Could a deficiency in your brain's production of reward releasing neurochemical dopamine be dangerously affecting your lifestyle, romantic partner, and nutrition choices?
The answer for many is... yes.
Let's look at how this could be ... and what you can do about it.
Dopanine = the chemical in charge of keeping us motivated, rewarding us for working toward things that will benefit us. it's that fun high when we eat something sugary, buy something new, chase a new potential romantic partner, and gamble to win big. It's how we can stare at a computer screen playing video games or scrolling facebook for hours. It's a hard-wired, primitive, and very powerful reward system in our mid brain.
The problem is, in our stimulation rich society, we've trained our brains to chase that fabulous high to the detriment of our consistent happiness.
Where does this leave us?
Unfortunately, as we grow accustomed to expecting that I JUST WON BIG feeling, we pursue more and more stimulation in pursuit of that feeling. This could be chasing exciting but unstable romantic partners - the fun but unavailable bad boys. It could be over committing ourselves that leads to a reliance on sugary and caffeinated stimulation to keep up or feel that buzz.
The result of this cycle is not what I expected but does make sense. The brain having a natural internal balance, regulates itself when too much dopamine (or any neuro chemical) is released.
Too much stimulation? The brain actually reduces the receptive nodes that receive dopamine in hopes that we'll be discouraged to seek more stimulation and will rest a bit and replenish.
For many of us, this pull back feeling with less receptors present panics us. Rather than rest, WE RAMP UP and go bigger hoping to feel better.
And what does that do?
It leads our brain to even further reduce dopamine receptor nodes leaving us chasing our tail trying to feel good. And it can go on for years like a bad addiction fatiguing us and our cortisol producing adrenals (see adrenal video)
It's at this point many of us hop on anti-depressants or find our selves fatigued, sick, and burnt out as we sign up for more in order to feel normal.
Who would of thought we were actually supposed to unplug, shut down, and rest to replenish our brain chemicals?
Not this manic little energizer bunny. I've been signing up for years to do more to feel good enough, get that high. The results have been constant overwhelm, chronic fatigue, achy joints, anxiety, disconnect from myself, high inflammation levels (that will lead to disease), and poor nutrition choices as I chase sugar as a drug to release the yummy good stuff in my brain.
But who wants to detox off the fun sugar drug to get our insulin receptors and dopamine receptors back? Obviously not many of us as diabetes rates sky rocket and our culture's ADHD skyrockets.
A great ARTICLE on why happiness results from doing less and learning to unplug written by the every amazing Dr. Mark Hyman reinforces Dr. John Gray's suggestion's
So what are we supposed to do?
1. Start by getting our nutrition and rest right.
Sticking to micronutrient rich, fibrous, and hydrating leafy greens gives our bodies the building blocks to try to rebuild our brain chemicals. Balance the tummy bacteria through probiotic supplements and greek yogurt to make sure nutrition absorption is possible in that environment.
Enough protein, whether in the form of morning amino acid supplements, organic, hormone free clean animal protein (especially eggs!), yogurt, tahini, veggie combinations, or nutrition shakes from companies you trust is essential.
Healthy fats like avocado and almond butter will keep us full while the micronutrients feed our cells keeping us away from the quick grab for the sugar.
Balance the tummy with a high quality pre & probiotic.
2. Then we work to reduce our stress so those nutrients absorb properly for use.
This usually means eating a whole lotta B vitamins and getting more sleep, fresh air (in deep breaths), and drinking lots of flushing filtered water. If we can be brave enough to say no to new commitments while we get back on track, we'll see real results.
3. We dispute the voices in our head
The voices that says "rest is for the weak", "you didn't get enough done today", "You're not good enough", "being bored is the same as being sad and if you slow down you'll never ramp back up"...
We instead practice telling ourselves things like "I deserve to feel good and I trust my body to tell me when it needs a nap", "it will all get done and more is not better", "it's a marathon, not a sprint and I'd prefer to not make myself sick sprinting toward unrealistic standards just to spend even more time trying to get better," "I embrace momentary boredom, know it will pass, and will choose rest in this moment.
4. Finally, we avoid tempting stimulants. Practice being bored.
The worst thing we can do for ourselves is keep the cycle going by reaching for the adderall, caffeine, cocaine, or sugar. Obviously we're not likely going to give up lattes and dessert forever but limiting them and understanding our choice when we make it helps us keep it in the right context and use sparingly and specifically.
Be gentle with ourselves as we take steps in the right directions acknowledging how highly addictive these substances and this cycle is. Seek the appropriate detox support to get off these substances to kick start better balance and a clearer more powerful position to pursue real happiness.
BONUS: . Check out this video on Depression I wish I'd made.
YOU DESERVE TO FEEL GOOD
GETHSH is a wellness blog dedicated to researching the variables in the formula to feeling good. All suggestions should be reviewed with your licensed practitioner and taken on your own free will.