Dopamine Happiness? How does it all work?
Happiness is a choice according to The Science of happiness. Forgiveness, generosity, attitude and positivism all have measurable psychological benefits.
We have all experienced how good it feels to be kind, caring and supportive. The power of surrounding ourselves with other “happy” or positive people verses the negativity we experience in space that brings everyone’s energy down. What is that?
A significant player in the happiness game is; dopamine a brain neuro-receptor; that is responsible for some of the pain/ pleasurable feelings we experience. But it is not all fun and games.
The alter ego of Dopamine neuro-receptors is also present in any addiction process, with feelings of pleasure flooding the brain while engaging in certain activities. High octane exercise, adrenalin sports, drugs, food, sugar, gambling, alcohol, chocolate, cigarettes, caffeine and other addictions like texting can all be contributed to the pleasure responses of the brain.
I know, I hear my internal critic quickly taking over my thoughts. You have that, oh no, you have that too… well not all is lost!
Without Dopamine we have reduced feelings of well-being.
We may experience insomnia, fatigue, loss of concentration, reduced attention span, mood swings, and lower creative ability. More serious, reduced Dopamine levels are noted in Schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s’, ADHD, and Parkinson’s.
Increased levels of Dopamine can be related to competitive and aggressive behavior and increased impulse control and credited for the rise of Homo sapiens on the evolutionary scale. Its’ importance in our systems cannot be underscored. Can we control it or does it control us? Do we have a choice?
Where is the “happy” medium, if Dopamine is part of the reason WHY it is so hard to stop an addictive behavior? When it comes to food, it may be explained by Evolutionary Psychology. Food is a survival response. Evolutionary speaking, humans need food in order to survive, a strong pleasure response to food keeps us desiring more…..we eat, we don’t starve to death.
The fast food industry knows this evolutionary physiological trigger well. Fast food is BIG science, getting the biggest dopamine release to keep us eating and returning for more. Even simple food aromas activate the Dopamine response, and it is causing an epidemic of #obesity which has nothing to do with happiness.
The double whammy? The physiological pleasure response is strengthened each time Dopamine enters the system. It re-enforces the behavior. So can we trick our response mechanism into re-enforcing the behavior we choose? How? Well there is a how to.
Reprogramming the pleasure triggers is an essential part of any recovery process. Being aware and understanding the psychology is essential. Learn how to fill the dopamine voids with other experiences that engages the pleasure response.
Sex, massage, exercise, eating smaller meals more regularly, dance often, practice yoga, & meditation and add certain supplements that enhance Dopamine production. Amino acids from meat and fish sources are beneficial. Try not to get it all in one reading, that creates that overwhelmed stressed out feeling? Chunk your learning, small usable chunks. Prioritize, use your through-time skills, look forward, make a plan, draw it out, scale it out, revise it, contingency, rewards, schedule it, play with it, be consistent, be persistent, change your behavior, find your weight goals and happiness.
According to the Washington University in St. Louis, studies aren’t convinced that Dopamine is the culprit as much as attitude and eating behavior.
My solution is to develop a concrete action plan to manage your mental, emotional and physical health and wellness, and find someone that will help keep you on-track, give you the tools to succeed at weight loss. Support you in weight goals, hold the space, keep you focused, coaching can help you achieve your goals.