Want an Invite to the Dopamine Party?
by Annia Baron
“I just want to be happy.”
Imagine getting everything you ever wanted, anytime you wanted it – instantly. How amazing would that be? Keen on a successful career? No need to climb the ladder, you’re handed the keys to the executive office. A desire to travel the world again? “Welcome aboard.” Suddenly you’re greeted at the terminal with a glass of champagne. Seeking the man or woman of your dreams? Well don’t you worry, they’re waiting for you right behind door number one. House, car, money, possessions, weight loss, entertainment? Whatever you want, it’s yours the moment you want it. No need to work for it. No need to try. Your reward is more instant than downloading an app.
Ah pure happiness, right?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting quick and easy dopamine hits. We deserve the convenience of instant satisfaction – especially with all the stresses and strains of daily living. And seriously, how great is it to have the technology and resources to get what we want. Keen to hear a song? Seeking an answer? Have a craving to satisfy? Bam – Spotify, Google, and Uber Eats. Gratification made easy.
Our magnificent brain is biologically wired to seek pleasure and satisfaction over anything arduous or time consuming. Why wouldn’t we choose orgasms over work? Why wouldn’t we select the decadent dessert over raw celery sticks? We do so because our brain wants us to experience happiness. The happier and more satisfied we are, the better chances of our survival. But here’s the sticky point you’re already familiar with: Whether it’s sex, food, alcohol, drugs, purchasing, or consumption, after the initial ecstasy-frenzied hit, successive gains and overuse can leave you feeling gross; big highs to begin with, empty lows you’re left with.
And this isn’t because your brain is punishing you. It absolutely loves you. It wants to see you thrive as your happiest self. It knows, though, that at the end of the day, if all you did was claim your ‘instants’, you’d seemingly have it all, but be left with a perpetual sense of dissatisfaction. Because my friends, you and I know that some of the happiest and most meaningful experiences you’ve ever had, involved a lot more than the immediacy of downloading an instant reward. To the contrary, your most enriching experiences required time, thought, and effort. Whether it was the smile on your face as you threw your
mortarboard in the air on graduation day or the moment you saw your partner walking down the aisle. Whether it was receiving news of your promotion, the one you earnestly worked for, or the first day you stepped outside onto a beach after recovering from a long illness. Whether freeing yourself from debt or finally reaching your healthy weight goal. Memorable and rewarding experiences took days, months, and years to culminate. They took perseverance, patience, and courage to keep on your path. That’s why they remain most poignant in your mind over anything that was instantaneous and effort free.
Yes, some days I wish things were as easy as the click of a button. And absolutely, I enjoy instant rewards (regularly!) but cultivating a good balance is key. As dopamine is released each time we feel a sense of achievement (or anticipate it), it makes perfect sense that the more you feel you’ve earned a reward, the more rewarding the experience is. In essence, effort itself is what makes the reward experience so deeply satisfying, pleasurable and addictively meaningful – now that’s the best sort of dopamine party there is!
If you’d like more information or curious about mindset coaching, visit www.remindyourself.com or contact Annia Baron, Mindset Coach and Clinical Psychologist on 0402 448 278.
Did you know that dopamine is deadly to snails and slugs? As dopamine is a diuretic (or more specifically, its precursor L-Dopa is), if these slimy beauties consume it (from plants such as yellow bananas or some marine algae, which also contain dopamine), they’ll secrete fluid and dry out. But before you go about eating all the bananas or algae you can get your hands on, know that pure dopamine can’t cross our blood-brain barrier, it’s the precursors (tyrosine,
phenylalanine, and L-Dopa) that produce dopamine and many foods contain these. Go research some for yourself.