“I’ve lost my mojo. I’ve no energy. And I seem to be lost in the next glass of wine. I just can’t change this ‘hell’ I’m in.”
She was tearful, obviously depressed, and what I saw in her body language, her speech, her tone of voice, and her facial expression was … hopelessness.
“I ran across your zoom talk at the beginning of Covid. I can’t remember the title. But it was something about surviving through Covid. The subtitle got my attention: ‘Getting Dope on Dopamine.’”
I smiled remembering the flack I got about the subtitle. She continued in earnest.
“When I was growing up, ‘dope’ meant marijuana, or pills, or psychedelic drugs. I thought maybe you were teaching about one of those drugs that might help me. Because I didn’t have a clue what dopamine was.”
I shared with her, “I remember before I did that talk, I was walking in the mall one day and saw a young person with a T-shirt on that said, ‘God is Dope.’”
I’m sure she caught my reflective intrigued look as I continued.
“I had thought that it was totally disrespectful, but I did what I’ve learned to do…go to the urban dictionary! I’ve learned to find out what words like dope mean these days. I learned that the definition is…”
(Saying something is cool. A word used to describe just about anything good in life, implicating great news. Something fresh or refreshing) … I continued.
“Since I was getting ready to do my talk about dopamine, I added it as a subtitle. So, if it somehow got your attention to listen to the video, I’m just thankful and am hoping it helped you in some way?”
I always ask with respectful empathy. I waited as she collected her thoughts.
She responded with a bit of desperation saying, “Well, that’s why I’m here. I’m hoping that understanding what you shared, will get me out of this deep rut, where I am spinning and losing hope that life will ever become any different, or get any better.”
I assured her that I’d love to help.
Let’s take a moment to look at what dopamine is it briefly:
It’s a chemical produced in our brain that acts as a neurotransmitter (transmitting messages from the brain to our bodies) a neurohormone (affecting our emotions) and a neuromodulator (sharpening the senses, such as sight and smell). Results of too much or too little dopamine are undesirable. However, it becomes the reward system and creates motivation when ‘balanced’. And balance is the key. The goal for all of us pursuing a Champion life.
I asked if she’d like to hear what I teach many champions about why they should understand and manage dopamine?
She nodded affirmatively, and grabbed her notebook and pen, hoping to find answers. I loved her eagerness!
I’m hoping the same things will provide you with great inspiration and with the desire to harness the benefits of dopamine.
For we now live in a time when research and science are confirming that we can, literally, transform our hopes and build desire by changing our thinking, that’ll grow within us and change our lives. We now can now look at and SEE our brains and OUR thoughts!
As a Doctor of Psychology and a therapist for 30 plus years, these new healing tools and discoveries are truly exciting! What’s also so wonderful for me, is there’s not any of these new breakthroughs that are contrary to the convictions of my spiritual life. They are supportive of each other and 100% in harmony and agreement.
The ancient scriptures I grew up with and love echo many, if not all, of these transforming neuroscience breakthroughs. Champions embrace the pursuit, the process, the steps with the gratefulness needed to ‘balance’ dopamine.
God invites it!
“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Science declares it!
“Your brain is designed to enjoy the ‘process’ of pursuing a goal more than achieving it. And that’s a good thing! If you weren’t built to pursue things you’d never even eat or stay hydrated.” Dr. Andrew Huberman-Professor of Neuroscience Stanford University
1. FOR THE HEALTH AND LIFESTYLE BENEFITS
I told her that almost everything she’d listed in our first few moments together could possibly be improved by learning to manage dopamine.
Dopamine contributes to so many parts of our bodies and influences our health, well-being, productivity and vitality.
Here are some of the basic health and lifestyle benefits:
- Helps increase our bone strength and density
- Reduces depression
- Assists with ADHD/ADD
- Increases motivation
- Relieves fatigue
- Stabilizes weight
- Regulates appetite
- Helps form deeper bonds in relationships
- Relieves nausea
- Motivates us
- Increases our memory
- Helps us learn and improve cognitive function
- Promotes attention and focus
- Increases creativity
- Improves sleep
- Helps with Parkinson symptoms
- Relieves some lupus symptoms
- Relieves pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis
- Increases libido
- The list goes on
“Can you prescribe me a pill that increases dopamine,” She almost begged?
I told her she was not alone. Whenever I read these things aloud, whether in a workshop or in an appointment with a client, everyone wants the pill.
I added, “And most people don’t care how much it costs. I think that I could’ve been a billionaire by now if I had that ‘magic pill’.”
I told her that at another time we’d review the ways to naturally increase and balance our dopamine.
But unfortunately, although some prescription drugs can work to help the body produce it, the side effects that come with such a drug are hardly worth it. And in addition, that ‘forces’ (spikes or lowers) dopamine levels, which can interfere with dopamine production and/or regulation.
“Why isn’t this on the 6 o’clock news every night? This could be the answer to so many things,” she asked with a demanding tone of voice!
The truth is, she’s not incorrect.
Dopamine is just one piece of the puzzle of our complex and masterfully designed brains. However, new breakthroughs in research in neuropsychology are very promising as I’ve shared!
I explained to her that when we understand dopamine, what it does for us and how to regulate it, it’s not a cure-all, but it’s one of the most powerful neurochemicals, neurohormones, or neuromodulators in our brains.
I continued, “But unfortunately, most people just want the IV or a pill with dopamine in them, and that in and of itself does not lead us to these great benefits. As a matter fact, over stimulation of dopamine in our systems can be part of the role of anxiety, addiction, and sleep disturbance. Along with many other challenges.”
She listened intently.
“Yet, when you have an understanding of how it works in your body, you can totally use it to rewire your brain for even more excellence and fulfillment in your life.”
She was quite eager to hear more, hoping that it might alleviate the “rat maze/hamster wheel” that she’d been in/on, now facing burn out and despair.
Even if your life isn’t in despair, wouldn’t you like to learn more about how to regulate dopamine in your system to garner these results?
When we pursue the Champion life, we begin to tap into one of the most powerful and potent ways (if not the most powerful) to rewire our brains. For excellence.
For a long and happy life.
What about you? Wouldn’t you like to have that understanding and skill in your life?
“When building desire know that ‘craving and wanting’ are the same pathways in the brain that release dopamine. So, exchange craving for wanting and stop the addiction to non-productive to … productive!” Dr. Andrew Huberman
2. CHAMPIONS HARNESS THE POWER OF MOTIVATION AND KEEP THEMSELVES FIRED UP, FILLED WITH PASSION
I said to my client, “It sounds like this (losing your mojo) is something that’s really troubling you!?”
Her gratitude was visible for my validation. She responded: “Exactly! I’m the one who’s always led the parade. And I’m not sure what happened to that…but now I can hardly get motivated to put my clothes in the washer.”
I leaned in and shared.
“Perhaps we should visit your history a bit more and find out if trauma or deep hurt may have interrupted the flow.”
Dr. Andrew Huberman’s research has contributed much to the understanding of dopamine. As a neuroscientist, and professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, he’s revealed insightful and helpful. Although I had thoroughly studied dopamine and its impact on our bodies, his added contribution has been rich.
He says, “We have a baseline of dopamine, and it can spike or drop based on various actions, compounds we ingest or even our thoughts. Our baseline dopamine levels are influenced by many factors, including genetics, behaviors, sleep, nutrition and the level of dopamine you experienced on previous days. It’s critically important to maintain sufficient levels of baseline dopamine to sustain day-to-day motivation.”
Many of us experience large doses of dopamine in our system with a big win, like:
- Falling in love
- Getting a promotion, we’ve been working for
- Winning the lottery
- Losing the 40 pounds we’ve been working on for many months
- Finishing the last little bit of painting in our living room
It feels good, we’re excited, and we’re pleased. Which is great! But the truth is, it’s the smaller doses of dopamine on an ongoing basis that motivates us and keep us motivated.
When we learn to celebrate ‘progress’ our dopamine levels become steady and keep us inspired and energized to complete the task before us.
Dr. Huberman says, “Dopamine attaches to the celebration of a win and if you apply more of it to the win than the pursuit, it sets you up for failure and a letdown drop.”
This is the reason many perfectionists never get started or never complete tasks. Because they’ve not learned to bank on and harness the power of those small releases of dopamine that come with the progress of the pursuit.
My client commented: “That makes perfect sense, because it was when I left my corporate job, filled with never-ending projects, that things began to fall apart. There, I had project after project after project. At the end of each, I was celebrated, rewarded, and awarded all kinds of bonuses.”
I nodded with understanding and shared this.
“Just like in the addictive process, when someone experiences a high release of dopamine with their buzz on alcohol, the alcoholic longs for the next buzz, but because the dopamine sensitivity requires more for the release, they must drink more to get the same levels of dopamine. It sounds like your projects were how you kept your dopamine levels high.”
She had a real aha moment… “Is that why I kept taking on bigger and bigger projects?”
With a nod, I commented, “Could be!”
“OMG…and why one glass of wine becomes a bottle of wine?! PLEASE, PLEASE help me modulate my dopamine!” she pled.
How do you begin this modulation process?
- Set a goal.
For her, she’d mentioned she needed to begin working out again and drop the 25 pounds she’d gained. We set the goal and set a goal date of five months.
- Set mile markers.
We set her milestones for reward weekly. For example, the first week’s milestone was to walk around the park briskly, which would take about 15 to 20 minutes, five times that week. When she checked that box …
- Celebrate the progress.
Her instructions were to celebrate that she’d met that mile marker. And acknowledge her progress.
You can do the same by setting something before you and setting mile markers of progress and celebration. It is more likely to keep you on that path, and to make way for a greater progress.
She was also tasked to randomly celebrate that she’s still on the course.
It’s OK to celebrate when you cross the finish line, but what you really want there is a moderate celebration. Followed by something else to set before you to pursue.
Dopamine highs and crashes can become problematic. Modulating and moderating dopamine release is the key to so many of the benefits listed above. Here’s what Dr. Huberman shared on a recent podcast.
“Un-motivation is because you get just enough of mild hits of dopamine (from Facebook, food, booze, TV, etc. that become an ‘opioid system’ to us!)” And he also shared…“If you apply more celebration to the win…than the pursuit…it sets you up for failure and a letdown, dropping your dopamine levels below a healthy baseline.”
“I can do this! She proclaimed. I’ve said 1000 times that I was going to lose the 25 pounds, but each time, I fell off the wagon. I believe I can do this!”
PS…she did and has kept those pounds off for over a year!
What about you? Can you learn to modulate and moderate your dopamine release to gain all its great benefits? Here’s another quote of wisdom and caution from, Dr. Huberman.
“Pleasure experienced without prior requirement for pursuit … is bad sh*t … it’s how addictions start taking over. Those who’ll become successful, young OR old, will be the people who can create their own internal buffers to control their relationship with pleasure.”
That’s what Champions do (manage their dopamine)!
That’s what keeps them going when the going gets tough!
That’s what keeps them full of passion, keeps them energized, and creates great fulfillment as a result.
For the Champion, the pursuit and the win…are equal partners!
3. CHAMPIONS KNOW THAT MAKING CHANGES IS EASIER, CLEARER, AND QUICKER WITH HEALTHY DOPAMINE LEVELS
“You came in with a list the things that you desperately wanted to change,” I said with a smile.
“Yes, I did! And if what you said about dopamine making change in our lives easier and quicker…I’m all in! I want to understand that too!”
I smiled again as I asked her, “Remember when you said, ‘I just can’t change this hell I’m in?”
She nodded as I continued asking her things to ponder.
“Have you ever heard anyone say,
- ‘Change is just too hard?’
- Or ‘I don’t know if I have the strength or ability to do that?’
- Or ‘Nobody ever really changes?’”
She nodded as she responded, “Have you been reading my journal?”
We laughed together!
I explained that most people who believe change is hard, or that nobody really changes, are not up to date on the newest neuropsychology research that shows the neuroplasticity in our brains.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of our brain to adapt and/or change its function and structure. Although previously we thought the brain was finite, we now know we can reorganize its pathways, create new neuro connections, and even regenerate neurons.
What does that mean? WE CAN CHANGE ANYTHING IN OUR BRAINS THAT WE WANT TO CHANGE.
What does that have to do with dopamine?
Research reveals that when we’re seeking to make changes, break old habits, establish new habits…dopamine is like oil on a squeaky wheel. It not only makes it easier, but also accelerates the process. If our brain is an orchestra, dopamine is the conductor.
My client was intrigued. And hopeful.
What about you? Does knowing that dopamine can be your friend in any process of change, inspire you to want that assistance? To join hands with that ‘internal friend’ and begin to transform your life?
To help you stop complaining about where you are, defending it, and feeling like you’re “stuck” where you are?
Our brains are the most complex organ in our bodies, uniquely and wonderfully designed.
My client not only lost her weight, but she was also able to address her addiction to wine. She’s completing her first novel and launching an online site to help young writers. And after many years of being single, I just saw on a Facebook post that she was holding her hand up, sporting a beautiful diamond ring on her left hand!
Sad to say, many people, like my client let their brains run the show, thinking they’re innocent victims to where it takes them.
However, we are the captain of this vessel-our ship! We create the wind!
I’d love to encourage you to seize and harness the opportunity to take charge of your life.
Set sail to great adventures.
Live in fulfillment.
Live your dreams.
Create amazingly intimate relationships.
I’ve always kept myself on the cutting edge of knowing and using the newest breakthroughs in neuroscience. For 30 plus years as a Doctor of Psychology and a practicing therapist. My passion was, is, and will always be to serve; every heart, searching, longing, needing the hope to change their lives, from one of tangled emotions, into one of freedom and abundance.
All these amazing new breakthroughs in neuroscience, have been nothing short of a blessing to my healing arsenal. They go hand in hand with my passion for cutting edge knowledge, and my daily surrender to the God I’ve loved since childhood.
These amazing discoveries confirm what I’ve always believed, along with the transforming truths found in scripture. That in all of us is the uniqueness that only WE can express.
That’s the Champion. The Champion within us.
And it’s why I never give up on anyone or any relationship. Hope is the universal currency of the soul. It’s the one thing that everyone, everywhere never quits needing…and so… with my clients, in my workshops, in my Coach Training & Certification courses:
- I dig.
- I wait.
- I listen.
- I pray.
- I challenge.
- I lead.
- I follow.
- I rejoice.
- I cry.
- I trust.
- I love.
I’m not saying it’s easy. But I am saying that together, we will share the wisdom for exactly what you’ll need to live your Champion life.
SCIENCE DECLARES IT:
“Your capacity to tap into dopamine as a motivator, not just seeking dopamine rewards, is infinite.”
Dr. Andrew Huberman
SCRIPTURE INVITES IT.
“Do not be conformed to this world’s mindset, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect…for you”
The Apostle Paul
It’s ALL within your reach.
Join me next week when I share how Champions dedicate time, energy, and effort to keep their dopamine levels rich (but not too high or too low)!
Let your dopamine help you!
When we make the pursuit equally as importance as the reward, we create a healthy dopamine balance. And it’s this balance that keeps our Champion within building the ‘fire in the belly’ desire and the ‘fire on our backsides’ ever moving us forward!
And when we do have a win, enjoy it with equal levels of gratefulness as you did in the pursuit of the win.
Your Champion is the captain of this ship…but it’s you/we who decide the direction of the wind.
Sail on O’Champion…we can do this!