*DISCLAIMER* [This is not medical advice. Though I live with severe depression and do not use medication, I am not ever recommending that individuals discontinue or alter their current regime. Please seek professional assistance if truly struggling to overcome.]
Did you know? A person can be depressed and still be motivated to do things.
If we look around the world, we see many depressed people doing things everyday.
We should ask ourselves: Are we doing things that make us happy and are good for the long term outcomes of life?
You could further ask yourself: If someone is deeply unhappy, why is it difficult to change course and find happiness?
You can then ask yourself: Why do people do things that do not make them happy?
There's a fundamental relationship between dopamine released in our brain and our desire to exert effort. There is a direct relationship between Doing and Dopamine.
Whether or not we ever make a move, whether or not we want to move, whether or not we have the desire to overcome barriers (social barriers / financial barriers / time constraints) that depends on the molecule that runs the show known as dopamine.
Dopamine lies at the center of so many great things in life and it lies at the center of so many terrible aspects of life.
Dopamine can motivate us to do what we need for better outcomes or get us to continue to do things that we once wanted but no longer serve us.
We choose how dopamine serves us.
We can take back control at anytime and leverage our dopamine for satisfactory outcomes.
We can have a traumatic childhood or terrible adult circumstances and still be motivated to be more and feel more than those experiences.
The ability to change how we feel and what we do in the world is always available to us.
Neuroplasticity never goes away.
Neuroplasticity and the release of dopamine is applicable for people of all ages, youth to elderly.
Science affirms that we don't have to totally change every aspect of who we are to have a better life.
We just have to better leverage our dopamine and how we make decisions in life.
Dopamine exists to motivate behaviors toward particular goals: water when we're thirsty, sex in order to reproduce.
What are your goals?
What is your vision?
What guides us is pivotal. Having a Vision is necessary to being sure of making the best decisions everyday in life. It’s our guiding light to getting what we need and staying track. When we know what we need it is easier to say no to everything else.
The story we tell our self and the narrative we carry every day defines what we do, what we feel, and how we perceive our self.
No matter the mindset you currently have, it is always beneficial for you to believe in yourself. We all have the ability to be more with consistent effort.
Dopamine is a natural, necessary biological neurotransmitter to get us to do what we need to. Nowadays with so many options in our advanced and sensational world it tricks us into doing what we want, and in turn we may avoid what we truly need.
We may feel an irresistibly strong drive to play video games every day, watch tv for extended periods, stay in bed and scroll on our phone, or overeat on junk food.
Are we starting to see how we can be depressed and still Do things? Are we starting to see that what we do is a choice, and over time we create habits and behaviors. Sometimes the behaviors we choose to reinforce are good for us while other times detrimental to our wellbeing as well as life outcomes.
When we know what we need from life it’s harder to go against our needs.
Motivation is a two-part process of balancing pleasure and pain.
When we do something for our want of feeling good, we are rewarding our self with avoiding any and all things we have decided are painful and will not make us feel good. Therefore, we choose the feel-good-thing over and over. We are motivated to feel good now regardless of the implications in the future.
When that feel-good-thing is not actually good for our needs, and we still continue to choose it time again, that is when we develop a habit into an addiction.
Addictions can be for food to video games to fitness to relationships to behaviors and reactions to purchasing. We can become addicted to anything we choose to reinforce with disregard of outcomes. Addictions start with one choice made and then it is continued.
Addiction is when we let dopamine take the wheel; our body is steering and our mind is in the back seat.
I know it can be hard hearing that everything in our life is from our own choices.
It is empowering to realize that we can take back control even with addiction or depression.
Using an adaptive growth mindset will allow us to see the power we have to take back control as well as appreciate our experiences learning the hard way.
It’s important to know that dopamine is not steering us towards pleasure, it is trying to keep us away from all the things that we have decided create pain in our life. Emotional pain, physical pain, financial pain, mental pain; every type of pain.
We choose what hurts and what feels good.
Losing money could be the biggest kick in the gut or just a great lesson learned.
Typically a depressed person engages in behaviors and people that are only making their depression worse.
Depressed people want to feel good as soon as possible. If the pleasure-pain reward system is taught to go towards not-good things and people then that becomes the person everyday reality, whether they actually like it or not.
Depressed people need to make difficult choices to begin feeling better.
Depressed people can leverage their dopamine with effort and consistency.
As a person that lives with severe depression I ask you this:
If you are depressed, would you rather live a life of depression or would you finally make those difficult and “painful” decisions to create substantial and beneficial change in your life?
For every bit of dopamine that's released to reward us for pleasure seeking, there's another circuit in the brain that creates pain or wanting.
In regards to dopamine, when we do something we really want, there's an increase in pleasure as well as there is an equal balance of pain. Pleasure and pain mirror or balance one another. So for every bit of pleasure there is a mirror image experience of pain and they overlap in time very closely.
It can be hard to sense dopamine’s pain-pleasure overlap.
Try this next time and we may realize what is going on with our mind and body often:
Eat something we think is really f*ing delicious. Take a bite, note it tastes delicious. A part of the experience is to want more of that thing. True for any pleasurable experience. We may realize that wanting more is actually the pain. We may even feel like we need more to continue to feel good.
With each subsequent time that we encounter that thing that we pursue (food or a lover) the experience of dopamine release and pleasure is diminished a little bit each time. The diabolical thing is that the pain response is increased a little bit each time and this is best observed in the context of drug seeking behavior or people that can’t “let go”.
This is the pain system in action. Dopamine is really about motivation to pursue More in order to relieve or exclude future pain.
This is why some people choose to stay in bed. The entire world is perceived as painful.
Let me repeat, dopamine isn't as much about pleasure as much as it is about motivation and desire to pursue more in order to reduce the amount of pain and continue to “feel good.”
To “feel good” means something entirely different for each human.
We experience this pain-pleasure dance as a physical craving and a mental craving; the body and brain are linked in this way.
Think about a heart wrenching break up, pet dying, or feeling like we absolutely need a certain food or self care item, but we can’t ever have it again because it is gone or discontinued..
It's almost like we will describe it as painful. We yearn for it. Lover, food, etc.
Yearning is a whole body experience whereas wanting is just in the mind.
Dopamine makes us YEARN for more dopamine AKA some thing or some one.
Reality check: long-term satisfaction is serotonin and oxytocin.
Dopamine can either get us there or put us extremely far away from actual satisfaction.
The instant reward of feeling good and avoiding pain can trick us for a lifetime and distract us from long term contentment.
Dopamine biases us to think about what we do not have.
Serotonin & cannabinoids, for example, have us feeling good for the here and now.
Dopamine does not care how we reach our goals. It just cares that we reach our goals.
Be careful what your goals are.
Be careful what motivates you.
Be careful what makes you instantly feel good.
The only thing dopamine wants is MORE.
When we do not sleep well, especially due to choosing light, we reduce our capacity to output dopamine throughout the coming days.
Light in the middle of the night is an antagonist blocker of dopamine.
Our motivation is impacted for days after the decision to view our phone in the middle of the night.
We create a cycle of consequences. We could feel bad about not having enough daily motivation. This feeling or actual reality of not having enough motivation, could create depression issues. Being depressed will reduce your desire to motivate towards good long term things.
One choice can have a massive impact on our entire life, especially if we are consistently making that choice.
Looking at our phone is an example of a short term choice that is not helping our life outcomes because of the detrimental impacts and long term consequences.
Saying we are “a lazy person” or a naturally “unmotivated person” is a self creation.
We can leverage our dopamine at any time to have greater motivation and drive.
There are choices in life that will reduce our motivation and good feelings while there are other choices in life that will elevate our mind, mood, and money.
We can rewire how we operate.
Dopamine is about the motivation for pleasure. This means it drives us to avoid pain.
Redefining our pleasure and pain points, beyond what our body instantly tells us, is a major tool to success and satisfaction. Redefining our pleasure and pain points is how we find long-lasting happiness.
We do things because our nervous system feels good or not good. We make decisions based on is our body feels good or it feels pain.
We can choose to override our ingrained habits and create new ones.
Our prefrontal cortex that offers us logical thought is a power tool to overcome our instant desires.
It gives us the power to say No.
It’s about behavioral change and saying no to a lot of things we typically would say yes to.
Leveraging our dopamine is about doing what we need to in life rather than what we want to.
Taking back control of our mind and body is about doing the necessary things for long term satisfaction rather than short term gratifications.
Dopamine is about how motivated we are to reach that pleasure and continue to avoid pain.
We choose what motivates we. We can rewrite the narrative in our mind and create a new image for our self.
See and feel what it would mean to never reach your life vision or major goal(s).
Use negative images and feelings as a heavy motivating factor to do what you need to do in life rather than what you want.
Be motivated by the long term future rather than what immediately is in front of us.
When we are motivated by long term consequences and gains, we no longer stay in that bad relationship, we stop overspending our money, we discontinue eating and doing detrimental things, and we act and respond in beneficial ways for our self and others.
For the people with less dopamine, they are less motivated. With the little motivation that does exist it is used to achieve chosen pleasures. Though chosen as pleasurable these are probably not very good ones for the overall satisfaction of a long life (i.e. junk food or video games or substances).
WHAT motivates us is WHAT will be our reality.
Choose to be motivated by long term outcomes and begin saying no to short term gratifications, and life will have to change internally and externally.
We will feel better because we are doing better and in turn we will live better everyday.
Our choices create a cycle of benefits or detriments.
Choose wisely and never forget about your future self.
YOU GOT THIS