Written by Renee Wood
Have you been feeling flat or unmotivated but can’t pinpoint why? Well, after listening to the podcast “Do You F*cking Mind” by Alexis Fernandez, we have some answers for you. We’ll provide a summary of the information – but for an in-depth dive into the science and brain chemistry behind it all, go listen to episode 80.
So What’s the Deal?
Essentially, humans are reward-seeking creatures. Our brain uses dopamine to reward us and motivate us to survive. Then there’s an unhealthy cycle that leads to disinterest, fatigue, and a lack of motivation. The issue lies in our modern world that has manipulated that system for profit (think algorithm and sugar addictions). A healthy dopamine cycle leads to motivation, happiness, grit, curiosity, and self-love. Both cycles have a snowballing effect. Which is great when you’re on the healthy path – but difficult when you’re stuck in a negative rut.
First let's understand what the negative cycle is, then we'll learn how to get out of it.
The Problem - Instant Gratification and Rewards
There are different activities in your life that will give you a quick reward. Another way to think of this is instant satisfaction or gratification. This might be social media, sugar, Netflix, online shopping, or hitting the snooze button. Ariana Grande may have an issue (I want it, I got it). The quick hits and quick rewards lead to needing more stimuli and disinterest in anything that’s not providing it. It makes it harder to stay focused on work or school and makes us more impulsive to cravings we have.
What Can We Do About It?
So what do we do to get into a better routine and cultivate motivation?
- Identify what your quick reward triggers are. Social media is one of the most universal triggers. It was literally designed to hijack your brain and condition you to use it more. But that’s not the only one – take a moment to reflect on your habits, and identify the ones that leave you feeling bad or unfulfilled when you are through with it.
- Stay off your phone for the first hour of the day – don’t mess with your brain chemistry before your day even starts. The instant hits of dopamine can move your baseline higher than it should be, leaving your brain feeling like it's in a deficit for the remainder of the day.
- Find new things to learn about and get curious about – cultivate passion!
- Plan for temptation and find replacement activities. If your morning routine starts with checking your email, plan a new routine that doesn’t involve any screen time. Have some water, stretch, and maybe read five pages of a book you’re interested in.
- Practice moderation and add safety fails. Life should be enjoyed in moderation, but if we lack a little self-control, we can add some reminders that will help us develop better routines. If your major pitfall is bingeing Netflix after work, give yourself a daily limit. Set a timer to remind you to move on after half an hour. And honour that commitment.
The great news is this is all in our control. We can start practicing new routines and develop more motivation, excitement, happiness, and self-love. These things take time to happen, so be patient with yourself and keep trying.