Do you ever find yourself feeling unmotivated, lethargic, and unhappy?
If so, you might be experiencing low levels of dopamine. Dopamine is often referred to as the “master hormone” because it provides a sense of pleasure and motivation when we pursue our goals. It’s one of the key neurotransmitters involved in the reward system of our brain and plays a crucial role in our happiness and well-being.
The Role of Dopamine in Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are both complicated disorders that often share the characteristic of low dopamine levels. When dopamine is not present, we become unmotivated and lethargic, which are key traits of clinical depression. On the other hand, when dopamine is released, it provides a sense of motivating energy and pleasure, which is crucial for maintaining our motivation and happiness.
The Role of Dopamine in Motivation
Dopamine differs from other “feel-good” hormones like oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. While these hormones are dependent on the senses of our external environment, dopamine can see into the future via the power of the prefrontal cortex.
It recognizes our intentions or goals and tells the reward center of our brain to release this master hormone, which helps us start and finish tasks required to achieve our goals. Dopamine is critical for sustaining our motivation and making sure that we are motivated to start and continue the tasks required to achieve our goals.
From an evolutionary perspective, our primary goals are to survive long enough to reproduce.
In order to sustain the species, our brains need to make sure that we are motivated to start and continue the tasks required to achieve those goals. For example, when we think about food, we get excited by dopamine; as we eat, we experience the pleasure of serotonin. Similarly, sex is the critical activity required in reproduction. When we think about sex, dopamine excites us; as we have sex, we experience the pleasure of oxytocin.
Sustaining Motivation and Happiness
So, what’s the solution to sustain our motivation and happiness? One solution is to choose a goal that is so far in the future and so difficult to achieve that we can spend our entire life in its pursuit. By aligning this master goal with smaller, more realistic, achievable goals, we can sustain a discipline of deliberate practice indefinitely and maximize the amount of time we spend in the flow channel. When we achieve each individual sub-goal along this master path, our reward system will not shut down because the brain recognizes that we are still in the middle of pursuing an even larger goal – the perfect goal, the ideal goal.
In conclusion, dopamine is crucial for our motivation, happiness, and well-being. By understanding its role in our reward system, we can choose goals that align with our values and purpose, sustain our motivation, and experience the flow states that make up the happiest moments of our lives.