BETTER THAN HAPPY – Episode 256

Over quarantine, Bry and I decided to introduce our children to some of the TV shows from our own childhood. The show I chose was an oldie-but-goody. The Wonder Years. Remember that one?

“After about two hours of steady bed rest and television, the world always looks a little better. After about ten hours, it always looks a lot worse.”

I loved this. I asked Bry to stop the show, just for a second, so I could write this line down. We all know what to do to “feel better”, right? Or we think we know. Or we know what we can do, at where we are at in our lives right now, to help us feel better about whatever is going on in our lives. For Kevin, at age 12, he stayed in bed watching tv.

But it was admirable that he noticed that, though bed rest and TV helped to an extent, more of the same thing actually made him feel worse.

Do yo have things that do that for you, or do that to you? Mine is sushi. I love a good sushi roll from a good sushi bar. But, three rolls in, I am unpleasantly stuffed. In fact, I just want to throw up. I try to remember that every time I place an order.

I am craving sushi right now, in fact. So delicious.

Today we are talking about cravings. More specifically, we are talking aobut dopamine.

“Dopamine is a chemical that gets released in our brains when we find something good. It’s designed to tell our brains, ‘That was good, we want more of that.’ It’s designed to tell us, ‘This is something that will help us survive, and even possible thrive in life… That’s just a very, very simple (definition).”

So, we need to understand that dopamine is not bad. It isn’t good. It is neutral. Maybe we could even put it in the CIRCUMSTANCE line of the model. A dopamine hit is neutral. Our thoughts about the dopamine hit is what causes our feelings.

CIRCUMSTANCE. A dopamine hit. My body wants more.

THOUGHTS. I liked that. That could help me survive/thrive. I want more of that.

FEELINGS. Happy.

“Dopamine is amazing, but concentrated amounts of it, if it’s something that then creates long term problems for us, can be problematic because it can create negative effects. What we’re doing is we’re highly confusing our brains. And we’ve conditioned ourselves to have a highly concentrated hit.”

Example of concentrated amounts of dopamine can include:

  • drugs
  • pornography
  • sugar
  • alcohol
  • on-line shopping

And once we have exposed ourselves to these highly concentrated amounts of dopamine, it is hard to accept more natural amounts of dopamine. Does that make sense? And then, our brains memorize anything associated with dopamine, so a habit is formed. Do you see how this is getting more and more dangerous for us who are trying to manage our brains – to “act” and not “react”?

“It’s not that you’re weak. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with you, it’s just that your brain has been trained to be confused about what is good for you.”

What if we are not ever introduced to those forms of getting dopamine? What if we never took a drug or never tried alcohol or never viewed pornography?

“It’s not hard at all to say no to a glass of wine if you never drink wine, and you didn’t become accustomed to it, and your brain doesn’t think it’s important for your survival?

So it’s truly not the substance, or the thing, or the activity, or whatever it is that is so appealing. It’s our misinformed brains seeking that concentrated dopamine hit.”

Fascinating! Again, it is not the substance, but our “misinformed” brains. The substance, even the dopamine, is neutral, until we partake, have a thought about it, and feel the feelings associated with the dopamine.

Okay. So could we use dopamine to our benefit? Are there forms of dopamine that we would like to be in the habit of using? More natural forms?

“When you go to cut out a concentrated dopamine from your life, your brain is not going to like it… So what if we could substitute that concentrated joy for some real natural, healthy, no negative side-effect type of joy, wouldn’t that be useful?”

And Jody offers us some ideas. But before we list those, and some ideas of my own, I want to make sure you and I understand this. Getting rid of a source of a dopamine hit is extremely uncomfortable. And it may remain uncomfortable for some time. We are all different, but this is likely the case. Take courage. One of my favorite one-liners from Brooke Castillo says:

“The currency of success is discomfort.”

http://livingandtravelingwithkids.com/2019/11/day-4-the-five-emotional-skills/

I want success, my friends. And if a source of a dopamine hit is in any way hindering where I want to be in my life – in any way – the discomfort it will take to cut that out of my life is the currency I will pay to become who I want to become, to succeed in a way that I want to succeed, to live the life of my dreams.

When I look at it that way, I feel hope – I dare say, I feel a dopamine hit. I feel excited at the price I can pay – and I know I can pay it – to become who I want to become and to create the life that I am meant to live.

Hope gives me a dopamine hit. When I watch a movie that gives me hope. When I think a thought that gives me hope. When I learn a new principle that can change what I want to change in my life, and I feel hope – that gives me a dopamine hit.

Where else can these come from? In what ways can we try and substitute healthy dopamine hits that will serve us well for dopamine hits that, literally, hit us?

Here are some ideas, from Jody and from me:

  • Laughing out loud. Choose a comedy over a drama. Take your date to stand-up comedy. Call someone up, who you know laughs easily, and has you laughing just as easily.
  • A great TV series, movie, or book. A good story gives you a dopamine fix.
  • Do something nice for someone. And this only works if it is something that we really want to do, not something that we feel obligated to do, or whatever. For me, it’s sending packages. I love to gather a few fun things together, decorate a box, and send out a just-because package. Just the idea of them finding the package in their post thrills me.
  • Winning. This is why I life to play Boggle with Bry. I win.
  • Physical affection. And, like doing something nice for someone, this has to be something that you really really want. Not a hug you feel obligated to give.
  • Clean out a closet. Sometimes I reward myself for doing something hard with the time to clean out a closet or a drawer. It feels so good.
  • True gratitude for something. True true gratitude – the kind that fills your heart to over-flowing, and changes your very nature, at the time.
  • Exercise. I don’t care for weight-lifting. But I love the way I feel when I am done – mentally and emotionally as well as physically.
  • Creating something.
  • Music.

Okay. I am fading. Bed rest and television is sounding really good right now.