Dopamine Dialogues: The Ideal Dopamine Lifestyle

May 25, 2014

From: Michael     
Date:    Sat, Apr 19, 2014 1:53 pm
To:    Charles@DopamineProject.org

Dear Charles,

I’m 21 years old and have been researching dopamine for the last couple years, the main reason being trying to find a way to optimize my motivation toward productive goals. I was curious what you consider to be all of the healthy triggers for dopamine and to what extent? I mean, at what point does seeking food, sex, safety, esteem, power, or any dopamine triggers become an actual addiction? Is seeking esteem and power always a bad thing? Isn’t seeking these things what causes leaps in human understanding, technology, and innovation?

Ultimately, what do you consider to be the ideal dopamine lifestyle?

Regards,
Michael

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From:    Charles@DopamineProject.org
Date:    Sun, May 25, 2013 10:45 am
To:    Michael

Dear Michael,

You ask great questions.

Sorry for the tardy reply. Every once in a while I have to take a break from this site. (Trying to convince addicts that all man-made problems are related to addictions is a daunting, and possibly impossible, challenge.)

Given your interest in motivation and goals, I’m sending links to two potentially helpful books. At the very least, check out the Amazon.com reviews.

  1. No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs by Dan Kennedy and
  2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

I’m working on a review about Mr. Duhigg’s book (which might never get written thanks to poor time management and bad habits). In a nutshell, the book is tediously repetitive and the author tiptoes around the word addiction. Still, it contains useful insights into changing unproductive habits/addictions. Duhigg believes, and I agree, that what he calls habits, and I call addictions, can only be changed, as opposed to eliminated.

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Re: “I was curious what you consider to be all of the healthy triggers for dopamine and to what extent?”

Would you settle for criteria that makes it possible to identify healthy triggers and a few examples?

Healthy triggers reduce stress, cause minimal or no damage to the individual or environment, and lead to happiness, contentment, and peace.

Examples include:

  • In moderation, creative endeavors, meaningful employment, exercise, nature walks, music, dancing, swimming, sports, laughter, communication, meditation, yoga, beauty (sunsets, sunrises, art, flowers, animals), reading, learning, cooking, eating, hugging, healthy entertainment (television, movies, video games, social media, hobbies, sports) plus giving and receiving massages, compliments, support.
  • In immoderation, random acts of kindness, volunteering, and donating to worthy causes. As C.S. Lewis put it, “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”

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Re: “I mean, at what point does seeking food, sex, safety, esteem, power, or any dopamine triggers become an actual addiction?”

My definition of addictions differentiates between healthy, benign, unhealthy, and harmful addictions. Since your question implies you’re asking about when healthy and benign addictions become unhealthy and harmful, I’m OK with using the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s definition.

According to ASAM, addiction is characterized by:

  1. Inability to consistently Abstain;
  2. Impairment in Behavioral control;
  3. Craving; or increased “hunger” for drugs or rewarding experiences;
  4. Diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships; and
  5. A dysfunctional Emotional response.

I’d like to add f.  Full of denial.

A simpler way to identify addictions is the presence of self-deception. It doesn’t matter if you flat out lie, swear you can quit any time you want, but you don’t want to, or if you call lies fibs. Where there’s a lie, there’s an addiction.

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Re: “Is seeking esteem and power always a bad thing? Isn’t seeking these things what causes leaps in human understanding, technology, and innovation?”

Seeking esteem and power aren’t always a bad thing. The problem is that far too often they are.

There are healthy innovators driven by positive self-esteem, and unhealthy innovators driven by money, power, and negative self-esteem. The former tend to be much more creative and much less destructive than the latter. That’s why I’m all for encouraging one and discouraging the other.

It’s no accident so many money, power, and esteem addicts start out as neglected, abused, abandoned, and/or bullied children. Needy children, burdened with insatiable cravings, are predisposed to unhealthy addictions. Some use heroin to trigger dopamine, others trigger the neurotransmitter with money, power, and status.

Addicts who lie, cheat, steal, deny, destroy environments, economies, and lives, need professional help, not encouragement.

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Re: “Ultimately, what do you consider to be the ideal dopamine lifestyle?”

Healthy, happy, minimum stress, maximum honesty, beauty, compassion, generosity, kindness. Lots of giving, consciousness, and conscious breathing.

Follow this link and learn how to experience flow.

Thanks for asking,

Charles

 

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