy hormones with certain foods or behaviours we get our fix but then the levels of dopamine naturally decrease and we have to stimulate the release again and again by doing or consuming more and more of the same.
As we go searching for our hormone ‘high’ we can move into the more ‘addicted’ end of thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Still with me?
Because this is a learned process of desire we have cause to celebrate as with conscious effort we can uncouple from the negative association eg junk food and move to manipulate our dopamine and associate it’s release with positive behaviours and outcomes.
I encourage you to unlearn lots! You can do this over time and with the right tools.
So what are the healthy ways you can stimulate dopamine and reward yourself in a healthy way? Here is a simple list to try:
- Complete a task and pay attention to the sense of achievement,
- Participate fully and regularly in self care activities including sleep, exercise and meditation,
- Celebrate all little wins and incremental achievements,
- Watch images of others achieving and being rewarded for it (this is where watching your favourite team win or lose is a massive boost or downer to our mood).
- Maintain records of any of your ‘before’ and ‘afters’ so you have the evidence to celebrate your success and relive your achievement.
If you would like to take a look at other ways to unlearn and yet get to manage yourself better click here.
If books are your bag and you want to do some unlearning click here.
Most importantly remain curious and vigilant about how YOU trigger your happy hormones and whether those triggers and the subsequent actions and outcomes are good for you.
Have a Healthy Happy Hormone Day with Dopamine – Reward Yourself Today
Dr Linda Wilson is a Mindflow Mentor, Coach, Author and Presenter.
Are you looking to find your way through, around or over something? Are you in need of a course correction or for your team to be challenged to grow? From neuroscience to energy psychology, habits change to emotional management – let’s have a chat about you, your team or your business.
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