What do going for a run, writing a blog post, checking your social media feed and eating a piece of cake have in common?
You guessed it. All these activities release dopamine in our brains. But while two of those activities are easy and give us a big dopamine hit, the other two are hard but offer us a smaller chemical reward. The biggest problem, though, is that since both virtuous and wasteful activities reward us with the same chemical, they get intertwined.
Similar to drugs, our body develops a resistance against dopamine. The more dopamine we are exposed to, the more our brains crave for it until it turns into an addiction. Since all manners of activities release dopamine in different amounts, we are always looking for easier ways to get a hit. Eventually, this interferes with our ability to do hard things.
This is why it is difficult to buckle down and get hard things done. When I sit down to write a blog post, I often wander off into the internet. Our impulse to procrastinate has its origins in this deep seated craving for dopamine within our brains.
The only way to break this cycle is to consciously go on periods of low stimulation – dopamine detoxes. The idea is to set aside a few days (or a few hours each day) where we don’t check our phones, don’t indulge in junk food or don’t wander off into internet rabbit holes. This reduces our resistance to dopamine and makes hard things like meditating, reading a book and exercising feel rewarding once again.
Once again, I invoke Jerzy Gregorek’s immortal words here: Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.
Inspiration: How I tricked my Brain to Like Doing Hard Things