Manuel Brandt

Dopamine Control Will Change Your Motivation, Focus, and Satisfaction Forever

Dopamine Control

In the past years, I’ve learned a lot about dopamine control and how dopamine impacts us heavily in today’s world. Below, I’m sharing a quick note about this topic.

What is Dopamine? 🤔

Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain that plays a crucial role in our motivation, reward, and pleasure systems. It’s like a little spark of energy that drives us to pursue goals and seek experiences that we find rewarding.

When dopamine is released in the brain, it creates a sense of excitement. It’s like a signal that tells us, “Hey, this is something important or valuable to me.” This can be triggered by various things, such as accomplishing a task, receiving praise, or even enjoying a delicious meal.

However, dopamine can be a double-edged sword. When its levels are imbalanced, it can lead to addictive behavior, reduced focus and motivation, and even mental health issues like depression or anxiety. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance of dopamine in our brains to ensure our well-being and optimal functioning.

Dopamine in Today’s World 🌐

Today’s world has a big problem: We experience an overload of dopamine every day.

The biggest issue is social media. Dopamine is what tells us we’re doing the right thing and that we should keep going. That’s why Instagram, TikTok, and co, are optimized to release as much dopamine as possible so that we keep scrolling.

Another issue is video games. If we play a video game, lots of dopamine is released in our brain. Quests, missions, achievements, make us feel like we accomplished a lot, and make us want to keep going.

Even listening to music releases dopamine, same for movies. With the easy access that we have to music and movies with Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, and co, our brain releases dopamine all day long.

The Result 😬

This overload in dopamine makes us more resistant to it and raises the bar of dopamine we need to be able to feel motivated and satisfied. The problem with that is that social media, video games, and co, release way more dopamine than e.g. doing our work, completing personal tasks, or studying.

The result is that these important parts of our life are not satisfying us enough, and instead of moving our life or career forward, we prefer scrolling social media or playing games. We lose our motivation, satisfaction, and focus. This is the reason you find yourself checking your phone all the time, even though there’s nothing specific you actually want to check, you do it subconsciously.

The worst part I find is that we lose joy. Social media and video games are more satisfying to our brain than all the small things in life. Being in the nature, breathing fresh air, feeling the sun on your skin, this all brings us less joy because our “satisfaction bar”, so the level of dopamine we need to feel truly satisfied, is set higher.

What You Can Do 🦸

The answer is dopamine control, so limiting the amount of dopamine you receive every day. This will lower your “satisfaction bar” and make it easier for you to feel satisfied from finishing your tasks at work, cleaning your apartment, or simply being outside. It will raise your motivation, bring you more joy from the small things in life, and increase your focus.

Tips to Reduce Screen and Social Media Time

  1. Delete games and unnecessary apps, as well as apps you overuse, from your phone.
  2. Limit your app usage with an app blocker. Make sure it actually blocks the app and doesn’t give you an easy option to still open the apps like the built-in feature from Apple. I use AppBlock, and limit social media apps to a total of 30 mins per day.
  3. Stop unintentional app usage. You will be surprised, how often you’re opening apps on your phone subconsciously and then end up scrolling for 10+ mins. To avoid that, you can install One Sec, which forces you to wait 10 secs (or longer) until you can use the app. This gives you enough time to consider if you really want to open it. I don’t do this anymore though, but exchanged it with the second point of the additional tips below.
  4. Grayscale your phone. This is built-in for iPhones. It basically makes your phone screen gray and removes all colors. This way, your phone becomes less interesting to your brain. However, I usually only do this at limited times when I feel I use my phone too much.

Other Tips to Reduce Dopamine

  1. Ban heavy dopamine release in the morning. The worst thing you can do is setting your dopamine bar high already in the morning. This will make everything else that day unsatisfying compared to that. If you play games or use social media, do it at the end of the day. You can also use AppBlock for the phone and 1Focus for the MacBook to ban apps for a specific time frame.
  2. Better, ban it until the evening. This is what I’m doing! Apps and websites like Instagram, YouTube, and everything similar, are blocked on my phone and computer every weekday from 6am to 6pm. This way, I don’t distract myself during the day. On my phone, I use it on weekends as well, which forces me to rather go outside or read a book instead of scrolling Instagram.
  3. Limit your use of video games. They release lots of dopamine, which is why playing too much will set your dopamine bar really high. Therefore, limit the time you play video games heavily, especially fast video games like shooters.
  4. Ban porn entirely. Porn releases insane amounts of dopamine. Overall, watching porn is nothing that brings many benefits; however, that brings numerous negative effects. Today, we can see as many naked people within a few minutes, as we would have usually in a whole lifetime. This can’t be good. Therefore, I suggest quitting it entirely.
  5. Consider also reducing the use of music and movies. Even listening to music and watching movies releases dopamine. Not as much as social media, video games, or porn, so figure those out first, however, you can still look into this as well. Maybe you know this: You take a bus to your work or drive 20 mins to visit someone, and you have to listen to music, as otherwise you get bored. That’s because your dopamine bar is too high. Learn to take a walk, drive the bus, or work out, without having to listen to music, at least occasionally.
  6. Stay away from drugs. Drugs do release a lot of dopamine in our brains. That’s one of the main reasons why we get addicted to them. As a result, avoid any kind of drugs. It’s better for countless other reasons as well 😁
  7. Reduce overall input to your brain. Being minimalistic in your life will help your brain to stay clear, to not need constant input, and to not get overwhelmed. Some of the things I do are: Have a minimalistic computer and phone setup (e.g. my phone main page has only 6 apps and my computer desktop just a few folders and nothing else), archive old chats, use a browser extension to deactivate some YouTube features with Unhook… There are countless more. I’m generally a fan of having everything simple and minimalistic. I lived from 12 kg hand luggage for almost 5 years, and still live simple.

Conclusion 👨‍💻

The dopamine overload every one of us is facing today, is one of the biggest issues in our society. It steals our motivation, focus, and satisfaction. The only way to face it is to do a strong “dopamine fasting”, and to implement long-term strategies to control our dopamine. Doing this, will make your life much better, trust me!

If you’re further interested in this topic, I can recommend to check out Andrew Huberman. He’s a neuroscientist with an outstanding podcast, and my main source of learning all this. If you have the time, below is a full episode about this topic.

It should be obvious, but just in case. I’m not a doctor or scientist. This is rather meant as a personal note. For well-researched scientific input, move over to Andrew Huberman, or other scientists in that field.

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