30 Days of Social Media Cleansing/ Discovering an Addiction to Dopamine

IMG_5134As Always, It’s a Gift!

I took 30 days off from posting, commenting and liking on social media. I discovered an addiction as well as a way to satisfy my need for approval from within. It was amazing!

You Might Be a Dopamine Junky If….`

I was inspired to take this interactive time off, especially from Facebook, my own personal social network drug of choice, by a Podcast I listen to called Being Boss. Emily and Kathleen had on a guest who had left social networks because the ROI just wasn’t worth his time. He also might have mentioned a few others things that kind of whacked me upside the head, (eh…emmm…) like how we can feel great about ourselves until we are inundated with the loud cries of our career colleagues which creates an environment all too easy to fall into comparison in.

This was happening and I knew it and worse yet, it would either show up in feeling less than or even worse, it would show up in some weird criticism of them, expressed in my most snarky, know-it-all alter-ego.

The podcast guest, I’m sorry folks, I can’t remember his name, might have mentioned the dopamine addiction as well and guess what…. yep, I saw myself.

If the first thing you do is grab your phone on the way to the bathroom in the morning to “check in”, you might be a dopamine junky. Me! If you walk from room to room with your phone in hand, looking down at it, you might be a dopamine junky. Not quite me but not far off.

What does dopamine have to do with your phone and why was this an important thing for me to discover?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter/hormone. Neurotransmitters tell neurons when to fire and when to “light up” areas of the brain. Dopamine has everything to do with motivation. It lights up motivation centers of the brain, the part that triggers our motivation. We release dopamine when we reach goals, when we cross things off our to-do list, when attaining approval or attention and when we feel we are liked. It is a feel-good hormone however, it is also addictive. It’s also released when we get high, drink alcohol, have sex, buy something we love, and eat. It makes us feel good and we can easily crave it without even knowing that’s what we are craving, that’s what’s driving a behavior.

On the up-side, it’s where our motivation comes from. That’s why we set goals. That’s why we make lists and cross stuff off of them. From an evolutionary standpoint, motivation came into play when it came to hunting and foraging. We couldn’t wait to do it when we were hungry so we developed something to trigger us, to motivate us to do it before we were hungry. In ancient times it might be many days before we found food. We had to start before we were starving.

Comments, Likes, and Little Hearts, Oh My!

Every time we get a comment, like or cute little emoji, we attain a sense of approval and we release a little shot of dopamine. Soon, we are craving it like mad and motivated to comment some more!

It’s why we can’t wait fifteen seconds before we answer texts, even if the question is about something happening next week!

The Withdrawal Was Killer!

The first couple of days I really felt it! I really did! It was so strong in fact, that I was incredibly thankful I had discovered it. The discovery also came right on the heels of stumbling onto a whole bunch of insidious emotional eating patterns so let me tell you when I say I was sitting with a whole bunch of blackness I don’t mean maybe. You know, you really might want to try this sitting with your feelings thing now and then. It’s much more challenging than you would ever believe. You might want to set a timer!

I Can See Clearly Now The Haze is Gone. IMG_5064

I know. The words to the song are, “when the rain is gone” but in this case, it was the haze of dopamine. The really nice thing about this discovery was that I quickly realized how my dopamine fixes were coming from outside sources and I wanted to be fully responsible for my own validation, my own happiness. I wanted to find ways to release dopamine without outside influence and I did.

I eventually got to more self-pats on the back. Setting more small goals and accomplishing them then celebrating when I did. This didn’t happen at first. At first, I just sat there with the empty hole and I won’t lie, I’ve had some freaky funk going on these days. Maybe this is partially why. I’m not sure yet. But once again I find I am the moon the stars, the sun, and the rain and they are me. It’s always true.

Just start to pay attention. Start to notice yourself, your behavior. Become mindful. Be curious and don’t hesitate to ask someone to help you sort out what you discover! It’s an amazing journey!

 

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