How Dopamine Can Kill Your Productivity
Did you ever hear about one of the most powerful brain chemicals on this planet, called dopamine? If not, then it’s time to find out.
Dopamine is a brain chemical that is released whenever you expect a reward.
The best example: What is the first thing you do after you wake up? Right. Probably checking your phone.
The latest likes on your Facebook post, a new Snapchat story, etc. Dopamine is about the hunt for the next stimulus. The next reward. As you move closer towards this reward, dopamine is released more heavily, keeping you focused on getting the prize.
In short, dopamine encourages and motivates us to achieve a reward or avoid something bad.
The current world is BOMBARDING us with dopamine hits.
Big businesses thrive on it.
Mass media corporations (TV, radio, etc.), fastfood companies (Mc Donalds, Subway, etc.) have made billions of dollars because of this simple brain chemical. And we haven’t even talked about the internet.
A consequence of the rise of the internet and mobile applications is an overload of dopamine. Distraction is everywhere.
How do we deal with this?
HOW DOPAMINE AFFECTS PRODUCTIVITY
Our brains are the best at preserving energy. The human brain wants to SAVE ENERGY.
Scientists found evidence for this statement in our evolutionary development. Our ancestors simply increased their chances to survive a threat – for example, a lion jumping out of the bushes – when they had high amounts of energy, compared to those who didn’t.
This fact reinforces the danger of dopamine and how it affects our productivity. Since our brains want to save energy, it is also very easily distracted.
This is exactly the reason why people without a bigger purpose or goal love to be ‘busy’. It allows them to switch from activity to activity. Making the easy choice, time after time. In fact, It keeps them swimming in a constant, non-stopping flow of dopamine release.
To be honest, dopamine is not all bad. As I said, it can motivate us for the the better, i.e. the achievement of our higher purpose.
In fact, too little dopamine can be a barrier too, since we find it hard to really motivate ourselves to achieve our goals if we can’t find an immediate future reward.
However, most people out there suffer from an overload, rather than a shortage.
The dopamine overload is continuously distracting us from the achievement our high-end goals, our vision and mission in life. It avoids us to take real action and do the hard work.
So what can we do about it?
AWARENESS IS THE KEY
As Eckhart Tolle explains:
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”
Simply becoming aware of the urge towards instant gratification will help you a lot.
In fact, meditation is one of the best practices that will make you grow in awareness. Research found out that meditation can grow your ability to focus.
At the same time, practicing meditation teaches you how to derive contentment and satisfaction from within, rather than seeking it from outside.
If you’re constantly high on dopamine, studying buddhism and the philosophy of the ancient zen masters is a must.
If you’re not willing to do that, that’s fine.
There are plenty of opportunities to grow awareness. Follow an online mindfulness course, download a meditation app on your mobile device. Headspace, for example, is a brilliant app that I use. It provides guided meditation sessions of 10 to 15 minutes, on the topic of your choice.
In any case, awareness is key. Controlling dopamine rushes is only possible if you are aware of it.
Although a certain amount of dopamine is needed to be productive, an overload will make you distracted, stressed, and overwhelmed.
Successful people think long-term. They have the ability to focus on their long-term goals, without being distracted by short-term ‘dopamine highs’ along the way. This act is called ‘self-discipline’.