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Takeaways from “Dopamine Nation” by Dr. Anna Lembke

This book really opened my eyes, especially the first few chapters, and it wasn’t because we are talking about a man who is using a reworked record player to sexually pleasure himself for hours on end. Okay, I joke, but this book was a great look at what causes addiction, and how we can reframe our mind to combat it. Also, it made me truly examine my own addictive behaviors, especially when it comes to phone use.

Today’s culture is ripe for addiction. Most of us humans, especially those of us who are in developed countries, have lives deprived of true struggle: no hunger, no fight for survival. Today’s world has endless things that cause little dopamine hits, essentially on command, whether it be social media, porn, food, drugs, you name it. Our stupid monkey brains will eat these up as much as we can, because they are primed for a world where these enjoyments are few and far between.

Major Takeaway

When I read this book, I really needed a wake up call actually. I was feeling stressed with work and anything else. If I had to do something that made me uncomfortable, like run a meeting for example, I hated it, and hated that I hated it! I was always self-conscious about not feeling 100% comfortable in some instances. I now have a better understanding though – that’s the point.

Our lives are supposed to have struggle! Our dopamine hits are meant to be from hard-earned work. That discomfort is the human experience, and should be welcomed!

“Pleasure without purpose is not true happiness.”

Dr. Anna Lembke

Also, as someone has no real addictions from the outside understanding of it, I actually became more aware of my own addictive behaviors. I would notice a nagging feeling in my head at times, which was trying to get me to look at my phone or read the news. I just wanted to see some new crazy thing that was going. My brain was craving little dopamine hits. I am not even a social media user, but the urge to peek on Twitter would grow inside of me. When we learn to moderate these behaviors, not only do we tame the urge, but I feel as if my mind is more clear, and I have more control over many aspects of my thought process throughout the day. A tool I used to continue to ground myself after reading this book was exteroceptive meditation.

Dr. Lembke also mentions purposeful pain, things like cold showers or plunges. At the time of me reading the book, I had never truly tried a cold plunge, due to lack of access, but I have since. The rush after a cold plunge (sub 50 degree F water), is amazing, and truly makes your problems feel smaller and you feel stronger. This is the same with really intense workouts – putting yourself in difficult situations, situations when your monkey brain is actually saying “WTF” or ” Get me the fuck outta here”, is a great way to earn your dopamine.

In essence, this book was a great eye-opener for me to value pain and why we need it. Without discomfort, we will never be happy. So, don’t just put up with some discomfort, but embrace it!

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