Your Brain on Dopamine: Andrew Huberman with Dr Anna Lembke

“Normal life” (in today’s society) doesn’t provide enough stimulus for many people. We become addicts because life is “boring”. All of our survival needs are met. We don’t have stuff that we “have” to do… so we make up adventures (“friction”).

“I get bored easily.” What’s wrong with me? Nothing… your brain is not suited to this world. Not all of our brains are set up for the current society in which we live. We live in a world in which impulsiveness is not valued… but there are human societal systems where it would have been valuable.

Traits are not in and of themselves bad… they are fit for the context or not. The context we live in is not the human society context of the last 10,000 years. Today’s society values rationality, long term thinking and self discipline. Not all human societies reward these specific traits.

We are Addicted to Dopamine Distractions

Pleasure and Pain are co-located in the brain. Brain wants to stay level. Brain works to restore level balance (homeostasis).

Our world is full of little dopamine delivery distractions – especially in our mobile phone, in video games. We can train our brain to have an addictive dependence on these dopamine fixes.

Dopamine distractions will keep you from discovering what you truly enjoy. Abstain from distractions that you enjoy (video games, youtube, instagram, snapchat). As long as you are training your brain to expect regular doses of dopamine, your brain needs regular doses of dopamine.

If distractions are a problem for you: Dr Lembke says that it takes 30 days of complete removal of the stimulus to reshift our dopamine pathways back to our previous state.

How do you stop doing something that you are addicted to? It is really hard. Checking instagram, playing video games… Days 1-14 are really tough… I have lost something I have learnt to need – I will suffer withdrawal. Sleep problems, frustrations, anxiety. By week 3 and 4 you start to feel a whole lot better and have much less “need” for the behaviour. Anna shares her experiences of helping people stop an addictive behaviour from minute 50:00 in the video.

Once you’ve reduced the reliance on the distraction… be careful about trigger. What is the trigger (stimulus) that is immediately followed by the drive to go for the addictive distraction? Be highly aware of that trigger.

You have to be Bored to find Purpose

Don’t search for “your purpose”. Ask “what is the work that needs to get done?”… and do that… no matter how belittling or small that it might sound to you.

Dopamine Nation, dr Anna Lembke

I loved this podcast episode – what a wonderful wise person Anna Lembke is. She speaks with compassion, with deep experience and with honesty.

This reminds me of a Gabor Mate quote: “don’t ask ‘why the addiction?’, ask ‘why the pain?’”

What are your thoughts?

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