Have you ever wondered what sets successful people apart from others? Is it just talent, hard work, perseverance and luck? Or is there something else at work as well?
Enter dopamine – a neurotransmitter secreted deep within the brain. It drives motivation, fuels ambition, and propels us towards success. But, did you know that dopamine can also cause addiction and destroy lives?
In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating and complex relationship between dopamine and success. We’ll delve into the potential dangers of dopamine addiction and discover the power of dopamine and how it can help you achieve your wildest dreams.
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Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in the brain’s reward and pleasure systems. Imagine the feeling you get when you take a bite of your favourite food – that rush of pleasure you feel as you bite into a delicious slice of pizza. Remember that thrill you got when you finally accomplished a long-standing goal? This is Dopamine.
Dopamine is like the brain’s very own reward button. It is activated when we experience something pleasurable or rewarding. Whether it’s tasting a mouth-watering dish, sharing an intimate moment with someone special, or learning a new skill, dopamine acts as a signal to our brain that we should seek out more of these and similar experiences in the future. Dopamine pushes us to learn and grow. Dopamine is the fireworks show in your mind. It amplifies the pleasure you feel making that experience even more rewarding.
But here’s the thing: dopamine has a dark side to it. While it can be a powerful tool for learning and motivation, it can also lead to addiction and dramatically negative life consequences.
For example, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have been shown to trigger dopamine release in the brain, causing many to become hooked to scrolling, liking, and commenting.
Sarah is a young woman who spends hours every day scrolling through social media. She loves the feeling of seeing likes and comments on her posts. These bring her a sense of validation and approval. But what she doesn’t realize is that every time she receives a notification, she is getting a dopamine squirt which creates a sense of pleasure and anticipation. This keeps her coming back for more.
The trouble is that her brain will soon get used to a particular level of dopamine and will require more and more dopamine to feel the high she has become accustomed to. This will result in Sarah compulsively scrolling through her social media feeds, often times to the exclusion of everything else. She will soon neglect all things she considered important to her as her social media addiction creeps in and takes over her life.
The exact same system in the brain that acts as a powerful motivator to learn, experience more and enjoy massive success in life, could backfire into creating addictions. People have destroyed their health, relationships and finances by turning into dopamine junkies.
An experiment with rats and dopamine is a powerful illustration of the addictive nature of dopamine. Scientists wired the brains of rats to release dopamine every time they pressed a lever. In no time, the rats became completely hooked to pressing the lever again and again until they collapsed through sheer exhaustion. Doesn’t this seem strikingly similar to people who endlessly scroll through social media?
In another experiment, rats had their dopamine shut off, and no matter what they did, there was no release of dopamine. These rats wouldn’t even eat food that was kept near them. In fact, the only time they would eat food was if it was put in their mouths. Without dopamine, the rats actually died of starvation though food was placed right next to them.
This shows that dopamine plays a vital role in our lives and is essential for our survival. However, when the dopamine system is hijacked by addictive substances or behaviours, there are disastrous consequences.
Dancing with Dopamine is a delicate art.
Here are five ways you can leverage the power of dopamine to live a content and successful life.
Celebrate small wins
If you have a big project on hand, don’t put off the victory celebrations till after you have completed it. This would be a mistake, because then the brain is going to give you your dopamine fix only at the end. You will burn yourself out and lose enthusiasm and interest without the dopamine.
Instead, break your project down into smaller goals, and break those down into achievable tasks. You need clarity about the steps you need to take to get to where you want to get to. Then each time you complete a task, you get a squirt of dopamine. This makes you feel great about yourself and keeps you motivated to do even more. Celebrate each small victory along the way. This gives the brain a powerful signal that what you were doing was important, and through the power of dopamine, your brain will keep you on track.
Take time off
Set aside an hour or two each day to exercise, do Yoga, Meditate and take a walk in nature to naturally release dopamine. These life-positive activities boost your mood, reduce stress, increase your sense of well-being and make you tremendously productive.
Do new stuff
Trying new things and stepping outside your comfort zone triggers the release of dopamine. Whether it’s learning a new skill, trying a new hobby, or travelling to a new place, seeking out novel experiences can help keep you engaged and motivated.
Before I tell you one of the things I do that really enriches my relationships, please share this article with whoever you may feel will find it useful and leave me a comment about how you intend to leverage the power of dopamine in your life.
Choose who you spend your time with wisely
Each year, I list out the names of people I spent time with whose company I enjoyed. In the following year, I make it a point to spend more time with these people. Spending time with loved ones and cultivating positive relationships trigger the release of dopamine. Connect with people who share your values and support your goals. Great importance is given to satsang in Indian spirituality. Satsang literally translates into being in the company of truth. Make it a habit to surround yourself with people who uplift you.
Contribute to your community
Helping others and contributing to your community triggers the release of dopamine. Find ways to give back and make a positive impact in the world around you. Use the talents and resources that you have to create a positive impact in the lives of people around you. This gives meaning and purpose to your life, and will greatly boost your sense of fulfilment.
Ace the dance with dopamine. It is the juice of life. Embrace its power, and use it as a tool to help achieve your goals and live a life that is full of joy, purpose, and meaning.
How are you going to use the power of dopamine in your life? Let me know in the comments below. And if it’s anything to do with creating a new habit, read this post next – From Dreamer to Doer – creating habits that stick.
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