What’s Your Addiction?
It has been said that “WE ALL have addictions!”
I believe this to be true.
As humans we all have a desire (and need) to be connected to something or someone.
It gives us a sense of belonging.
This extends from a connection to the planet, nature, people, objects, food and more.
Without that connection we feel disconnected.
For people who live in a state of disconnection, or self-imposed isolation, happiness and contentment can be really hard.
Even though Buddha, the Dalai Lama and other great prophets suggest that true happiness comes from detachment – that is a little different. Detachment is about not becoming reliant or dependent on external stimulation or outcomes.
Detachment in the enlightenment sense is about learning to trust the flow of life and death.
To know that in any moment is joy and love, as well as dark and sad.
To acknowledge it and to let go. To not worry about outcomes. That is detachment.
Detachment is different to what I want to discuss today.
Today I want to discuss the hormone that drive us to addictions, and in particular I want to help people who are hard wired for this hormone, dopamine.
Is it ok to be an addictive person?
I have found over the years that very few professionals talk about dopamine.
Once I started reading about it, I found immense calm and understanding for why I was the way I was.
First the first time in my life I had a biological and physiological explanation for my need for variety, adventure and fun. Where most people find my life ad hoc.
For years tying to fit into the normal mould stifled me.
The more I tried, the great a failure I felt at conventional living.
So if you are reading this please understand it’s ok to have an addictive personality – a dopamine driven body.
The key to being OK with it all, is to make sure you pick addictions within your moral and value system, and sprinkle different dopamine generating activities into your life, so you have balance.
Many people I know who have higher dopamine needs, tend to do things with the throttle on full. They can be extremists and whilst ok, it can lead to missing out on the spaces in between. While seemingly boring at times, the spaces in between can also offer great joy and contentment…
Allow me explain more…
Variety versus Routine
Do you find the day to day quite boring, mundane, or maybe you sometimes feel like you’re just filling the spaces in between?
In between your next holiday or filling in the days, between your weekends and days off?
Some of you reading this will already be knodding your head, going “YUP that’s me!”
Others will agree but actually like the security and routine of work.
It will offer your structure and make your holidays feel even better.
For those that are really struggling to sit still it may be due to a higher need for the hormone dopamine.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is one of the many hormone that the body produces. It contributes to our sense of wellbeing and happiness.
For some it is their elixir to their spirit and will send them semi into out-space… Once they have sampled it, they will want more.
Dopamine is released when we are bonding to other people and when we are under duress, or part-taking in adventures.
Have you ever been on a white water rafting trip?
Anxious at the beginning of the day, unsure what was going to transpire? Maybe even regretting the decision to say you would part-take. Only to discover that by the time the day got underway, you forgot your worries?
You found that by engaging in the activity your stress and anxiety levels dropped to be replaced with a sense of adventure and thrill?
You probably found you enjoyed the day above any expectation and the people you shared the experience with became friends (assuming they are also cool people).
The high left with you after the rafting trip, the buzz, the sense of belonging and feeling loved, are the affects of dopamine.
Dopamine is an amazing hormone and one of my favourites.
Does everyone need Dopamine?
It is an important hormone for mental contentment and function. However over the years, working with people in my wellness clinic I have discovered that some people have a higher requirement for this hormone. Without regularly top ups, they feel stagnant, bored and can even experience depression.
How does low dopamine make you feel?
If you suffer with a plunge in dopamine, or maybe a sudden disconnect and drop in dopamine, it can feel quite strong. It may plummet you into a quasi depression – flat moods, a feeling of isolation and even anxiety.
Think about people returning from the front line of a war zone. High intensity, action, bonding and duress, to the national security and isolation of returning to their home country. Many suffer with depression.
A rebound urge to top it up may drive you to do actions you wouldn’t deem in your normal behaviour – anything that can become addictive generally raises dopamine.
Ways less accepted by society, include gambling, watching porn, computer games, drugs, sugar rich foods, alcohol and even comfort eating.
More acceptable ways to boost dopamine are:
group activities such as: cross fit, yoga, running clubs, sport + activity, team sport
adventure seeking activities such as: rafting, sky diving, extreme sports, triathalons
doing creative activies such as art, scrap booking, photography
listening to music, or making music
exercising in dynamic environments eg surfing, skiing, snowboarding, hiking
changing your environment regularly such as travel excites dopamine high people
Is there such a thing as too much dopamine?
Not that I am aware of.
The issues with being hard wired for dopamine are trying to cope and adjust to “average” life and not seek out highly stimulating activities all the time. Not that there is anything wrong in that, but often it will lead to burn out.
Finding a blend of highly stimulating activities and subtle stimulating activities is more replicable and easier for your body to keep up with.
Blending the day with meditation, a group activity and something you would consider stimulating will be a better balance then say doing ALL stimulating activities.
To avoid the crushing feeling of monotomy turn every day events into little adventures.
A trip to the markets can be FUN! skip, ride a bike, dance with head phones in…. mix it up.
Talk to people you meet. Ask about their day.
Keep the status quo moving. This will give you a sense that every day and every experience is a new adventure.
On your way to work mix it up. Take the car, a ferry, ride a bike, walk, car-pool. If you can find different ways to execute what is deemed to be boring you will keep your dopamine levels bouncing along.
Career wise consider those with varying roles, changing environments or situations.
The sorts of careers that fulflil this description are jobs like paramedics, nursing, medicine, teaching, marine biology, bar or restaurant work. And any career working as a professional in the activities mentioned above to boost dopamine. For example; professional rafting guide, cave guide, sky diving, sports coach.
If you work for yourself and from home, change your “office space”. Sometimes work from the cafe, travel and try different settings to keep the variety factor high.
Variety is the key.
Become qualified in a job you are passionate about and one that long term will keep you moving on your feet and relearning new skills.
I had a teacher into my clinic the other week. She is a grade one teacher.
The activities she does with her five and six year olds is great. They have short attention spans so mixing up the activities regularly is important. They are usually creative and FUN. Can you see how as an adult being a grade one teacher would fullfill your dopamine needs?
The frustration for people in careers that offers variety and dopamine, is being burnt out by mundane beaurocracy. Paper work, senseless procedures don’t make sense for dopamine wired people.
They don’t need the security of a step by step guide, which doesn’t mean they are wreckless, it just means they don’t require predictability in order to feel secure and safe.
Dopamine needs certain nutrients to help your body produce it.
Tryptophan is one such nutrient and is an amino acid. If you are vegetarian you need to ensure you are eating dopamine rich foods.
Tryptophan rich foods include endame beans, broad beans, turkey, lentils and other meats. Bananas, almonds, walnuts and dark chocolate are good sources for vegetarians.
I have written another blog on dopamine and why falling in love boosts it. And sadly why a break up will drop your dopamine levels and make you feel broken hearted. You can read it here.
If you need any more help working out your hormone mix, or wish to make sure you have adequate amino acids, check out the very accurate hair test that I offer.
You don’t need to come in for a consultation, you can simply post your hair sample from any where in the world.
The tests for vitamins and mineral deficiencies, amino acid and anti-oxidant deficiencies. As well as toxicity levels, food intolerance and if parasites, bacteria or viruses are present in your body.
For more information on the hair test, click here.
So if you are reading this thinking, maybe I am “hard wired” for dopamine. I hope this blog has helped.
If you like what you have read, chances are your friends are similar.
Please share the post and if I can help in anyway let me know!
I offer one on one consultations, a mentoring group, hormone testing and more. You can contact me here.