Dopamine the uncontrollable enemy
Likes and shares in social networks, pornography and having everything you want are some causes of your levels of dopamine to go up uncontrollably and also to make us unhappy.
So, is it time to go on a dopamine diet? How would we do it if dopamine is the source of desire and motivation?
One thing is certain: indulging in dopamine every minute of our lives is negative. Ultimately, loading up on this substance by doing what we think others will like about us, perpetuates permanent unhappiness.
Examples of continuous dopamine “ingestion” being linked to dissatisfaction comes from the use of technology, mainly social media for ego growth or when looking for that perfect body and perfect life mirrors. Another example is personal productivity. How many apps and techniques sold by personal coaches fill our smartphones and low energy brains?
As if all of that was not enough to demand more dopamine for our sad brains, people are now going to extremes to find their version of satisfaction and happiness. It has become a new form of elitism to go on intermittent fasting diets, drinking raw water, consuming LSD to perform better at work… You name it.
The practice known as dopamine fasting is a term coined by the psychologist and technology investor Cameron Sepah, who is credited with the benefits of “restarting” and improving brain efficiency.
That is, as a way to get rid of the “vices” that prevent us from reaching our mints and boosting productivity. It’s worth a try?
Dopamine is a basic neurotransmitter of the central nervous system and is not harmful. The brain needs it for multiple tasks, related to memory, motivation, reward, learning, attention and alertness.
It is also involved in motor functions, it is stimulated when we fall in love, and in women, it acts in the production of prolactin, the hormone of milk secretion in the breast.
The fact that dopamine is released in the brain when we feel some kind of satisfaction or well-being for activities such as reading a book, going out with friends, traveling or practicing sex, made it long believed that this molecule was responsible for the feeling of pleasure.
Now, dopamine is known as the neurotransmitter of desire and motivation. When releasing dopamine we feel a great desire to seek pleasure, when we find it we feel the endorphins or encephalin.
The desire makes you look for pleasure, and pleasure also increases the desire to search for desire.
Dopamine is also linked to surprise, so the more unexpected an event is, the more dopamine is released. An example of this is when someone is quietly sitting in a cafeteria and suddenly a friend appears who he has not seen in years ago.
So what’s wrong? Why would anyone want to block the production of dopamine?
Dopamine linked to addiction and depression
According to researchers, dopamine fasting is based on the renunciation of unhealthy behaviors that involve abusing pleasure.
It can be understood as a kind of strategy to escape from situations that distract attention from more productive ones, or as a “detoxification therapy” from what separates us from what is really important.
However, the body regulates it so that it is not scarce or excessive. It is difficult to conceive of a possible downward regulation by voluntarily controlling aspects related to the production of dopamine.
There is a way, although it is unattractive to curb excessive dopamine production: If you lock yourself up at home, you don’t receive calls and don’t watch TV, it prevents your brain from releasing dopamine naturally.
We do not know in what circumstances dopamine fasting should be applied or how it should be applied, but it addresses everyday life and calls us all abusers of life.
Some neuroscientists are in favor of the idea of applying dopamine fasting, but only as a means of investigation in inhibitory substances for cases of addiction, when the overload of reward systems deteriorates the brain.
It is not a therapeutic treatment for anyone, reducing it is only good in cases of exacerbated excess of something harmful to the body and that prevents a normal life.
In the case of dopamine, it is linked to addictions, when the brain asks for the reward insistently.
Dopamine abuse produces the permanent feeling of unease and restlessness in the absence of the prize. Our brains always want to cover that need to survive even if we are aware that a practice harms us.
No scientific study shows that coffee, for example, is essential to survive, however, many people feel they cannot function without it. Drinking coffee, however, produces that amount of dopamine that everyone who drinks it every morning expects to start the day.
The director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section of the Center for Evolution and Human Behavior of the Complutense University of Madrid, Manuel Martín-Loeches, warns that “there is no way to restore something that is constantly changing from before birth, as is the brain.
If we restrict dopamine with fasting, something similar to the long-term effects of addiction would occur: lack of satisfaction, which usually leads to depression.
Paradoxically, just considering such an option also increases the level of this molecule. Reducing the hours of connection to social networks, eliminating the consumption of drugs or changing the diet with healthier guidelines is highly recommended for better brain health, a greater capacity for concentration, a better sense of reward against lower thresholds of stimuli and a better feeling of self-esteem.
In itself, the decision to make this pseudo-breakfast of dopamine also stimulates the production of dopamine.
Curb dopamine by hitting the gym
Experts agree that, from the neuroscientific point of view, fasting dopamine is something unimaginable.
There are too many physiological and psychic parameters that regulate the production of dopamine. However, the level of the neurotransmitter cannot be controlled and many functions do not prevent conscious actions to control the practices that stimulate its synthesis.
If we were able to reduce the production of dopamine in the specific areas of the brain involved in addictions, it is likely that we could feel more capable of controlling harmful habits. In some animal research, we have already managed to reduce the craving for sweetness.
Scientists propose to create environments with less stimuli for dopamine, such as changing the daily beer routine at seven in the evening for half an hour of gymnastics or turning off electronic devices when we are having lunch.
Changing our environment to reduce dopamine production involves eliminating the use of narcotic drugs to benefit the brain in the medium term. This may result in benefits such as eliminating sugar consumption, for example.
However, the idea of performing better at work thanks to the dopamine fast is questioned by the positive relationship between the molecule, positive moods and creativity.
People may not be suitable for certain tasks, such as accounting since more mistakes are made. But for most work and personal functions, dopamine would be highly recommended.
Not everything is harmful to the overproduction of dopamine. We also need it to fall in love. Without this wonderful molecule, it is very likely that we could never succumb to love.
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Luis R. Miranda is an award-winning journalist and the founder & editor of The Real Agenda News. His career spans over 23 years in every form of news media. He writes about environmentalism, education, technology, science, health, immigration and other current affairs. Luis has worked as on-air talent, news reporter, television producer, and news writer.